How is redemption achieved in The Old Man and the Sea?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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What is particularly interesting about this novel in regards to the theme of redemption is the way that the central character, Santiago, is so often compared or likened to the figure of Christ. He suffers various wounds as the novel progresses, such as the way that the line cuts his hands, which is reminiscent of Christ's stigmata, and then when the sharks arrive, the narrator tells us that Santiago made a noise as if he were having nails driven through his hands. Finally, when he arrives back home, the way he carries his mast through the streets is deliberately likened to the way that Jesus had to carry his own cross to his own crucifixion:

He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder. He tried to get up. But it was too difficult and he sat there with the mast on his shoulder and looked at the road. A cat passed on the far side going about its business and the old man watched it. Then he just watched the road.

The numerous images comparing Santiago to Jesus have a specific purpose, as they remind us that Jesus was defeated and yet not beaten, Jesus lost and somehow triumphed in that loss. This is of course Hemmingway's point about Santiago. Although he has ostensibly "failed," Santiago has proven himself to be heroic through his whole-hearted engagement in that struggle.

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