"In order to arrive you must follow the signs. God inscribed on the world the path that each man must follow. It is just a matter of reading the inscription he wrote for you."
The notion of a universal language spoken by all creation is an important one in The Alchemist. This language manifests itself in signs presented by nature. Coelho underscores his concept of an all-encompassing unity, tying language (commonly considered a peculiarly human faculty) to the rest of nature. The world is itself a text, full of meanings to be deciphered and taught.
"Everything on the face of the Earth is constantly being transformed because the Earth is alive and has a Soul."
Everything on Earth is related. This is because everything, including inanimate objects, has a soul, and that soul is connected to the Soul of the World. Santiago's ability to communicate with the forces of nature (such as the Wind and the Desert) is itself both an act of communication across perceived divides and an act of transformation. That which is not living cannot communicate; the Earth engages in conversation and is thus a living being - just like Santiago.
"You don't have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation."
The alchemist is urging simplicity. In Coelho's book, alchemy itself has become impossibly convoluted, when once upon a time the simplest of formulas could turn a common stone to gold. Now, the alchemist (and, by extension one could argue, Coelho) considers a vast desert - from a visual standpoint, the simplest of terrains - and argues to Santiago that all beauty, all marvel, all complexity can be found within a given speck of that terrain.
"A blessing rejected becomes a curse."
This quote recalls the Santiago's temporary desire to delay the pursuit of the treasure in order to stay with Fatima. While this seems like a good idea at the time, the alchemist, who utters these words, knows that the decision will only lead to resentment in the future.
"Anyone who interferes in the destiny of others will never discover his own."
Along Santiago's journey, he begins to realize that everyone must pursue his/her Personal Legend in his/her own distinct way. This lesson is illustrated by the Englishman, who is pursuing his Personal Legend through complicated books of alchemy. Santiago realizes that though this may not be his path or the path he would choose, it is nonetheless a legitimate path.
"God exists wherever He is allowed to enter."
The secrets of the universe were once known to everyone. The reason they are unknown now is not because they are complicated, but rather because we, as humans, complicated them. Therefore, as this quote suggests, finding God or happiness is not always a matter of seeking Him out, but rather of listening to the language of the World.
"Love never keeps a man from pursuing his personal legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it's because it wasn't true love."
The alchemist utters these words to Santiago in reference to the romance with Fatima. This quote thus signals a major turning point in the novel, the moment at which Santiago must choose between the short-term pleasures of his romance and his stay in the oasis and the lingering quest to achieve his Personal Legend. What the alchemist suggests is that true love comes with the Personal Legend as well; true love will never stand in the way. Fatima has already echoed this viewpoint in her urging Santiago to continue his quest. Coelho thus posits a definition of love as inextricably linked to (and perhaps subservient to) a person's individual goals in life and one's realization of the self.
The Alchemist (Coelho) Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Alchemist (Coelho) is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Santiago is the protagonist of the The Alchemist. Born in a small town in Andalusia, Santiago attends the seminary as a boy but longs to travel the world. He finally gets the courage to ask his father's permission to become a shepherd so that he...
Santiago goes to see an old gypsy woman who interprets dreams, with the hope that she will help him understand his own recurring dream. When reliving the dream, just as the child is about to show Santiago the location of the treasure, Santiago...
The Alchemist is a modern fable by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist study guide contains a biography of author Paulo Coelho, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.