What Is the Theme of “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho?

The theme of Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” is the discovery of one’s destiny. The novel posits, as enshrined in the old king’s utterance of the sentiment, “when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true,” that personal destiny is a real and vital force in the world.

“The Alchemist” follows the adventures of a young goatherd named Santiago as he quests in search of his destiny. Once he discovers it, it appears as though his entire journey has been to bring him to it. The novel’s central philosophy is that Santiago’s desire to actualize his destiny has a measurable effect on the physical and metaphysical worlds around him.

Facets of Santiago’s destiny and Personal Legend include:

  • Freedom and travel around the world
  • Apprenticeship to the titular Alchemist
  • Winning the hand of Fatima

Santiago’s adventures are launched when he dreams of a boy telling him to go to the Great Pyramids in Egypt, igniting his lifelong love of travel. In the end, though, the pyramids contain only the treasure of the experience he gains along the road he takes to reach them. The home he left behind in Andalusia contains literal, not figurative treasure, which he collects as a dowry for Fatima, his true love.