In the book, alchemy is a major symbol. Although it doesn’t make itself clear until the end of the book, the sole definition of the skill is the undercurrent for Santiago’s entire journey. Alchemists “discovered that the purification of the metals had led to a purification of themselves.” (Coelho 81). Alchemy by definition is the process of purifying metals into gold. As Santiago journeys through life, he becomes content with his life in certain stages. As an obstacle approaches him, he has the opportunity to make himself better, eventually to the point of total purification. The book continues in this pattern, increasing in amplitude at every obstacle encountered.
Santiago begins as a shepherd, content with his flock while wandering the plains of Spain. As his first obstacle, encountering the king, Melchizedek, approaches him, he is given his “personal legend”. Melchizedek informs him that “God has prepared a path for everyone to follow.” (29), but it would require sacrifice. Santiago is forced to sell his sheep in order to pursue this journey to the pyramids, based merely on what a stranger had guaranteed him. However, he trusts in God’s peculiar messenger and travels to Africa to begin his spiritual expedition. At this point, the audience can already begin to see the trend to which alchemy is connected—Santiago is satisfied, but has the ability to acquire something greater.
When Santiago reaches the port in Africa, the reader is excited, for it can’t seem all that difficult to reach the pyramids; all he had to do now was join a caravan to reach his destination. All of this excitement is, rather expectedly, crushed when he is robbed of all the money he carried with him. Therefore, Santiago is forced to find a job with the local crystal merchant. The days trudge by slowly as the boy works for money, and he slowly forgets why he is there in the first place because again, “the boy had become happy in his work” (56). Eventually he realizes that he has enough money to continue on his journey, so he leaves the shop and seeks a caravan.
On the ride through the desert, a theme becomes apparent: the unity of nature. As he sits on his camel all day, Santiago becomes observant of his surroundings. Each and every piece of creation was a part of something called the Soul of the World, through which all things are connected. It is through the Soul of the World that one can find his/her own personal legend: “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” (56). Again, alchemy comes into play—Everything has been given a personal legend (to perfect itself) by the Soul of the World, but it is up to that piece of creation to accomplish its goal. This common goal of all created things helps to unify the