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The Alchemist | Study Guide

Paulo Coelho

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Part 2 | Reaching the Pyramids

Course Hero’s video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2 | Reaching the Pyramids of Paulo Coelho's novel The Alchemist.

The Alchemist | Part 2 (Reaching the Pyramids) | Summary

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Summary

Climbing a sand dune, Santiago takes in a breathtaking view of the moonlit pyramids in the distance. He encounters another omen. This one, the narrator says, is "scuttling in the sand." It is a scarab beetle, known to Egyptians as a symbol of God. Santiago, reading the omen, digs in the dune at that very spot and continues digging all night, to no avail. Exhausted, he hears footsteps and notices several men approaching. The men are refugees from the tribal wars and in need of money. They want to know what he's doing and, more importantly, what he's hiding in the sand. As one of the men seizes Santiago, the moonlight hits his face; in the man's eyes, Santiago sees death. They grab Santiago's bag, find the gold given to him by the alchemist, and assume he's searching for more gold. The men make him keep digging, eventually beating him badly and ripping his clothes to shreds.

Bruised, bleeding, and barely conscious, Santiago tells the attackers about his dream of treasure hidden near the pyramids. The attackers find the story amusing and decide to leave, no longer convinced of gold in the sand. Before they part ways, however, one of the refugees shares his own dream, which occurred two years ago on the very spot on which they stand. In his dream, he was told that he should go to Spain and find a ruined church where shepherds sleep alongside their sheep. There, beneath an old sycamore tree, is a buried treasure. The refugee, however, never followed his dream—he isn't foolish enough, he says, "to cross an entire desert just because of a recurrent dream."

The men go on their way, and Santiago stands up shakily, realizing his own buried treasure is not at the pyramids—it's back home in Andalusia.

Analysis

In this section, fate hands Santiago a final test, and he takes another step in his journey—a rescue from without—when he relates his dream of treasure to the robbers. They don't believe him and decide to let him go. Because the refugees do not believe in dreams, Santiago discovers that his treasure is buried in the place his journey started, at the abandoned church in Andalusia.

Here, Santiago reaches a final stage of character development: the realization that his personal inner growth has always been the most valuable reward he could gain on his journey. Thus, while it may seem on the surface that his journey across the desert was all for naught, in reality it's the journey—not the actual treasure—that makes the experience meaningful and worthwhile.

Coelho intentionally avoids ending the book with Santiago striking gold at the pyramids. Had he done so, the many lessons the protagonist learns along the way—about omens, Personal Legends, the Soul of the World, and the language of love—would have been fleeting, rendering the material prize (the treasure) more important than the experience itself. By locating the treasure in Andalusia, where Santiago's journey started, Coelho places less emphasis on the prize possession and reveals that the real treasure, the truly invaluable one, is Santiago's newfound ability to listen to his heart and follow his dreams.

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