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The Alchemist Reflection Questions

1) What is the significance of Santiago becoming a shepherd rather than a priest, as his parents had hoped? Why has he made this choice? What does being a shepherd allow him to do?

Santiago becoming a shepherd rather than a priest as his parents had hoped is extremely significant to the plot of this book. If Santiago never became a priest, he never would have been able to fulfill his Personal Legend. The boy made this choice because “…I [he would] like to see the castles in the towns where they [other travelers] live…” (pg. 9) Santiago wants to explore the world and see all the wonderful, beautiful things he can possibly see. Staying in a stationary town won’t allow him to see new things; he has to become a shepherd to travel.

2) The novel begins with the boy deciding to spend the night with his flock in an abandoned church. The church has no roof and an enormous sycamore tree has grown up where the sacristy once stood. Explain the symbolism.

A house with no roof could symbolize not having any protection from outside forces/elements. This might suggest that Santiago needs to better protect himself from outside influences, including foolish ideas that may soon bring themselves upon him. The sycamore tree could symbolize eternity and strength since sycamore trees can survive for up to around 600 years. Alchemists also live for a very long time. “The church, with the sycamore growing from within…” (pg. 7) means through discovering all his inner strength in his journey to come, Santiago will realize new things and be able to better protect himself from the world.

3) King Mechizedek tells the boy that when we are children, "everything is clear and everything is possible," but as time passes mysterious forces convince us to abandon our dreams (p. 23). Do you think this is true? What are the "mysterious forces" that threaten to hold us back as we grow older?

I think the statement that when we are children “everything is clear and everything is possible” is completely true! Children don’t know the truth about a lot of things, like Santa Claus and superpowers. Children have hope and faith in everything, which gradually decreases as they grow older. Parents eventually tell them that Santa Claus is a lie, and they discover that it’s impossible to fly on their own or shoot laser beams out of their eyes. The children realize that not everything is possible, and they start to realize not all dreams will come true. Another factor that holds us back as we grow older is peer pressure/friend’s opinions. If your friends tell you they don’t think something is “cool” or that what you want to do in life is “lame”, it may make you change your mind and cause you to want to do something else because you care too much about what they think of you. The people who accomplish their Personal Legends are the ones who do what they like/want and don’t let others influence them.

4) The King also tells the boy that when you really desire something “the universe conspires to help you find it" (p. 24). First explain, in your own words, what the king means by this. He then explains the principle of "favorability," or beginner’s luck. How does “the universe conspire” to help Santiago? Have you ever benefited from beginner’s luck? Explain. Have you ever felt like the “universe conspired” for you? Does this idea of the universe conspiring remind you of anything else?

By the King telling the boy that when you really desire something “the universe conspires to help you find it,” (pg.24) he means that when you really want something, and I mean REALLY want something, things have a way of falling in to place and working out the way you want them to. I have benefitted from beginner’s luck! When I first started cheerleading, I caught on to stunting unusually fast. Someone explained to me what I was supposed to do as a side base, and I executed their instructions perfectly, which greatly came to...
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