The Alchemist


Story Symbols and Themes

Personal Legend – The Personal Legend is a term specific to The Alchemist. It is a person’s dream or destiny, one he or she knows in childhood but which he or she can forget or abandon when obstacles become too great. It is described as a person’s only true responsibility in life, even more important than responsibility to loved ones. The plot of The Alchemist concerns its protagonist’s pursuit of his Personal Legend. While each Personal Legend is initially aided by beginner’s luck, or “the principle of favorability,” if a person pursues it to its conclusion, he will inevitably be severely tested before he can attain it. We follow Santiago as he overcomes each challenge, but along the way he also encounters characters who have their own relationship with their Personal Legend. Some have given up, some have forgotten it, and some have achieved it. The reader can identify with or recognize each of these characters to some degree.

All things are one – A variety of terms are used to illustrate this concept, such as the “universal language” or “language without words,” “The Soul of the World,” “the hand that writes all,” and Maktub. We see it first in the way Santiago communicates with his sheep, and then with the candy merchant who speaks only Arabic. Omens, intuition, and coincidence are all manifestations of the Soul of the World. Everything and everyone are not just interconnected, but all parts of one thing. The story works toward the moment when Santiago comes to fully understand this and, as a result, can perform a miracle as if he were God, because in fact, he is God.

Alchemy – Alchemy is the book’s central metaphor. Traditionally, alchemy is the mythical practice of turning base metals into gold, but here the definition is expanded to mean any type of purification, including purification of the self, culminating in a perfect state. The Englishman is a lifelong student...

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Essays About The Alchemist