Pages 81-97 of The Old Man and the Sea: As Santiago dozes in the boat, what do his three dreams symbolize/mean?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Santiago's dreams as he lightly sleeps in the bow of his boat having secured his line so that he will awaken if the fish pulls on it.  As he sleeps with his weight upon his right hand, Santiago's three dreams reflect his subconscious.

  • His first dream reflects Santiago's anticipation of what the fish will soon do; namely, jump high into the air. Because he has not seen the fish, Santiago does not envision the marlin, but a school of porpoises, who have some resemblance to a marlin.
  • The second dream is a memory dream as Santiago's mind re-experiences the feeling of his right arm being asleep as he lay his head upon it as a boy. As Santiago sleeps, he has all his weight upon his right arm:

Then he dreamed that he was in the village on his bed and there was a norther and he was very cold and his right arm was asleep because his head had rested on it instead of a pillow.

The mention of "mother" indicates his sense of confidence and "the norther" suggests not only that Santiago is cold, but that his body is exhausted.

  • Santiago's third dream is his boyhood dream of the lions, a dream of power and optimism. "...and he waited to see if there would be more lions and he was happy." This dream is symbolic of Santiago's sense of manhood and reaffirmation of himself as a great fisherman since he may well bring in a tremendous catch.
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The Old Man and the Sea

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