The Alchemist (Coelho)

The Alchemist – Study Guide

16. Although Santiago asks the desert, the wind, and the sun to help him, none know how to turn a man into the

wind. Where does the boy find the answer? What is the larger significance of this answer?

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

For three days, Santiago goes up on a cliff and contemplates the desert, listening to his heart. Finally, on the third day, he goes to the very top of the cliff and uses his heart to talk to the Desert - since they both speak the Language of the World. He asks the Desert to help him turn himself into the Wind, because he is love with a girl and wants desperately to go back to her, but the Desert does not know how. Next he asks the Wind, but the Wind does not know what love is. Finally he asks the Sun, who knows what love is, but cannot help Santiago. The Sun suggests that Santiago ask the Hand that wrote all. Santiago then starts to pray - but that prayer emerges as not a request but an acknowledgement, as if culled from some deeper knowledge, that his heart and the Soul of the World are the same thing. Once Santiago comes to this realization, the wind begins to furiously blow and the tribesman find that Santiago has disappeared.

 In this climax, Santiago talks to the elements: the Desert, the Wind, the Sun and finally the Soul of the World. A few aspects of this scene should be highlighted. First of all, we see that Santiago's communication with these inanimate forces is the realization of the alchemist's assertion that all things, even rocks and animals, have souls. What this essentially does is deny the dualism that we normally assume in our day to day lives: there is no real difference between things and beings. We are all beings with souls, some of whose characteristics are different than others.

Second, it is important to note that while Santiago talks to the Wind, the Desert and the Sun using words, when it comes time to communicate with the Soul of the World he cannot speak. This not to say, however, that he cannot communicate; what it means is that words are not sufficient. Communicating with the Soul of the Word ends up being a matter of opening his heart. This portrayal of language as lacking or insufficient is coherent with other parts of the novel wherein humanity is described as essentially fallen. The problem is not that the secrets of life are complicated, but that mankind has complicated these secrets through the use of language. The final step of Santiago's spiritual journey is therefore not accomplished through speaking, but through listening.