The Englishman is a well-educated and ambitious aspiring alchemist. He is adventurous enough to join a caravan in search of the alchemist, but is rather anti-social. He prefers to read his large collection of books rather than interact with others or take interest in his surroundings. Because the Englishman and Santiago share a commitment to pursuing their Personal Legends, they quickly become friends. The Englishman, however, also challenges Santiago with his intellectual, knowledge-focused approach to life. He teaches Santiago the value of book learning and introduces him to important concepts in alchemy, such as the Master Work. But he must also learn from Santiago the importance of experience and friendship.

Because the Englishman focuses too much on his books, the alchemist believes he has not reached the point in his personal development that would allow him to be the alchemist’s protégé. Using the Englishman as its example, the novel suggests that even though knowledge gained from books can be useful, one should not rely on it solely and unconditionally. True wisdom comes from experience, which one must earn through action.