Alchemist Interview Questions

Let me try to explain myself better. I believe that each one of us has a spark of the divine light to manifest. It is our task here on this earth, and our human condition demands – demands – that we do it, to justify ourselves. So, my dream since I was very, very young was to be a writer, though I – well, I was procrastinating, because sometimes you fear to face your reason to be here.

And then – at the very beginning of the book, uh? – I realised that this was not true. That the extraordinary bites in the common life. That to Jesus there is nothing that was hidden that is not revealed. And I do believe in that, and I live by it, uh? At the very beginning [of my pilgr], this was my transformation, this was my turning point: Don’t complicate, Paulo! Things are easier than you think. Just open your heart and let the light of God inside!

Do you think you would have ended up doing what you are doing now if you had not suffered as you did in your youth, first in a mental asylum and then at the hands of the secret police?

The next step is to learn the craft. So, for writing, first I had to read. You don’t learn writing from courses or workshops – I don’t believe in them. You learn how to write by reading other writers, people who have tried to share their souls, their experiences, whatever they have, with their fellow human beings. Then you have to make some choices: What shall I write about? What are my main questions? And then you start to develop your own technique. You start innovating, in the sense that you try not to repeat what other people are doing.

This edit was originally published in the June 2010 issue of Third Way.

Questions About Literary Terms and Techniques

Literature analysis helps students look closely at small parts of a story so that they can better understand it as a whole. The following questions will help students focus on aspects and techniques like structure, setting, and themes so that they gain a better understanding of the meaning of The Alchemist.

  • What is the setting in The Alchemist? How would the storyline be different if the author used your hometown as the setting?
  • There is a reoccurring theme presented throughout the storyline. What is it?
  • There are many lessons to learn from reading The Alchemist. What lesson do you believe Santiago learned? What lesson did you learn and how can you apply the lesson to everyday life?
  • Which point of view did the author use for this story: 1st, 2nd or 3rd person? Use quotes or statements from the book to support your answer. What are the benefits and limitations of this point of view choice for a story like The Alchemist.
  • What is the climax of the The Alchemist? What makes this part of the story more intense than others?
  • How would you define irony? Is there any irony in The Alchemist? Support your answer with examples from the text.
  • Birds are significant symbols in The Alchemist. Discuss at least three scenes to support this statement and explain what the bird symbolizes in each scene.
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