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Free Study Guide for The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

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THE ALCHEMIST BY PAUL COELHO

LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The setting begins in the Andalusian region of Spain and moves to Tangier, the Al-Fayoum oasis, and eventually the pyramids in Egypt. The story ends where it began in Spain. The time is the present day.


LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Santiago
He is a shepherd boy, who because of a recurring dream, decides to find his treasure at the pyramids in Egypt. Along the way, he meets a Gypsy woman, an Old King, a crystal merchant, an Englishman, and an alchemist, all of whom teach him something about fulfilling his Personal Legend and striving to find his treasure. He is a very wise young man and yet one who has much to learn. Because he holds fast to his dream, he becomes a better man.

The Gypsy Woman
She is the first one Santiago consults about his dream. She is mysterious and yet religious as can be attested by the Sacred Heart of Jesus picture on her wall. She tells Santiago that because it was a child who took his hands in the dream and led him to the pyramids, he must go. However, before she tells him anything, she makes him promise that he will give her one-tenth if he finds his treasure. He eventually brings her the price, because he is honorable and he has promised.


The Old King
He is the second to help Santiago and gives him the stones named Urim and Thummim. He also advises Santiago to never stop dreaming and follow the omens. His name is Melchizedek and he is a Biblical figure who had once helped Abraham on behalf of God. He is sometimes believed to be Jesus Christ.

The Crystal Merchant
He is a man for whom Santiago begins to work and who profits from the boy’s aptitude in improving sales. He teaches Santiago how important it is to follow through and not give up on his dream. His dream had been to travel to Mecca on a pilgrimage, but because he never does, he’s afraid that the reality will destroy the dream and so he never goes. His sense of regret encourages Santiago to take what he has earned there and buy a ticket to Tangier.

The Englishman
He is a young man who has spent ten years of his life reading about alchemy with the hope of discovering the Master Work. He goes with Santiago on the caravan to the oasis so he can find the oldest alchemist of them all and learn his secrets. He teaches Santiago that not all information can be found in books and that one should observe what goes on around him as well. The Englishman eventually discovers that for himself after consulting with the alchemist.

The alchemist
He is rumored to be over 200 years old and lives on the Al-Fayoum oasis. He has an advanced sense that Santiago is coming to the oasis and knows it is his responsibility to lead him to the pyramids. Along the way, he teaches the boy much about listening to his heart and reaching out for his dream no matter what the cost. He never does anything for the boy except guide him and allow him to learn for himself.

The alchemist has the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher’s Stone, which allow him to make any metal into gold. That is his Personal Legend, which he had achieved many years before. His name is not capitalized, because the title could be taken by anyone, like Santiago, who learns the truth of the Master Work.

Minor Characters

Fatima
She is the beautiful young woman whom Santiago meets at a well on the oasis. She directs them to the alchemist, but in the process of that first conversation, Santiago falls in love with her and she eventually falls in love with him. As a desert woman, she is willing to wait for him to find his treasure and fulfill his Personal Legend.

The Camel Driver
Santiago meets him on the caravan journey to the oasis and from him learns all about the importance of the present. He had lost everything to the flooding of the Nile, but now he is content to work as a camel driver and take one day at a time.

The Tribal Chieftain
He demands that Santiago turn himself into the wind and in the process, discovers that the boy has seen the glory of God.

 

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