The Alchemist


Paulo Coelho

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Themes and Colors
The Pursuit of Your Personal Legend Theme Icon
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon
The Interconnectedness of All Things Theme Icon
Alchemy and the Value of Simplicity Theme Icon
The Unimportance of Death and Fear Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Alchemist, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The most prominent theme in The Alchemist is the idea that each person has a “Personal Legend”—a type of ideal fate or destiny—and that each person can chose whether or not to pursue that legend. At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist Santiago is launched on a quest for his treasure—his Personal Legend—through his encounter with Melchizedek, a wise old man. Melchizedek is a Biblical figure, but in the context of the novel…

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“Maktub” is a phrase first used by the crystal merchant who employs Santiago, and later it is adopted by other characters, including Santiago, the camel driver, and Fatima. The phrase means, “It is written,” and it is used by these characters to express their conviction that some things are “meant to be.” Rather than having faith in a God with a changeable will, these characters believe in a steadfast, universal plan behind…

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After Santiago arrives in the desert during his pursuit of his Personal Legend, he begins to realize that there is a universal language spoken by all humans, animals, and objects. He learns to speak to the sun and the wind by listening to the desert and by listening to his heart, which can speak the Language of the World. This Language allows him to access “The Soul of The World,” which is a God-like…

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Throughout the novel, alchemy often functions as a symbol or metaphor for lessons that Santiago learns about life and the world. At the heart of alchemy is the Emerald Tablet, an ancient artifact on which was written the instructions for creating the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life, the two most important creations an alchemist can attempt to produce. The alchemist teaches Santiago that in modern times, the Stone and the Elixir are…

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The novel presents the fear of death, and fear in general, as obstacles that prevent people from living meaningful lives and achieving their Personal Legends. The crystal merchant is a perfect example of this. The crystal merchant is unwilling to pursue his Personal Legend (and the requirement of his religious faith) by traveling to Mecca, because he is afraid of what his life will be like after completing this goal. He tells himself that he…

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