Study Guide

The Alchemist Fate and Free Will

By Paulo Coelho

Fate and Free Will

The concepts of destiny and free will get pretty messy and hard to untangle in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. For one thing, all the signs seem to point to the main character's having the ability to choose his own path and follow his dreams. And he is regularly reminded that whenever he wants something really badly, the universe, rather than yelling that he'll shoot his eye out, actually works to help him get it.
So you'd think that the book is all about free will all the way, right? Maybe. But it also seems that there's another side of the coin: if you don't go after your dreams, destiny and fate will take over and leave you flipping burgers or pumping gas instead of sailing the seven seas. (Unless, of course, flipping burgers was your dream, in which case: go for it.)

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. Are Fatima and Santiago destined to meet? Is there any scenario in which they would never meet?
  2. Why do you think that the old king calls fate the world's greatest lie?
  3. Does Santiago strike you as a fatalistic person? Why or why not?

Chew on This

The Alchemist suggests that a combination of fate and free brings people to fulfill their Personal Legends.

In The Alchemist, fate and free will are at odds with one another.