The Alchemist (Coelho)

The Alchemist – Study Guide

13. Language is an important part of the theme of this fable, and although the story is told in rather simple terms,

the ideas that it expresses are philosophical and deep. Santiago is an educated young man, capable of understanding

many languages because of his seminary training. Yet, he is clearly interested in learning about the world and about

his reason for being in a way that goes beyond mere speaking and writing. He chooses to travel, first as a shepherd

and then as an adventurer seeking his destiny, because he wants to learn how to communicate in the Language of the

World. There are many references throughout the text to this language, and clearly it is a language that goes beyond

words. He often reflects on the "language without words," which describes the way that people communicate to each

other when they do not speak each other's language. The language without words is also the language he speaks with

his sheep. What are some of the literal and figurative languages that Santiago realizes he has learned by the time he

completes his year of work for the crystal merchant?

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Santiago learns that not everyone can see their dreams in the same way. The language of desitny and fate can come in the written word, the metaphor of dreams, the symbolism of people and objects....For Santiago, his language is very much the stuff of dreams. Santiago dreams of a child showing him a treasure at the base of the Pyramids; when we first read of the dream, we are led to believe that Santiago has had it before. When he tells the gypsy of Tarifa and Melchizedek about this dream, they both implore him to follow it, because, they argue, dreams are the language in which the Universe speaks. At the end of the book, it is the dream of the robber–which was the exact inverse of Santiago's dream, showing the treasure at the abandoned church–that sends Santiago back to Spain and to the treasure. The theme of dreams is linked, then, with the theme of fate, since dreams are the way in which people come to know their destiny.