The Alchemist


Part 1

Section 1

Santiago, a young shepherd, takes shelter with his flock in an abandoned church. He takes steps to protect his sheep, lays down under an ancient sycamore tree growing up through the sacristy, and uses his book as a pillow. He reflects that he and his sheep seem to understand each other. He awakens from a dream, one he has had before. He thinks about a girl he met a year ago and is looking forward to seeing in a few days.

Analysis: Here we are introduced to the book’s true protagonist, Santiago, a shepherd boy.

Santiago’s profession is significant. Shepherding is an ancient profession that has changed very little over the centuries. It is a timeless occupation with strong religious overtones. Shepherding is often used metaphorically in the Bible. Like Jesus Christ, Santiago is a good shepherd.

The importance of dreams is placed front and center. We will later find out that Santiago’s dream is about treasure in Egypt. The sycamore is a tree that originated in Egypt and was called the Tree of Life by the ancient Egyptians. Santiago’s journey to Egypt will be the subject of the novel. Egypt figures prominently in the narratives of three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The iconography and symbols of these three religions is peppered throughout the book. Santiago’s quest has many parallels to a religious pilgrimage.

The ruined church is key for several reasons, most notably because this is where Santiago will eventually find his treasure, and because of the religious connotations mentioned above.

Books are an important motif, and the fact that Santiago uses his as a pillow can read as a commentary, since the novel will repeatedly emphasize the limitations of books as teachers. Santiago will learn his most important lessons from life, so the author seems to be saying that a book sometimes makes a better pillow than a teacher.

In Santiago’s ability to communicate with his sheep, the theme of unspoken language is...

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Essays About The Alchemist