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The Alchemist | Study Guide

Paulo Coelho

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Learn about allegory in Paulo Coelho's novel The Alchemist with Course Hero’s video study guide.

The Alchemist | The Allegory Genre


The Alchemist is an allegory, or a story that reveals a deeper, hidden meaning. Often the purpose of an allegory is to teach a moral lesson or principle. Allegories can take many forms—short stories, novels, poems, and even pictures—and convey any number of hidden meanings through character archetypes, character development, dialogue, settings, plot, and other elements. Some archetypes Coelho employs are:

In The Alchemist, Santiago's journey from his home in Andalusia reveals deep insights about life and self-discovery. His trip is not simply a physical trek. It is an archetypal hero's journey, combining physical movement and changes in setting with changes in the hero's ideas, knowledge, and beliefs. These archetypes, present in hero stories from around the world, were identified by American researcher Joseph Campbell in his influential work The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Thus, the hero takes a spiritual journey as well as a geographical one. The stages in Santiago's journey include:

  • Call to Adventure: Santiago has a recurring dream and responds to it.
  • Crossing First Threshold: Santiago sells his sheep and sails to Tangier.
  • Road of Trials: Santiago is robbed and has to find a job without being able to speak the local language; later, he trades learning styles with the Englishman.
  • Rescue from Without: Robbers release Santiago when they discount his dream of buried treasure.
  • Ultimate Boon/Crossing Return Threshold: Santiago achieves the goal of his quest (finding the treasure) when he returns to the sycamore tree in Andalusia.

Santiago completes his hero's journey and returns home transformed by the wisdom he has gained along the way.

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