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The Alchemist

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Plot

The Alchemist follows the journey of an Andalusian (southern Spanish) shepherd boy named Santiago. Believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, Santiago decides to travel to a Romani fortune-teller in a nearby town to discover its meaning. The gypsy woman interprets the dream as a prophecy telling the boy that there is a treasure in the pyramids in Egypt.
Early into his journey, he meets an old king, whose name was Melchizedek, who tells him to sell his sheep to travel to Egypt and introduces the idea of a Personal Legend (which is always capitalized in the book). Your Personal Legend "is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is."[3] He adds that "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." This is the core theme of the book.
Along the way, Santiago meets an Englishman who has come in search of an Alchemist and continues his travels with him. They travel through the Sahara desert and during his journey, Santiago meets and falls in love with a beautiful Arabian woman named Fatima, who resides with her clan near around the desert Oasis. He asks Fatima to marry him, but she says she will only marry him after he completes his journey and finds his treasures. He is perplexed by this, but later learns that true love will not stop nor plead to sacrifice one's Personal Legend, and if it does, it is not true love.
Santiago then encounters a lone alchemist who also teaches him about Personal Legends. He says that people want to find only the treasure of their Personal Legends but not the Personal Legend itself. Santiago feels unsure about himself as he listens to the alchemist's teachings. The alchemist states, "Those who don't understand their Personal Legends will fail to comprehend their teachings." It is also stated that treasure is more worthy than gold. The main theme of the story is defined by this quote, which recurs all through the novel, "When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream." It denotes the power of desires and passion and its ability to manifest it in real life.

Characters

Santiago
Santiago is the protagonist of The Alchemist. Born in a small town in Andalusia, he attends the seminary as a boy but longs to travel the world. He finally gets the courage to ask his father for permission to become a shepherd so that he can travel the fields of Andalusia. One night, in an abandoned church, he dreams of a child telling him that if he goes to the Egyptian Pyramids, he will find a treasure. Later, he meets a mysterious man in the town of Tarifa, who sends him on a journey to the other side of Africa.
Santiago is a curious boy whose open mind makes him particularly suited to finding his Personal Legend. He also values his freedom very highly, which is why he becomes a shepherd and why he resists involvement in things that threaten his freedom. In the end, he realizes that playing it safe is often more threatening to his freedom than taking a risk.
Melchizedek
Melchizedek is the king of Salem, a mysterious, far-off land. Melchizedek appears to Santiago in the town square of Tarifa, where he tells Santiago about the Soul of the World and his Personal Legend for the first time. Melchizedek always appears to people who are trying to live their Personal Legend, even if they don't know it. While he appears at first to be dressed in common Arab dress, at one point he pulls aside his cloak to reveal a gold breastplate encrusted with precious stones. He also gives Santiago the magical stonesUrim and Thummim.
The crystal merchant
Gives Santiago a job in Tangiers after he has been robbed. Santiago takes the job at the crystal shop and learns much about the shopkeeper's attitude toward life and the importance of dreaming. The shopkeeper, while generally afraid to take risks, is a very kind man and understands Santiago's quest — sometimes better than Santiago himself. This is the case when the shopkeeper tells Santiago that he will not return to Spain, since it is not his fate.
The Englishman
Santiago meets the Englishman on the caravan to al-Fayoum. The Englishman is trying to become a great alchemist and is traveling to al-Fayoum to study with a famous alchemist who is rumored to be over 200 years old and to have the ability to turn any metal into gold. Santiago learns much about alchemy from the Englishman, who lends Santiago his books while they travel across the Sahara.
Fatima
A beautiful girl who lives at the al-Fayoum oasis. Santiago falls in love with her at the well, and they talk every day for several weeks. Santiago asks Fatima to marry him, but she insists that he seek out his Personal Legend before they marry. This perplexes Santiago, but the Alchemist teaches him that true love never gets in the way of fulfilling one's dreams. If it does, then it is not true love.
The Alchemist
A very powerful alchemist who lives at the al-Fayoum oasis in Egypt. Santiago hears about him through the Englishman, who wishes to study with the Alchemist, but Santiago is revealed to be the Alchemist's true disciple. The Alchemist dresses in all black and uses a falcon to hunt for game. The Alchemist is also in possession of the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's Stone.
The Coptic Monk
A short yet very important piece in the writing. Santiago and the alchemist stop at the monastery, and the monk invites them in. This is a crucial plot point, as the Alchemist produces gold from a pan of lead the monk provides, and separates the disk into four parts, giving two to the monk, with instructions to give Santiago one piece if he ever needs it, one to himself, and one to Santiago. The monk tries to refuse the offering, but the alchemist tells him that "life may be listening, and give [you] less the next time." Afterward, when Santiago crawls back beaten and elated from the Pyramids, the monk gives him the other part of the gold disk and helps him recover.
The Gypsy Woman
She doesn't know about the Pyramids of Egypt. She states "I have never heard of them, but if it was a child who showed them to you they exist." At first sight, she looked crazy, suspicious, and dangerous to Santiago. She was promised one tenth of Santiago's treasure if he ever found it.

Theme

The book's main theme is about finding one's destiny. According to The New York Times, The Alchemist is "more self-help than literature."[1] An old king tells Santiago, "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true." This is the core of the novel's philosophy and a motif that plays all throughout Coelho's writing in The Alchemist

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