What do the sharks symbolize and what is the purpose/ effect of the conclusion?

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novella, "The Old Man and the Sea," by Ernest Hemingway, Santiago goes out to fish.  It has been 84 days since he last caught a fish, and everyone thinks he is unlucky.  On this day he does catch a fish.  He catches a huge marlin and the long struggle of survival begins.  For over a day the man fights to land the fish.  Finally when he has only two drinks of water left and little food, he finally kills the marlin and gets it secured to the skiff.

On his way home, "the sharks attacked after only an hour." The sharks attack and attack and eventually eat every bit of the meat on the marlin.  The old man arrives back to the shore of his home with only the head, tail, and skeleton of the marlin.

The sharks are symbolic of the struggles and obstacles we occur in life.  This man has a dream and he goes to fight for the dream.  He actually grabs his dream and begins to relax until the sharks attack.  His dreams, like ours are under attack by life's many negative obstacles which try to take our dreams away from us.

The conclusion of the novel shows us that we should not let go of our dreams.  With love and support from our friends we can continue to strive and fight for whatever it is we want in life as Santiago continues to make plans with Manolin.  With the compassion and friendship Manolin shows Santiago, and with the strength of a lion, Santiago, at the end of the story, makes plans to once again go out on to the sea and seek his dream.  "The old man was dreaming about lions." Pg. 127.

 

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The Old Man and the Sea

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