The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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What do the lions at the end of the story symbolize in The Old Man and the Sea?

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cdives eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I have had many students interpret this ending as the Santiago dying. By dreaming of the lions, they say, he is being returned to the days of his greatest strength. They argue that the boy is crying, not just because he recognizes the Old Man's loss, but because he recognizes Santiago is dying and may not make it through the night. I add this only because it is a persepctive brought by my students, but I also believe there is validity to it.

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The lions symbolize youth, strength,...

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saltly | Student

Santiago tells the boy in the first 15-20 pages, "when I was your age I was before the mast on a square rigged ship that ran to Africa and I have seen the lions on the beaches in the evening" a couple pages later Hemingway describes the old man as sleeping and dreaming not of the things he used to as a young man like storms, women, nor of great occurences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strenth nor his wife, he "Only dreamed of places now and of the Lions on the Beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy. He never dreamed about the boy."  In the last line of the novel the old man was dreaming of youth. The boy was watching him dream of youth, and santiago had just fought the fish as if he still had his youth, but in the end it was worth no more than a dream.

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