Study Guide

The Alchemist Wisdom and Knowledge

By Paulo Coelho

Wisdom and Knowledge

Socrates said that the only true wisdom was knowing you know nothing. Personally, we like Coelho's take: that true wisdom means knowing how to turn lead into gold. Okay, okay, so it's supposed to be a metaphor: in The Alchemist, wisdom is all about purifying the soul, community with the universe, and finding hidden treasure. And you can't get more ancient or hidden than the knowledge of alchemy.

Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

  1. Is Santiago a wise person? Why or why not?
  2. Who is the wisest person in the novel?
  3. How do the skills and knowledge Santiago learned from his sheep help him in Africa?
  4. In the novel, is everyone able to gain wisdom and knowledge through listening to their heart? Or must they go through some kind of training first?

Chew on This

In The Alchemist, books and schools are superfluous; everything that a person needs to know is available in the natural world.

The Alchemist shows that wisdom has nothing to do with age: even a young person can be wise, and an old person can definitely be foolish.