Both the Englishman and the alchemist describe the practices of alchemy to Santiago, and in both cases, the specifics of alchemy symbolize larger life lessons. The Englishman explains that the pursuit of the Master Work, in which alchemists spend years carefully studying and purifying metals, actually purifies the alchemists themselves. Self-development goes hand-in-hand with development of the Master Work. From this, Santiago realizes that one may pursue “an alchemy of life,” in which self-development results from study of the world and from application of the other principles of alchemy to everyday practices. Later the alchemist describes many aspects of alchemy—like the origins of the Emerald Tablet—which are also applicable to human life. The alchemist explains Santiago’s connection with Fatima in terms of alchemy, saying that a pure material cannot be tarnished or changed. This is a concept from alchemy, but Coelho uses it as a metaphor for life, and in this context it claims that the love between Fatima and Santiago will not spoil with time—if that love is pure.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Alchemy appears in The Alchemist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...true language of the universe. First he studied Esperanto, then world religions, and most recently alchemy. He feels that although he has discovered important truths about alchemy, he is not yet... (full context)
...teach many strange ideas. In one book, Santiago learns that the most important item in alchemy is the Emerald Tablet. Santiago wonders why, if this single text explains everything about the... (full context)
...responds that Santiago is obsessed with simplifying everything. He feels that the many steps of alchemy are important. The two parts of the Master Work are the creation of the Elixir... (full context)
...order to free oneself from negative thoughts. Santiago begins to believe that one can learn alchemy in everyday life. Santiago is particularly interested in the Philosopher’s Stone, but whenever he tries... (full context)
Santiago asks the Englishman why the alchemists of the past have made the processes of alchemy so complicated. The Englishman replies that the complexity allows only those with enough responsibility to... (full context)
The Englishman is disappointed, because none of the complexity and years of research involved in alchemy have made an impression on Santiago. He tells Santiago to go back to watching the... (full context)
...Pyramids. The alchemist welcomes Santiago into his tent. Santiago looks around for the implements of alchemy, but does not see any. The alchemist invites him to have a drink and to... (full context)
...can always come back to them. Even though the alchemist is speaking of metals and alchemy, Santiago knows that he is actually talking about Santiago’s love for Fatima. It is difficult... (full context)
...he prepares their dinner that night, the alchemist explains that he learned the procedures of alchemy from his grandfather, who learned from his father, and so on. In the early times,... (full context)
...they're only two days from the pyramids. Santiago again asks about the alchemist teaching him alchemy. The alchemist replies that Santiago already knows the practices that allow him to reach to... (full context)
...world: the world is the visible part of God’s creation and, through the processes of alchemy, the perfection of God can be actualized in the material world. The alchemist says that... (full context)