The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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Hemingway said about symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea: "There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are...

Hemingway said about symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea:

"There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are sharks, no better, no worse."

How does this quotation relate to the novel's characters?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write15,968 answers

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I think that people might find symbolism even if the author does not want them to look for it.  Tolkien insisted that The Lord of the Rings was not allegorical.  I guess the question is whether or not authors have a right to say what the book means.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I actually beg to differ. Some would argue that it is impossible to view the world without acknowledging the place of symbolism in it. Whatever the author's intentions, it is possible to look at and examine a piece of literature in a way that the author would never have imagined or dreamed of. Consider the frankly rather sexual analysis of works such as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, which were written by Victorian single women whose knowledge of sex was (we assume) rather limited. Thus, although we must take into account Hemingway's own ideas about his work, we can be free to discount them if we feel we can support our conclusions about his work.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It's always great to read what poets and authors say about their own work.  This quote sounds just like Hemingway, and it's this same no-nonsense approach we find in this novella.  This is just a guy, alone at sea, hungry and wounded, fighting a big fish.  That's it--no symbols or other literary "junk."  It's the simple story of how one man was able to persevere in spite of all those things going against him.  We see him do it and we should be inspired that we'll be able to do the next hard thing that comes our way.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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...

(The entire section contains 6 answers and 833 words.)

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Scott Locklear eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write164 answers

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Scott Locklear eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write164 answers

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udonbutterfly | Student

Hemingway was going through some things in his life and fighting depression and financial situations when he was writing The Old Man and the Sea, which was actually one of the last things he really worked on and published before his death. Something like this quote does not surprise me coming from Hemingway. This was just Hemingway's way of saying that people over complicate things and they look for things that are not even there and beyond the surface of what it really is. "The boy is a boy... The sharks are sharks, no better, no worse." The boy will always be that a boy and a shark will always be a shark nothing more nothing less.

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nicolestrauss12 | Student
Hemingway's Quote About Characters

[originally posted by Sam95]

What does Hemingway's quote about the characters in The Old Man and the Sea mean?

"There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are sharks, no better, no worse. All the symbolism people say is s**t. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know"

actually there is symbolism you have to think analytically or you are just not looking deep enough

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