Course Hero. "The Alchemist Study Guide." Course Hero. 4 Oct. 2016. Web. 8 May 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Alchemist/>.
Course Hero. (2016, October 4). The Alchemist Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Alchemist/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "The Alchemist Study Guide." October 4, 2016. Accessed May 8, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Alchemist/.
Course Hero, "The Alchemist Study Guide," October 4, 2016, accessed May 8, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Alchemist/.
Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2 | Fatima and the Oasis of Paulo Coelho's novel The Alchemist.
The caravan arrives at the oasis of Al-Fayoum, with the passengers and animals exhausted from traveling day and night to escape the warring tribes in the desert. The oasis appears far larger than Santiago expects. Thousands of water wells, date-palm trees, and colored tents line the landscape, and the travelers feel relieved to have arrived in this safe haven, which is neutral territory.
Santiago and the Englishman chat with locals in an attempt to learn the alchemist's whereabouts. They discover that only a select few ever actually see him. During this time, Santiago meets a beautiful, dark-eyed woman, Fatima. He knows at once that this is love. The narrator describes the emotion as the "most important part of the [universal] language," which all people can feel and recognize without the use of words. Santiago considers Fatima a good omen, and together they spend their days talking and sharing stories about their lives. They profess their love for each other and understand that their relationship is maktub, which means "written" or "meant to be." Their meeting is an instance of fate influencing Santiago's life.
Wanting to share his good news, Santiago seeks out the Englishman, who is preoccupied with a strange furnace-like structure outside his tent—clearly part of his experiments with alchemy. Santiago leaves to walk in the desert, relishing the reds and oranges of the sun setting over the horizon. He is watching two hawks flying in the sky when one hawk—out of the blue—attacks the other. At once, he envisions "an army, with its swords at the ready, riding into the oasis." He decides to warn the oasis chieftains of an impending attack in order to give residents enough time to prepare and defend themselves successfully against a troop of 500 armed men.
Just before the battle, the alchemist hears of Santiago's vision and appears on horseback, dressed in black from head to toe. A falcon stands alertly on his shoulder. He tells Santiago to come and see him if he survives the attack. After the battle, Santiago finds the alchemist and asks whether the man is going to instruct him. The alchemist says that Santiago already has the required knowledge and that he will merely "point you in the direction of your treasure."
The alchemist offers to guide Santiago on the next leg of his journey, which will take him across the remaining Sahara Desert and on to Egypt. Santiago, however, says he doesn't want to leave Fatima and the oasis. After several sleepless nights, Santiago changes his mind and goes to see Fatima. The two embrace, and Fatima understands that he is a courageous person who must continue his journey and that he will someday return to her. Again, Santiago shapes his life by exercising free will.
The stark change of setting, from barren desert to lush oasis, is significant to both plot and character development. Al-Fayoum is presented as a safe haven where Santiago meets and interacts with Fatima and the alchemist.
Fatima, in this section, comes across as an ideal spouse and life partner for Santiago. She is intelligent and beautiful, and she understands Santiago and the language he speaks about omens and the Soul of the World. Perhaps most importantly, she does not attempt to change Santiago or get in the way of his pursuit of his Personal Legend. Although Fatima is presented as a temptress archetype, she motivates Santiago to continue on his quest. On Santiago's hero journey, Fatima represents unconditional love and temptation, for they love each other and he is tempted to remain at the oasis with her.
"I want my husband to wander as free as the wind that shapes the dunes," Fatima tells him. She says that, if necessary, she will accept his transformation into "a part of the clouds, and the animals, and the water of the desert." Here, Fatima demonstrates her grasp of oneness and the Soul of the World, or the force of nature that binds together all living and nonliving things and moves the universe forward. This way of thinking about the world reflects pantheism, a religious doctrine that positions nature as divine and posits that truth and fulfillment come from figuring out how one relates to the universe.
This theme of oneness, or that all things are interconnected and share the same spirit, runs through the entire book. For example, for Santiago to realize his Personal Legend, he must first understand that the whole universe is working together to make his dream happen. Only then can he become observant enough to identify and follow omens (such as the hawks in the sky), and only then will he have the strength and conviction to keep going and not turn back.
In this section, readers—and Santiago—are introduced to the alchemist, who is a mentor archetype. He serves to guide and train Santiago in the knowledge he will need to complete the pursuit of his Personal Legend.
The alchemist, appearing on horseback, uses a series of questions to test Santiago's ability to tap into the Soul of the World, especially as it relates to his vision of an attack on the oasis. When the alchemist asks him, "Who are you to change what Allah has willed?" Santiago responds by explaining that Allah may create the armies and hawks, but "everything is written in the same hand." This response satisfies the alchemist because it reflects the pantheistic view of a single, unifying force conspiring to control the fate of the universe. It also suggests that, despite their seeming differences, all religions are one and the same.
Santiago's interactions with Fatima and the alchemist have prepared him to take the next step in his journey. He and the alchemist now leave the oasis.