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The Alchemist
STUDENT COPY
The Alchemist
Ten Years On: Introduction
Vocabulary
disinter – unbury, reveal
impetus – encouragement, goad
1.
The author says that four obstacles stand in the way of a person who tries to live his or
her dream. What are these obstacles?
2.
What does the author classify as the secret of life?
3.
The author is a citizen of another country. What is the country?
Prologue
1.
The Prologue is a fable. What does it involve?
2.
Why would the author include a fable before the story even begins?
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The Alchemist
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Part One (Pages 3 – 47)
Vocabulary
breastplate – personal armor covering the chest
crook – the curved stick used by a shepherd
geologists – people who study rocks and the layers of rock and dirt
infidels – unfaithful ones or nonbelievers
levanter – a wind that comes from the eastern end of the Mediterranean, near Turkey,
which is sometimes called the Levant
Moorish – relating to the Moors, the Arab/Berber Muslim people who arrived from
Africa and conquered Spain in the 8th century
sacristy – a room in a church used to store sacred vessels for communion
scabbard – the metal case used to hold a sword
seminary – school, especially one in which students study to become priests
trajectory – the path of a moving object
1.
Who is Santiago? How is he introduced in the beginning of the story?
2.
What is strange about Santiago’s dream?
3.
Where is Santiago going?
4.
Santiago spends a lot of time thinking about his sheep and their place in the world. Why
would the author include this kind of thought?
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5.
The Introduction has prepared the reader to understand that something significant occurs
while the boy and girl are talking. What is it, and what does it mean?
6.
What is the geographical setting for this part of the story?
7.
What did the boy’s parents plan for him, and how did he change the plan?
8.
What does Santiago plan to do in Tarifa?
9.
One ethnic group is singled out in a negative light. What group is stereotyped by the
presence of the old woman who interprets dreams, and how is this group described?
10.
What is the price of Santiago’s consultation with the old woman about the dream?
11.
Santiago meets an old man in the village. The old man says that Santiago’s new book is
irritating and contains the world’s greatest lie. How does it irritate, and what is the lie?
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12.
Who is the old man, and what is his name? What Biblical references does this imply, and
why would the author include these in the story?
13.
What does Melchizedek want in payment for helping Santiago? How does this payment
differ from the one demanded by the Gypsy woman?
14.
How does the old man convince Santiago of his power?
15.
How does Melchizedek explain the concept of the Personal Legend to Santiago?
16.
How does the old man explain why few people attain their Personal Legend?
17.
Melchizedek, who has identified himself as the king of Salem, reveals that he may appear
in other forms. Why has the author given him these powers, and how will these powers
add suspense to the story?
18.
What reason does Melchizedek give for demanding payment of one tenth of the flock for
advice about finding the treasure?
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19.
Santiago initially thinks of his quest in simple terms (sell the sheep and search for the treasure)
but he comes to realize that the quest requires a change in his thinking. What fundamental
change would Santiago be required to make if he decides to seek his Personal Legend?
20.
What does the old man tell Santiago to follow?
21.
Why does Melchizedek let Santiago see the golden breastplate, and what does the old man
take from the breastplate as a gift for Santiago?
22.
Melchizedek tells Santiago a story that concludes with the secret of happiness. Retell the
story and its message.
23.
What do we learn about Melchizedek after he walks away?
24.
Where do we next see Santiago, and what does this location tell us?
25.
What does Santiago learn about the local people, their customs, and their faith?
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The Alchemist
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26.
What happens when Santiago follows his new friend to the marketplace, and what story
does this echo?
27.
What is Santiago’s reaction when he realizes he has been fooled and robbed?
28.
A turning point occurs, helping Santiago rethink his frustration. What helps Santiago
change his outlook? How does this incident strengthen the structure of the novel?
29.
Although he does not speak Arabic, he has a “conversation” with the candy seller. Why is
this important?
30.
Describe Santiago’s first exchange with the crystal merchant and what they learned from
each other.
31.
