In Pursuit Of Dreams: An Overall Summary
“To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation.”
The Alchemist tells the story of a young Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago, as he leaves his flock to go in search of hidden treasure. But in reality, The Alchemist is something much deeper, much larger, and much grander in scope than a simple adventurer’s tale. It is a parable teaching readers the importance of doing whatever is necessary to attain their personal goals. Only by living in this way will each individual fulfill their potential, and contribute to the world in meaningful ways. And when an entire group of people all focus on passionately pursuing their own individual dreams, then greatness becomes possible on a limitless scale.
As the novel opens, Santiago herds his sheep to an ancient and abandoned church in the countryside. He anxiously looks forward to his upcoming visit to the merchant who buys his wool, but he’s even more anxious to once again speak with the merchant’s daughter. Ever since meeting her a year ago, Santiago has felt his first inklings of romantic love, and he has started to wonder whether or not she is the woman who can convince him to remain in one place and be content.
His fantasies of winning the girl’s heart are derailed, however, when Santiago dreams the same dream he has dreamt several times in the last few days. In it, a young child tells him to travel to the Great Pyramids of Egypt and there he’ll find treasure. Santiago is bothered by this dream, and wonders what it could mean. As Santiago sets out to discover the meaning of this recurring dream, his entire life changes.
Prompted by the advice of a seemingly ignorant gypsy woman and a mysterious old man claiming to be the King of Salem, Santiago pushes his fears and doubts aside, sells his sheep, and sails to Tangier, Morocco in search of the hidden treasure spoken of in his dream. In Tangier, the boy’s resolve is immediately tested when all his money is stolen. Attempting to remain true to his purpose, however, Santiago makes the most of the situation and quickly finds work in a crystal shop.
After a full year of working in the shop, Santiago has enough money to sail back to Spain and purchase two full flocks of sheep. While this is certainly tempting, the boy ultimately decides to remain in Africa in pursuit of his buried treasure. He joins a caravan and begins crossing the desert.
As Santiago draws closer to the pyramids in Egypt, he meets many interesting people and learns many interesting things. At the Al-Fayoum oasis, he meets and falls in love with a girl named Fatima. He is once again tempted to abandon his search for treasure and stay in the oasis with Fatima, but he finally decides to press on toward his goal. Eventually, he meets a powerful alchemist who helps him complete his journey to the pyramids.
When Santiago finally glimpses the majesty of the pyramids, he weeps for joy, and at the spot his tears fall, he begins digging for treasure. In an unexpected twist, the boy’s digging is interrupted by robbers who beat him nearly to death and leave him to die. Just before leaving, though, one of the robbers mocks the boy for pursuing a dream, relating how he had once had a recurring dream of treasure buried in a roofless sacristy in a crumbling Spanish church. The robbers leave, and Santiago recognizes the church in the robber’s dream as the same one he slept in at the beginning of the novel. He now knows where his treasure is buried.
By the time Santiago finally unearths his treasure, he’s learned that the key to all of life is pursuing one’s Personal Legend. Because he’s done this, he’s learned things about himself, about the world in which he lives, and about love. These lessons, and the changes he’s experienced in himself, are the boy’s real treasures. The riches discovered buried beneath the church are simply the surface-level rewards for pursuing his dreams with passion and courage, but the true treasure lies in the type of person the young man has become.
In the end, Santiago has become an alchemist, an individual so wholeheartedly focused on attaining his dreams—his life’s purpose, his Personal Legend—that he has become changed, transformed, and purified in the process. For alchemy isn’t just the transformation of lead into gold, but of simple human beings into individuals of greatness