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.
Maktub and What is Meant to Be Theme Icon

“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 all things. And yet within the novel, the idea of “Maktub” is never presented as contradictory to the free will of the individual in choosing to seek his or her Personal Legend.

The concept of “Maktub” relieves several of the characters of the anxiety of decision-making and risk-taking. For example, the camel driver’s trust in the ways of world, which he believes are “written,” helps him to show Santiago why death need not be feared. The camel driver explains that death is simply a fact, something that is written, and its horror and dread vanishes when one lives in the moment without anxiety over what cannot be changed. Fatima also employs the term “Maktub” to explain her trust in Santiago and their love for each other. She believes that if she and Santiago are intended to be together, he will return to her. This relieves her of the anxiety of his departure, because she trusts that what is “written” will come to pass. If he does not return, it is because their love was not intended to be eternal and true.

Maktub can also be a confusing concept, however, as it includes both change and permanence. Santiago foresees the future—an invasion of the oasis—and he is able to intervene and prevent this outcome. This implies that the future is not completely settled or “written” in a way that is unchangeable—but once Santiago understands that all things are “written,” he is able to speak the Language of the World. This is because everything, including the future, is indeed pre-written. This knowledge helps Santiago to learn how to turn himself into the wind when he needs to impress and escape from the desert tribesmen who take him and the alchemist captive. While this ability to have complete knowledge may seem contradictory to the ability to change the future, the book argues that the world (in which all things are interconnected) is certain, as is one’s destiny, and yet any individual can choose to pursue that destiny or not. The novel also suggests that when one is on that course of pursuing destiny, all knowledge is available. When one is not on that course, however, one’s life is not fulfilled. One’s destiny exists (in the sense that it is written and meant to be), but it is not always realized.

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Maktub and What is Meant to Be Quotes in The Alchemist

Below you will find the important quotes in The Alchemist related to the theme of Maktub and What is Meant to Be.
Part One Quotes

“You came so that you could learn about your dreams,” said the old woman.

“And dreams are the language of God. When he speaks in our language, I

can interpret what he has said. But if he speaks in the language of the soul,

it is only you who can understand.”

Related Characters: The Fortune-teller (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

“It's a book that says the same thing almost all the other books in the world say,” continued the old man. “It describes people’s inability to choose their own destinies. And it ends up saying that everyone believes the world's greatest lie.” “What's the world's greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised. “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), Melchizedek (the Old Man) (speaker)
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

“In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.”

Related Characters: Melchizedek (the Old Man) (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

He didn’t consider mending the hole—the stones could fall through any time they wanted. He had learned that there were certain things one shouldn't ask about, so as not to flee from one's own destiny. “I promised that I would make my own decisions,” he said to himself.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: Urim and Thummim
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Part Two Quotes

“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:

“We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”

Related Characters: The Camel Driver (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

“I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But, above all, I learned that these things are all so simple that they could be written on the surface of an emerald.”

Related Characters: The Englishman (speaker), Santiago
Related Symbols: Alchemy, The Emerald Tablet
Page Number: 85-86
Explanation and Analysis:

At that moment, it seemed to him that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him. When he looked into her dark eyes, and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke—the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. Something that exerted the same force whenever two pairs of eyes met, as had theirs here at the well. She smiled, and that was certainly an omen—the omen he had been awaiting, without even knowing he was, for all his life. The omen he had sought to find with his sheep and in his books, in the crystals and in the silence of the desert.

Related Characters: Santiago, Fatima
Page Number: 95-96
Explanation and Analysis:

“And I am a part of your dream, a part of your destiny, as you call it. That’s why I want you to continue toward your goal. If you have to wait until the war is over, then wait. But if you have to go before then, go on in pursuit of your dream. The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes. That’s the way it will be with our love for each other…Maktub,” she said. “If I am really a part of your dream, you'll come back one day.”

Related Characters: Fatima (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

“If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return.” The man was speaking the language of alchemy. But the boy knew that he was referring to Fatima.

Related Characters: The Alchemist (speaker), Santiago, Fatima
Related Symbols: Alchemy
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

“You’re not going to die. You’ll live, and you’ll learn that a man shouldn’t be so stupid. Two years ago, right here on this spot, I had a recurrent dream, too. I dreamed that I should travel to the fields of Spain and look for a ruined church where shepherds and their sheep slept. In my dream, there was a sycamore growing out of the ruins of the sacristy, and I was told that, if I dug at the roots of the sycamore, I would find a hidden treasure. But I’m not so stupid as to cross an entire desert just because of a recurrent dream.”

Related Characters: The Leader of the Refugees (speaker), Santiago
Related Symbols: The Abandoned Church
Page Number: 167-168
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

He thought of the many roads he had traveled, and of the strange way God had chosen to show him his treasure. If he hadn’t believed in the significance of recurrent dreams, he would not have met the Gypsy woman, the king, the thief, or…“Well, it’s a long list. But the path was written in the omens, and there was no way I could go wrong,” he said to himself.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), Melchizedek (the Old Man), The Fortune-teller, The Thief (the Young Man)
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

The wind began to blow again. It was the levanter, the wind that came from Africa. It didn’t bring with it the smell of the desert, nor the threat of Moorish invasion. Instead, it brought the scent of a perfume he knew well, and the touch of a kiss—a kiss that came from far away, slowly, slowly, until it rested on his lips. The boy smiled. It was the first time she had done that. “I’m coming, Fatima,” he said.

Related Characters: Santiago (speaker), Fatima
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis: