The Alchemist

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The Crystal Merchant Character Analysis

When Santiago first arrives in Morocco, he is robbed and at a loss for how to either continue his quest or to return to his homeland. He sees a crystal shop and asks the merchant for work. He then continues to work with the crystal merchant for several months, because the man is a fair employer. Santiago is innovative, and encourages the crystal merchant to expand his business by adding an outdoor display, and by also selling tea. The crystal merchant resists these changes, because he is content with his small business, just as he fears realizing his dream of traveling to Mecca, because he worries that he won’t have anything to live for if his dream is realized.

The Crystal Merchant Quotes in The Alchemist

The The Alchemist quotes below are all either spoken by The Crystal Merchant or refer to The Crystal Merchant. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper One edition of The Alchemist published in 2014.
Part Two Quotes

“Well, why don’t you go to Mecca now?” asked the boy. “Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face these days that are all the same, these mute crystals on the shelves, and lunch and dinner at that same horrible café. I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), The Crystal Merchant (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

The Crystal Merchant takes Santiago under his wing when the boy is penniless in Tangier. By working for the Crystal Merchant, Santiago is able to replenish his money and eventually continue his quest. At the same time, Santiago learns about the difficulties that arise when one is trying to realize his Personal Legend. The Crystal Merchant exemplifies one common problem: he knows what he wants, but he is too afraid to go after it. In his case, he has grown so dependent on having a dream that it has become part of his character. He cannot imagine a life in which he has made his dream a reality. The Crystal Merchant’s tragic situation is articulated in this quote through the language he uses to describe his life. From “mute crystals” to the “horrible café,” it is clear that the Crystal Merchant is unhappy with his situation in life. The dream of fulfilling his Personal Legend sustains him, so he cannot imagine fulfilling it.

Throughout this novel, fear is repeatedly discussed. Fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of taking a risk—all of these fears are presented as obstacles to be overcome. It seems that fear is the primary obstacle to fulfilling one’s Personal Legend, and in a novel that is part fictional story and part non-fictional analysis of the topic of dream fulfillment, discussion of the obstacle of fear that Santiago faces and that all humans face when trying to fulfill their dreams is key.

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“You have been a real blessing to me. Today, I understand something I didn’t see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse. I don’t want anything else in life. But you are forcing me to look at wealth and at horizons I have never known. Now that I have seen them, and now that I see how immense my possibilities are, I’m going to feel worse than I did before you arrived. Because I know the things I should be able to accomplish, and I don’t want to do so.”

Related Characters: The Crystal Merchant (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago has several ideas for how the Crystal Merchant can improve his business, including installing an outdoor display case for his products and serving tea at his shop. The Crystal Merchant is resistant to these ideas because his character is guided by fear of the unknown and of change. The Crystal Merchant explains his emotional reaction to Santiago in this passage. Before Santiago appeared in his life, the merchant was satisfied with the way things were. This satisfaction was because he could not see the possibilities for change in his life. The merchant does not explain this, but it seems connected to the novel’s earlier idea of the world’s greatest lie. Many people end up believing that they cannot change their lives or control their fate.

Santiago appears, however, and shows the Crystal Merchant that he can change his life. Santiago is guided by God, and he has chosen to follow his Personal Legend. Perhaps because of his faith in people’s abilities to change their lives and follow their Personal Legends, he automatically shows this possibility to others. The Crystal Merchant is still afraid of making changes, but he no longer believes the world’s greatest lie. Therefore, he is stuck between his fear of change and the change he now believes possible. As a result, he is more unhappy than he was before. Awareness of one’s Personal Legend isn’t easy. It is easier to just live in ignorant bliss.

“Hunches,” his mother used to call them. The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it's all written there. “Maktub,” the boy said, remembering the crystal merchant.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), The Crystal Merchant
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago meets a camel driver as he is traveling with a group of tribespeople across the desert. This man is another figure in Santiago’s life that provides him with guidance and life lessons. The camel driver tells Santiago to observe the desert and learn from it. Santiago feels a strong connection with the desert, despite not having grown up in it like many of the travelers. He feels this sense of connection is because he is able to tap into the unity among all things, which is the Soul of the World and the source of a universal language. These different terms are used throughout the novel to get at the same idea.

This passage explains the Soul of the World as a “current of life” that contains everything in the universe, past, present, and future. Accessing this “current of life” clearly enables one to access everything and know everything. This overwhelming power normally appears in human lives as intuition, or “hunches.” It is not quantifiable or explainable, but it is a key truth in the world of this novel.

The Soul of the World is also connected in this passage to another key idea of the book—the idea that some things are “written.” Here, Santiago reflects that this connection is possible because everything about the world is “written,” meaning that everything in the world is generated from one source, God. This involves an idea of predestination and free will--that God knows what will happen, but that humans still have to choose whether to follow what is "written" or not.

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The Crystal Merchant Character Timeline in The Alchemist

The timeline below shows where the character The Crystal Merchant appears in The Alchemist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
That same morning, a crystal merchant awakes feeling anxious. He has had the same shop for thirty years, but it’s located... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Santiago comes into the crystal merchant ’s shop, seeing a sign that says several languages are spoken there. Santiago offers to... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
As they eat, the crystal merchant tells Santiago that he didn't have to do any cleaning, because the Koran requires him... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The crystal merchant laughs and says that even if Santiago cleaned his crystal for the entire year, and... (full context)
Part Two
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
Santiago has now been working for the crystal merchant for almost a month. It is not the kind of job that makes him happy,... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
The crystal merchant tells Santiago that business has improved, and soon Santiago will be able to return to... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
Two days later, the crystal merchant speaks to Santiago about the display. He says that he does not like change. He... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
Santiago asks what the fifth obligation is. The crystal merchant says that the fifth obligation is a pilgrimage to Mecca. He says that when he... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
Santiago wonders why the crystal merchant does not go to Mecca now. The crystal merchant explains that it's the thought of... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
...steep climb up the hill. The boy sees this as an omen, and he tells the crystal merchant that they should also sell tea in their shop. They could sell the tea in... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
The crystal merchant tells Santiago that he's had the shop for so long that he knows what will... (full context)
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The crystal merchant completes their conversation with the word “maktub.” Santiago asks him what this means. The crystal... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The crystal merchant hires two other employees to keep up with growing demand. The months pass. One day... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
When the crystal merchant wakes up and comes into the shop, Santiago tells him that he is leaving that... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...picks up his pouch and puts it with his other packed belongings. Downstairs, he finds the crystal merchant helping a foreign couple. For the first time, he reflects on the similarities between the... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...is not happy with this decision. He wonders if it is better to be like the crystal merchant and never go to Mecca, or to go through life trying to realize one’s dream,... (full context)
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
...connects all people. His mother used to refer to this as "hunches.” He thinks of the crystal merchant and says, “maktub.” (full context)
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
Santiago realizes that the crystal merchant had a similar understanding of his work, because he said it was a good thing... (full context)
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
...World. The alchemist erases the sand circle and the snake slithers away. Santiago thinks of the crystal merchant who wanted to go to Mecca, and of the Englishman and his search, and of... (full context)