Browse Content     The Alchemist

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.

11th Grade Philosophy 990L
Excerpt from "Self-Reliance"
Ralph Waldo Emerson 1841
Passage Summary:

In this excerpt, American author and philosopher Emerson expounds his Transcendentalist beliefs about individuality and nonconformity.

When and How to Pair:

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?”

6th Grade Fable 1110L
The Farmer and the Viper
Aesop 620-560 BCE
Passage Summary:

In this fable, a farmer finds a snake frozen in his field and decides to help it, only to see the snake betray him.

When and How to Pair:

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?

7th Grade Religious Text 870L
Joseph's Dreams from Genesis 37
Unknown 1973
Passage Summary:

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. 

When and How to Pair:

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?

7th Grade Poem
what love isn't
Yrsa Daley-Ward 2014
Passage Summary:

In Yrsa Daley-Ward's poem "what love isn't," Ward explores attributes of love not often discussed.

When and How to Pair:

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?

6th Grade Short Story 1060L
The Third Wish
Joan Aiken 1974
Passage Summary:

In "The Third Wish," Joan Aiken tells the story of a man who asks for three wishes after rescuing the King of the Forest.

When and How to Pair:

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?