The Role Of Desert In The Alchemist By Paulo Coelho

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Torrid heat, cutting wind, freezing cold nights, gritty sand, are all characteristics of the desert and when you experience all of these there is only one thing that comes to mind to describe it, misery. Deserts are amongst one of the most popular settings in books which involves one’s journey and this could be seen in The Alchemist as the main character, Santiago spent the majority of the book in the desert and that is where he underwent the most change. But why are deserts such a necessity when it comes to one’s journey? Deserts hold many key elements which are important for the characters such as Santiago to develop not only as a person but to learn while on their quests.

To begin, the desert is used as a tool in many religions. For example, the desert is used almost as a test and as a tool to build one into a stronger person. According to Tim Dedopulos, “because they are wide, open vistas without covering vegetation, they represent brutal honesty, impersonal struggle and the harsh realities of survival… Because it is such a difficult, threatening terrain type, it represents barriers, obstacles and challenges. There are strong overtones of spirituality and religion bound up symbolically with desert landscapes”. This could be seen in The Alchemist as Santiago dealt with all of these challenges which helped shape him into the person he became throughout the book. Deserts are even a big part of the Old Testament as subsequent centuries calling them into the desert as a testing ground, where they may experience a change of heart and, by proving themselves obedient to his ordering of human living, again accept him their Creator as also their Lord. This shows why deserts are so beloved when it comes to spiritual quests.

Throughout his journey for his personal legend, Santiago has learned much about himself. The most meaningful is that he learns how to communicate with the Soul of the World. The Englishman, who was with Santiago for a bit of his journey told him that when you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World. This taught Santiago that he needs to start listening to his heart and do whatever it tells him to do. However, sometimes his heart does not always tell him to do something good which makes him need to learn when to trust his heart and when not to. This process was very difficult for Santiago and even went to a point where he called his heart a traitor as it leads him to express fear, sadness, and even distracts him from following his personal legend at some points. The Soul of the World is a universal language which all things spoke. This allowed Santiago to learn how to communicate with the world with elements such as the wind. Santiago also learned all about the elements within the world such as the wind, fire, and more. Santiago also learns to believe in omens by the Englishman. The Omens are fortune-telling stones named Urim and Thummin which are two different colors and they answer yes or no to questions which were given to Santiago by Melchizedek.

In a result of this, nature plays a major role in The Alchemist. The desert provides challenges which force Santiago to the limit helping to build him as a person while he was on his journey to his personal legend. The desert can be seen as a teacher like a figure to Santiago. The desert and nature as a whole plays a supernatural role and can be seen as its own individual by the characters in the book. Santiago also has to learn a lot and connect to the world in order to reach his personal legend. He learns about the Soul of the World which allows him to communicate with everything even elements of the world such as the sun and wind. Without nature having this role Santiago would not have undergone this change and development as a person. Overall, the desert is a popular setting for spiritual quests. The excruciating heat, powerful winds, gritty sand, monotonous, and emptiness create the perfect environment for one to learn about oneself. Santiago in the book, The Alchemist, has learned many important skills which help lead him to his personal legend and to live a happy fulfilled life. He becomes a stronger person, learns to communicate with the world, and gets closer to god.


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