The Englishman is a student in a book-larnin' kind of school, full of obscure texts about alchemy and sort of terrifying teachers like the alchemist himself. Santiago, on the other hand, don't (ahem, doesn't) know much about history—but he sure does know that he loves Fatima, and he knows that the universe is speaking to him through signs. That makes him a student in one kind of school, the kind where the natural word is just a bunch of signs put there by God. In The Alchemist, the natural world is an open book, as long as you have the intuition to read it.
Questions About Humanity and the Natural World
What lessons does the desert teach Santiago?
Why do you think that the alchemist seems so grumpy about Santiago having a vision in the desert? Why does he kill the hawks?
What role does natural beauty play in the novel?
How would the novel be different if it took place on the sea instead of the desert?
Chew on This
The desert is ultimately more useful than books for learning about the world.
When Santiago becomes one with nature, he has become a true alchemist.