The Old Man and the Sea Questions and Answers
by Ernest Hemingway

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What is the importance of Santiago's dreams in "The Old Man and the Sea"?

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Santiago has a recurrent dream of lions playing on the beaches in Africa. Now that he is old, he doesn't dream of what he used to dream, which was of women, his wife, and "great" occurrences. Instead:

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.

These dreams are important because they show what makes him happy now. They reveal what he loves. He loves nature, play, and youth, all of which the lions represent. The places he dreams of include his beloved sea and surf. His dreams have become simpler, reflecting the increased purity of his values as he has grown older and as what is unimportant has faded away.

At the very end of the book, after his epic battle with the marlin and the sharks, his dream of the lions symbolizes that he has not been defeated, even though the sharks ate his marlin. In fact, he is revitalized.

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