A Psychoanalytical Approach to the dream sequence in The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Psychoanalysis will be partial without talking about dreams. Dreams act as a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious mind. According to Freud, dreams were an agent which fulfilled the repressed desires of a person. Jung had similar ideas about dreams. The Jungian theory says that dreams reveal more than they hide.  

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is an apt paradigm to apply the psychoanalytic theory. The core of psychoanalysis dwells on the idea that a text is an unforeseen expression of the author’s suppressed emotions. The old man’s dreams in the book are a projection of his innate desires which reflects the author’s life as well. Hemingway has unconsciously expressed his emotions and desires in the novella which are clearly visible in the dreams, the best archetypes.

Analysis of Works, The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea

This psychoanalytic approach is based on the old man’s constant switch between the dream-memory and the real experiences. The first dream occurs before the sea voyage, the second one projects the old man’s rest during the fight, and lastly, the dream concludes the story by the end of the voyage. 

The old man dreams only about the beaches and lions of the African continent. The continent had made a significant impact on Santiago. Contrary to the unlucky and disturbing life of Santiago, his dreams offer him peace and lull him to a state of harmony. Lions are the salient image of his dreams. They are striking because as against the powerful and masculine features of the animal it is portrayed as “young cats” playing mischievously in the beach:

“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.”

This description of lions can be taken as the old man’s knowledge and mastery with the sea and its marine life.

List Of The Old Man And The Sea Characters With Info ✔️

The old man’s dreams consist only of this sequence: the African continent, the beaches, and the lions. The repetition of the dream sequence confirms the unconscious urges of the man.

They signify his desire to return to his youth again when he was a sailor. Since he cannot, his dreams and the boy Manolin become his primary source of youthful escape: 

When I was your age I was before the mast on a square rigged ship that ran to Africa and I have seen lions on the beaches in the evening.”

Coming back to the author’s life, Hemingway’s time in Africa proved dangerous to his health. He suffered from a concussion and other injuries. Yet, he loved the continent dearly. His trips to the land offered him a treasure trove of material, objective as well as subjective, to help him write stories. Hemingway was an ardent hunter and bagged a trophy lion. Similarly, in Santiago’s dreams, lions are shown as playful and humble creatures. The lion can be taken as a collective form of Africa. This indicates the sense of union he, ultimately, Hemingway had with Africa. Many of Hemingway’s works are based on the continent such as The Green Hills of AfricaThe Snows of KilimanjaroThe Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, etc. 

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