What does Santiago say he needs money for, and what does this tell the reader?
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The Alchemist
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Part Two (Pages 51 – 167)
Study Section: The Englishman (Pages 51 – 86)
Vocabulary
alchemy – a medieval philosophy and science with the goal of changing common
metals into gold, finding a universal cure for illness, and discovering methods of
halting the aging process to prolong life
archaeological – relating to the discovery and preservation of evidence of earlier cultures,
frequently through the excavation of buried artifacts
Bedouins – nomadic Arab people
capricious – given to whimsical decisions, unpredictable
divination – telling the future
elemental – basic, raw
Esperanto – an artificial language developed to be universal; a combination of the
main European languages
hookah – a water pipe used extensively in Muslim communities; it is not drug-related but is a shared activity
immersion – complete dedication or absorption; being put under water or into a new
subject
incredulous – those who do not believe
intuitively – emotionally, or without conscious thought or analysis
Koran – the holy book of the Islamic faith, the book that teaches Muslims about Allah and his servant, Mohammed, the founder of Islam
manifestation – physical form
Mecca – the holy city of Islam, where faithful Muslims go in pilgrimage; it is the
birthplace of the prophet Mohammed and is located in modern Saudi Arabia
nocturnal – relating to or active during the night
nostalgia – longing for the past
obscure – with hidden meanings, unclear, mysterious
purification – making clean or holy
Ramadan – a month of prayer and fasting observed by Muslims
sentinel – guard
surveillance – studying an area for people or danger
1.
What job did Santiago find, and how did he feel about it?
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2.
The merchant is a Muslim, or a follower of Allah. How does he describe the five duties of
a faithful Muslim?
3.
Why does the crystal merchant refuse to travel to Mecca?
4.
Why does the author include the merchant in the story?
5.
Give an example of Santiago’s lively approach to business and the crystal merchant’s caution.
6.
What does maktub mean?
7.
A leitmotif is a repeated element in a story. What does Santiago ask for when he says goodbye to the merchant? Why is this request important in the structure of the story?
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8.
Thinking of Melchizedek, Santiago feels that it was “almost as if he had been here and left
his mark...he always appeared to help those who are trying to realize their Personal Legend.”
What makes Santiago think the old king has been with him during the year he spent in the
crystal shop? Why does this constitute a turning point in the story?
9.
What do we learn about the Englishman?
10.
What motivates the Englishman’s decision to befriend Santiago?
11.
The author describes the caravan as making detours, stopping and starting, and unloading
and reloading. In this way, the caravan becomes a metaphor for a journey to a destination.
The Englishman, however, is unaware of this. Why does he not understand this, and what
does his lack of awareness imply for his larger journey?
12.
What wisdom did the camel driver share with Santiago?
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13.
Who are the Bedouins, and what is their role in the story?
14.
When Santiago advises the Englishman to study the caravan more, the Englishman uses
a simile comparing books and the caravan. What is he telling Santiago?
15.
According to the Englishman, what is the Soul of the World?
16.
The Englishman and his books give Santiago a seminar on alchemy. What does the reader
learn about alchemy?
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The Alchemist
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Part Two (Pages 51 – 167)
Study Section: The Oasis (Pages 86 – 123)
Vocabulary
astride – mounted on a horse or other animal
genies – spirits or supernatural beings capable of taking on human forms
habituated – accustomed to
imperceptibly – unable to be perceived
melancholy – sad
prognostications – predictions; statements telling of the future
Santiago Matamoros – patron saint of Spain, famous for killing Moors (in Spanish,
mata = kill, moros = Moors) to eject them from Spain; a famous statue depicts the
saint as described, with cowering Moors beneath the hooves of his horse
scabbard – case for a sword
scimitars – very sharp knives with curved blades
seer – one who can see the future
traitorous – able to commit treason
venom – poison
1.
Why is the alchemist watching people as they enter the oasis from the caravan?
2.
Describe the oasis.
3.
What is the law of hospitality in the oasis?
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4.
