The Alchemist : Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Fate Vs. Will

Fate is constantly intertwined with will, and a key theme of the book focuses on how much in life is under one's control, and how much is controlled by fate. The old king states that the world's greatest lie is that "at some point during our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate." While this point of view strongly supports that will has a stronger hold on one's destiny, later events, such as Santiago and the alchemist being caught by warring tribes, demonstrate fate's hold on one's life. However, in every situation where fate does take over, the characters are capable to excavate themselves from the situation. For, instance, after being caught by the tribal chief, Santiago is able to turn himself into the wind, demonstrate his power, and is released.


Love is described as a part of the Soul of the World. Love occurs in life and Nature, as everything supports each other, they love each other. Santiago tells the desert that it shows love for the alchemist's falcon by offering it game, after which the falcon shows love to man as it offers the game to eat, and the man shows love for the desert as after one dies, his body is reintegrated into the desert sands. There is also love in people, demonstrated by Santiago's love of Fatima's beauty, and Santiago's knowing that it is part of his Personal Legend to love her. Also, there is true love, a brief definition given by the alchemist; "True love is love that allows you to reach your Personal Legend."

Controlled Luck

The theme of controlled luck is prominent in this book, as the old king and the alchemist both tell Santiago about how if one really wants to fulfill his/her Personal Legend, the whole universe will conspire to help make it happen. Coelho refers to this as the idea of "beginner's luck", or the concept of favorability. Santiago is blessed with beginner's luck, when he decides to go to Africa. He manages to sell all of his sheep very easily, and is given "a taste of success" that whets the appetite to fulfill one's Personal Legend.

Spiritual Enlightenment

In The Alchemist, a kind of spiritual enlightenment is accomplished by fulfilling one's Personal Legend, and adding to the Soul of the World, which is the "light" of most religions (as described in Coelho's Beliefnet Interview). The spiritual influence of this book is omniscient, for example in Santiago's "turning himself into the wind" stunt. He learns the Language of the World, which is basically the language of the Soul of the World. As the Soul of the World is related to the Soul of God, Santiago is able to perform miracles after he has reached into the Soul of the World.

  • Omens
Being able to observe and read omens is a key motif throughout the book. Santiago recognizes the hole in his pouch in which Urim and Thummin fell out of in Tangier as an omen, as he had promised the old king that he would make his own decisions, not let the stones do it for him. The crystal merchant of Tangier recognizes Santiago's presence in the shop as an omen, as two customers came into the shop as he was cleaning the crystals for the merchant. Santiago later finds that going to the desert was a good omen, as he was able to meet Fatima, his love. Santiago reads omens in the flight of two hawks and has a premonition of an attack on the oasis as he is in the Sahara Desert. Omens play a key role in the unraveling of Santiago's fate.
  • Personal Legends
The Personal Legend is a being's reason to live. Everything in the world has a Personal Legend, and by reaching one's Personal Legend, they add to the Soul of the World, the purity of the world. The boy's Personal Legend is obvious, to find his treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. The alchemist fulfilled his Personal Legend, to become a true alchemist and accomplish the Master Work. The crystal merchant's Personal Legend is to visit Mecca, and the Tarifa baker's Personal Legend was to travel the world. The Personal Legend of a person surfaces at childhood, and one can never find true happiness without fulfilling it. The Personal Legend of Santiago drives him to his treasure, as he chose to accomplish his Personal Legend, and the alchemist to become the most famed alchemist in the world. While others like the Tarifa baker and the crystal merchant, choose to ignore the Personal Legend, and thus shape their life to be forever wanting.

  • The Elixir of Life/Philosopher's Stone
The two alchemy objects are physical representations of the Soul of the World, the Master Work, which is the result of completely purifying metals. The Philosopher's Stone, being completely pure and powerful as the Soul of the World, has the property of turning metals into gold, the most advanced ("evolved") and purest of all metals. The Elixir of Life cures all illnesses and gives immortality. These objects represent the purity in the world, and in people trying to reach their Personal Legend.


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Leak said...

Me too


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Rappie said...

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Zakarya said...

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mahum said...

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Alexey Smachtin said...

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Check out sparknotes' stuff on the Alchemist

Amanda said...

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Berenice said...

Bear Bear Bere,
this is great. Except i need help on an English assignment. Can the creator of this please email me a list of all the omens if you have them. please. this will help me tremendously. Oh and the locations,in the book, if that's no too much.thanks

La_Rubia said...

Is there anyone who knows movies (in English)that could relate to some of the themes found in The Alchemist, or movies having a similar plot as in The Alchemist? I'd like my 15-16-year-old students to compare the novel with a movie (if possible recent movies)

ardyuuo said...

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