Study Guide

The Alchemist Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Paulo Coelho

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

Part 1

He thought for a moment that it would be better to pay her fee and leave without learning a thing, that he was giving too much importance to his recurrent dream. (1.47)

Touchy moment, here: if Santiago obeys this impulse, he risks becoming like a sheep who doesn't think about his life or future and just goes along looking for comfort. (Soft, wooly comfort.) Luckily, believes in the power of dreams—especially clearly prophetic ones.

So the boy was disappointed; he decided that he would never again believe in dreams. (1.71)

After the gypsy's mega-obvious reading of his dream, Santiago feels like a sucker. He's going to feel like a bigger sucker when he realizes that she's totally right.

Maybe the church, with the sycamore growing from within, had been haunted. It had caused him to have the same dream for a second time, and it was causing him to feel anger toward his faithful companions. (1.25)

BOOM. Hope you ran for cover, because the anvil of foreshadowing just came crashing down. All signs point to Egypt in the dream, but here Santiago has the intuition that it is the church that's trying to send him a message. Turns out, the treasure is buried at the church, which means that he had been in the right spot from the start.

The Gypsy Woman

"It's a dream in the language of the world," she said. "I can interpret it, but the interpretation is very difficult." (1.61)

Uh-huh. Super difficult—except that "interpretation" of Santiago's dream is 100% literal. In the dream a kid tells him to find a hidden treasure at the pyramids, and her reading is that he will find a hidden treasure at the pyramids. Maybe he just needed someone else to confirm for him—or maybe she's a con artist.

"You came so that you could learn about your dreams," said the old woman. "And dreams are the language of God." (1.48)

The gypsy lady is getting pretty mystical here, but we think she's trying to tell Santiago that he should pay attention to his dreams because they are one of the ways that God or the universe communicate with us. (Remember that next time you dream that Ryan Gosling is making you breakfast.)

Part 2

"Why don't people's hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?" the boy asked the alchemist.

"Because that's what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don't like to suffer." (2.515-16)

The alchemist knows what the crystal merchant does: following your dream is hard work. You might get robbed, separated from loved ones, caught up in a tribal war, robbed again, robbed a third time… you get the picture. The point is that no one said that following a dream would be easy—but they did say it'd be worth the pain.

He had worked for an entire year to make a dream come true, and that dream, minute by minute, was becoming less important. Maybe because that wasn't really his dream. (2.80)

Santiago gets a little mixed up along the way, but as long as he's open to the omens, it's cool. He spends a year thinking he's saving up to buy sheep, but at the last minute realizes that he's actually been saving for a caravan ride to the pyramids. Eh, sheep, camel, it's all barnyard stuff to us.

The Alchemist

"You dream about your sheep and the Pyramids, but you're different from me, because you want to realize your dreams. I just want to dream about Mecca." (2.28)

You might have a friend like the crystal merchant: someone who spends his life talking about doing something, like starting a rock band or sailing to Cuba. You may even be this person. Well, The Alchemist is here to tell you to follow your dreams, no matter how wacky. (And Shmoop is here to tell you that your chances of making it big as a rock band are about as good as our chances of making the NBA. And we're pretty short.)

The alchemist said, "No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn't know it." (2.727)

Here's the story the alchemist told Santiago right before drawing this moral: a father dreamed that his poet son's words would be passed down through the ages, but it turns out his other son (hello, black sheep), a soldier, is the one whose words became famous. In other words, the alchemist is trying to show Santiago we may not be able to see a bigger picture, but following our dreams helps us to do our part in the big picture.

Fatima

"And I am part of your dream, a part of your Personal Legend, as you call it." (2.289)

You say tomato, I say طماطم. Fatima is saying that she's part of Santiago's dream, or, in Melchizedek's words, a Personal Legend. It's all the same in the end: it's Santiago's destiny that he can fulfill by following his dreams.

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