What does it mean when a woman is dressed in black in the oasis, a Muslim society?
5.
What is the Language of the World, and how does Santiago learn it?
6.
What power does Santiago’s love for Fatima give him?
7.
What agreement do Santiago and Fatima come to?
8.
Santiago sees two hawks as an omen. What do they signify, and what do they say about
Santiago?
9.
What happens when Santiago visits the tribal chieftains to tell them about his vision?
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10.
What test do the chieftains outline for Santiago?
11.
Describe the arrival of the alchemist.
12.
Why does the author have Santiago talk about Allah instead of God?
13.
What advice does the horseman give Santiago?
14.
Why did Santiago find the horseman’s advice so powerful?
15.
Describe the battle at the oasis of Al-Fayoum.
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16.
What was Santiago’s reward for saving the oasis?
17.
After the battle, Santiago goes to the alchemist’s tent. What advice does the alchemist give
him now?
18.
Why does the author have the alchemist say, “Remember that wherever your heart is,
there you will find your treasure.”
19.
What might make the reader classify the Englishman as a static character, as opposed to
Santiago, who is a dramatic character?
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The Alchemist
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Part Two (Pages 51 – 167)
Study Section: To the Pyramids (Pages 123 – 163)
Vocabulary
abraded – scratched and cut
Coptic – an ancient Egyptian sect of Christians who believe that Christ was completely divine, not partly human and partly divine
luminous – glowing
scarab – a beetle used in Egyptian art as a symbol of the after-life or of God; among
Egyptians, scarabs are seen as lucky charms or omens
simun – a wind-borne sand storm
sirocco – a wind that blows from the oceans over the land, bearing moisture
1.
What does the alchemist say about the existence of the natural world? Why is the desert
important? What can a single grain of sand symbolize?
2.
What advice does the alchemist give about listening to one’s heart?
3.
How does the reader know that more trouble awaits Santiago?
4.
What did the Arabs find when they searched the alchemist? Why did they allow the alchemist
to keep these treasures?
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5.
Using the technique of understatement, the author has the alchemist impart an important
lesson to Santiago in telling the Arabs about his treasures. What was the lesson?
6.
What does the alchemist reveal to Santiago about the quest for gold?
7.
What happens when the alchemist and the boy are taken to the military camp?
8.
Why would the alchemist set up such a test for Santiago?
9.
Does the alchemist think he could die if Santiago fails the test?
10.
What conversation does Santiago have when he begins to turn himself into wind?
11.
In addition to the sands of the desert, what other natural forces help Santiago?
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12.
Critics apply the term pathetic fallacy to instances in which human characteristics (such
as the ability to reason and speak) are given to parts of the natural world. Name three
parts of the natural world that are personified in this way during Santiago’s efforts to turn
himself into the wind?
13.
Describe Santiago’s experience of communion with God.
14.
Two people were smiling after Santiago turned himself into the wind. Who were they, and
why was each smiling?
15.
What did the alchemist do at the Coptic monastery?
16.
How did the alchemist distribute the gold he created?
17.
Why did the alchemist think Santiago would need additional gold later?
18.
What is the point of the alchemist’s story about the sons of the Roman emperor Tiberius?
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19.
What advice did the boy’s heart give him as he approached the Pyramids?
20.
What did the boy do when he saw the Pyramids?
21.
What does he see as he looks down at his feet?
22.
Who approaches Santiago as he digs in the sand, and what did they do?
23.
What story does one attacker tell Santiago?
24.
After the attackers leave, Santiago gets up from the sand and begins to laugh. Why?
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Epilogue (Pages 165 – 167)
Vocabulary
conquistador – Spanish soldier, so named because they conquered their enemies
1.
Where do we next see Santiago?
2.
Who is “the old sorcerer” that Santiago talks with?
3.
Is Santiago bitter that he went halfway across the world when the treasure was right at home?
4.
Why does the boy plan to return to Tarifa?
5.
What scent does Santiago detect on the levanter?
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The Alchemist - G. Holmes Braddock