In The Alchemist, why does the old fortune teller say that Santiago’s dream is difficult to interpret?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The gyspy woman that Santiago goes to in order to find out the truth of his dreams is very open with Santiago that the interpretation of his dream is very difficult, which is why she feels she is able to make a demand for a tenth of the treasure that he will find if he follows his dreams. She goes on to elaborate why it is that his dream is so difficult to interpret:

I told you that your dream was a difficult one. It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them. And since I am not wise, I have had to learn other arts, such as the reading of palms.

The dream is therefore difficult to interpret because it is based around "the simple things in life." Santiago's dream is related so closely to his own Personal Legend and the simple desire to grow and develop as a human being, and this is what makes his dream a challenge to interpret. It can also be argued that the effort that the gypsy woman puts into the interpretation of the dream foreshadows the effort that Santiago will need to put in for him to achieve his Personal Legend. Nothing that is worthwhile comes easily without personal cost, as Santiago discovers. Note to that this section of the novel develops the motif of dreams as being a form of communication with the Soul of the World. It is this initial dream, after all, that sets the entire plot in motion as Santiago embarks on his quest.

tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Other than the fact that Santiago's dream involves the simple things in life, the gypsy woman also realizes that his dream is "in the language of the world." She goes on to say that she "can interpret it, but the interpretation is very difficult" (14). In reality, however, the gypsy is not experienced enough as far as omens and other mysteries of the world are concerned to give him a valid opinion. She knows the dream is important, but she can't say exactly why.

The Alchemist, on the other hand, has the wisdom, education, and experience necessary to teach Santiago about the language of the world, omens, and other bits of wisdom. For the most part, the dream is just a tool to open the boy's mind to possibilities outside of his realm of safety. Without the dream inciting him to search for answers, he may not have been ready to receive Melchizedek's invitation to do whatever it takes to achieve his Personal Legend.

The gypsy, though, only knows that the dream is important because it is part of the language of the world and that is why she makes the boy swear that he will give her 10% of his treasure if he finds it. Fortunately for the boy, his journey leads him to the Alchemist, who can teach him how to interpret his dream for himself. 

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The Alchemist

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