Ernest Hemingway wrote “The Old Man and the Sea” after suffering much criticism from his previous book, “Across the River and Into the Trees”. Hemingway was deeply wounded by the critics and writing "The Old Man and the Sea” was his response to them. However, taking his cue from Mark Twain in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, he blunted any possible criticism from the critics by saying there was no symbolism in the novella. One hundred years earlier, in a book Hemingway called “the first modern American novel”, Mark Twain did the same thing in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” begins with the preface, “ PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR,
Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.
By including a disclaimer in his novel like Twain, Hemingway was insulating himself from those literary critics who had wounded him so deeply after the publication of “Across the River and Into the Trees”. Of course, there is symbolism and allegory in the novel. The fish is obviously his previous novel and the sharks are the literary critics who “ate up” what Hemingway thought was a masterpiece. Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature based on this book. It was his way of “defending the title” of the greatest American writer of the 20th century. And, in retrospect, he probably won that title, in spite of his so-called protestations that there is no symbolism.