From the first section of Part One, we see an abandoned church with a sycamore tree growing out of its sacristy. This tree will have important significance for Santiago by the end of the novel and so is the first example of foreshadowing. He had passed that way many times and had never come across the church, which gives it a kind of mystic significance, and it is the place where he dreams, as we learn later, about the child showing him the pyramids of Egypt, which starts him on his journey.
In the next few sections, we are given a sense of one of the major themes of the story: we are all part of the Soul of the World. Santiago muses over how dependent his sheep are on him and how they seem to understand him. He also remembers how he had told his family that he wanted to travel and how he had seen the same desire in his father's eyes. This prepares us for the idea of fulfilling our own Personal Legend: Santiago has begun to fulfill his by following his dream to travel.
Santiago meets several individuals from this point on who are instrumental in encouraging him to fulfill his dream of finding treasure at the pyramids. The first is the gypsy woman who for the price of one-tenth of his treasure tells him that his dream is about the language of the world and that he must go to the pyramids. The second is the King of Salem, Melchizedek, who, in the guise of an old man, tells Santiago all about realizing one's Personal Legend and how it's the purpose God sets for us. (Melchizedek is the character who appeared in the Book of Genesis to Abraham, bringing the patriarch bread and wine after his victory over the four kings who had besieged Sodom and Gomorrah. He is believed to be a representative of the priestly line through which a future king - Jesus Christ - is ordained. Sometimes, he is envisioned as an angel or as Jesus himself.)
Melchizedek uses the metaphor of the baker who had desired to travel like Santiago is doing, but became immersed in his obligations and never fulfilled his Personal Legend. He is like a Guardian Angel who appears when an individual is about to give up on ever fulfilling his dream. His advice prompts Santiago to continue in search of the treasure and take the chance of leaving everything that is familiar to him, something most of us haven't the courage to do. The next individual who encourages him to go is the crystal merchant, who gives him a job after he has all his money stolen. This man doesn't know he is helping Santiago fulfill his dream, but he will, over the next year, show the boy how to be successful while relearning how to be successful himself.
This part of the novel also introduces some of the many lessons Santiago learns on his way to finding his treasure:
• He learns about fulfilling one's own Personal Legend, or following
through with one's dream.
• He learns about what will be called the Soul of the World, the sense that we are all connected one to the other.
• He is introduced to the idea of the language of the world, which once we recognize it, helps us communicate with anyone, no matter what language they speak.
• He learns that everything in life has a price, as evidenced by his
promise to pay the Gypsy woman one-tenth of his treasure to interpret
his dream, by his obligation to pay the King one-tenth of his sheep to
learn how to find the treasure, and by his trust in the Arab guide who
steals all his money.
• He learns about the principle of favorability or beginner's luck
which everyone has at one time or another, but which is nothing he can
ever depend upon.
• He learns about the language of omens, which are really metaphors
for one's intuition and sense of what is right and good.
• He also learns through the story of the young man with the spoonful
of oil that happiness is a combination of fulfilling everything you would
like to fulfill while never forgetting those you must leave behind.
• Yet another lesson involves the tendency of us all to see what we
would like to happen, rather than what really does. This often makes us
give up our quest to fulfill our dreams.
• Finally, Santiago learns to listen to the language of the world, which
doesn't require words, but only actions; to be an adventurer in quest
of his treasure rather than the victim of a thief; and that it's never
too late to change as seen in the example of the crystal merchant.
Santiago begins to follow the steps of the journey to his treasure by completing the following: he has fulfilled his Personal Legend by traveling as a shepherd boy, and he has overcome the obstacle of love by turning over his sheep to his friend who wanted to be a shepherd and by putting his idea of marrying the merchant's daughter on hold. However, he meets up with the third obstacle, which is the defeats he must face along the way. Momentarily, at the end of Part One, he gives in to the despair of his first defeat when the crystal merchant says he cannot give him enough money after one day's work to get him to the pyramids. He decides to stay there just long enough to earn enough money to return home and buy more sheep.
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free study guide for "The Alchemist" by Paul Coelho.
The complete study guide is currently available as a downloadable PDF, RTF, or MS Word DOC file from the PinkMonkey MonkeyNotes download store. The complete study guide contains summaries and notes for all of the chapters; detailed analysis of the themes, plot structure, and characters; important quotations and analysis; detailed analysis of symbolism, motifs, and imagery; a key facts summary; detailed analysis of the use of foreshadowing and irony; a multiple-choice quiz, and suggested book report ideas and essay topics.