What can we learn from Stantiago in The Old Man and the Sea?
I think one of the definite lessons that we can learn from the character of Santiago is the way that he is determined to continue fishing, in spite of his crushing and massive disappointment at having lost the big fish that he caught. Although he is shown to have given up so much and sacrificed almost everything to capture this fish, and in spite of his every efforts, he cannot save the fish from being eaten by the sharks that surround him. Yet Santiago is not overwhelmed by this failure. When he gets back, after some encouagement from Manolin, he begins to talk again about going out the next day. The very last line of the novel is very significant, as it indicates how Santiago, in spite of his failure, has not abandoned his dreams:
The old man was dreaming about the lions.
The lions refers to a dream that Santiago has had to go to Africa and see the lions. The fact that the novel ends on this sentence is very significant as it indicates that Santiago has transcended his failure and is not crushed by it. If anything, he is even more determined to go out and fish again. This is a lesson we can all learn from.
Yet the struggle to achieve one’s dreams is still worthwhile, for without dreams, a human remains a mere physical presence in the universe, with no creative or spiritual dimension. And so at the end of the story, Santiago, in spite of his great loss, physical pain, and exhaustion, is still “dreaming about the lions”—the same ones he saw in Africa when he was younger and would like to see again.