Following omens and the pursuit of his dream, Santiago goes on a journey to find his treasure. Along the way he encounters characters and circumstances that both support or challenge his quest.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In this excerpt, American author and philosopher Emerson expounds his Transcendentalist beliefs about individuality and nonconformity.
Have students read this text after reading page 23 when the king of Salem discusses the baker and how he chose practicality and postponed his dream, which never came to fruition. Pair The Alchemist and “Excerpts From ‘Self-Reliance’,” and ask students to discuss how Santiago decides not to conform to society’s definition of success. How does Emerson’s theory of individuality and nonconformity compare to Santiago's contemplation of his “personal legend?”
In this fable, a farmer finds a snake frozen in his field and decides to help it, only to see the snake betray him.
Introduce this elementary fable after students have read page 39, in order to analyze the life lesson that Santiago learns after being robbed. Pair The Alchemist with “The Farmer and the Viper,” and ask students to discuss how Santiago and the farmer in this story fall victim to their own naivety. Compare and contrast the intentions of Santiago and the farmer with the intentions of the thief and the snake. Why do you think Santiago learns this lesson of discernment at the beginning of his journey?
Genesis 37 is an Old-Testament passage that contains the story of Joseph and his dreams. Joseph is an important figure in the Hebrew tradition. In this passage he is the favorite of his father Jacob, and dreams that he was chosen by God to rule over many people, including his brothers. His brothers sell him into slavery and he ends up in Egypt.
Have students read this text before the read before reading beyond page 106, when the elder in the oasis describes the biblical story of Joseph and the significance of dreams and omens. Pair The Alchemist and “Joseph’s Dreams From Genesis 37,” and ask students to discuss the power of signs and omens in both texts. How does intuition shape the lives of Santiago and Joseph?
In Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poem “what love isn’t,” Ward explores attributes of love not often discussed.
Introduce this text after students have read page 123 of the novel, when Santiago has to leave Fatima to pursue his Personal Legend. Pair The Alchemist and “what love isn’t,” and ask students to consider love, Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poem, and Santiago’s relationship with Fatima. How does Santiago and Fatima’s relationship compare to Daley-Ward’s definition of love? How do Santiago and Fatima demonstrate their love for one another?
In “The Third Wish,” Joan Aiken tells the story of a man who asks for three wishes after rescuing the King of the Forest.
A man asks for three wishes after saving a swan that happens to be the king of the forest. Have students read this text after completing the novel. Pair The Alchemist with “The Third Wish,” and ask students to discuss the development of Santiago and Mr. Peters as their encounters with others shape their perception of fulfillment and happiness. What is the difference between their priorities at the beginning of their journeys and their major concerns toward the end of their journeys? What changed their outlooks on life and the sources of their contentment?