Last Updated 31 Jan 2023

Character Analysis of Santiago in the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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In the novel The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the main character Santiago experiences a spiritual transformation as he meets the old king Melchizedek, accepts his Personal Legend and chases after his treasure. As a reader, it would appear as though Santiago's Personal Legend is unattainable. However, as Santiago chases after his Personal Legend, the reader understands that through his spirit and motivation, his goal becomes realistic.

In the beginning of The Alchemist, the reader notices a shift in Santiago's attitude when the dreams of him finding treasure in the pyramids start to occur. Santiago becomes enchanted by the idea that there is a treasure out there waiting for him to discover. Santiago experiences extrinsic motivation as his desire to go pursue his treasure will lead him to an outcome that is apart from him. Coelho uses Santiago's dreams to foreshadow events to come and display Santiago's true desires. "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought as he looked again at the position of the sun and hurried his pace"(11).

Santiago marvels at the details of his dream and he believes that his dream can become a reality; this is what sets the mood for the first part of the story as he is totally driven by the idea of finding a grand treasure. Santiago also remembers that Melchizedek explains that when someone choses to follow their Personal Legend, the Universe works to assist that person. "There was nothing to hold him back except himself. The sheep, the merchant's daughter, and the fields of Andalusia were only steps along the way to his Personal Legend" (28). From this, the reader senses Santiago's faith in his Personal Legend and his determination to make his dream come true.

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The author also puts in the conflict of Man vs Self in The Alchemist, showing that Santiago deals with an internal conflict after he is robbed by the con-man in Tangier. He feels betrayed and loses faith in achieving his Personal Legend because of this. "I'm going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I'm going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mind. And I'm going to hold on to what little I have, because I'm too insignificant to conquer the world" (39).

Coelho inserted this part into the novel to really demonstrated to the reader all of the thoughts and emotions that Santiago was experiencing after the robbery. Should Santiago wallow in self-pity and bitterness or press forward to his Personal Legend? It would have been easy as to stop everything he was doing and to try to go back home because his drive and motivation decreased after the robbery. "He realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure" (42). It is shown here that Santiago's resilience comes up again and he presses on despite failure.

In another part of the book, the reader would see other characters telling about Santiago's character and actions. The Crystal Merchant, a flat character that has the same job throughout the novel who lacks motivation and drive because of his circumstances, notices something special about Santiago. Santiago is seen as a "good omen", as he attracts more customers in with his cleaning of the crystal; one would notice that omens are mentioned throughout the novel, good or bad. "I am proud of you", he said. "You brought a new feeling into my crystal shop. But you know that I'm not going to Mecca. Just as you know that you're not going to buy your sheep" (47). This moment foreshadows Santiago's continuance of his Personal Legend and pursuit of his treasure. It was those words of encouragement from the Crystal Merchant that restored the drive, focus, and motivation that Santiago had once lost in order to continue his quest.

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