Identify some of the symbolism in the novel "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest HemingwayIt must include the symbolism of the sea, fishing instruments and the boat,the relationship between the old...

Identify some of the symbolism in the novel "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway

It must include the symbolism of the sea, fishing instruments and the boat,the relationship between the old man and the boy...i need the answer urgently...

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Old Man and the Sea Hemingway, above all else, “tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things.”  Which is to say he did not build in much overt symbolism.

Many read the novella as a biblical parable, and it is styled as such.  Enotes' section on "Symbolism" does a wonderful job developing this:

Santiago, for example, has often been compared to Christ in the way he suffers. His bleeding hands, the way he carries the boat mast like a cross, and the way he lies on his bed with his arms outstretched, all have clear parallels in the story of Christ’s crucifixion. In this interpretation of the story, Manolin is seen as a disciple who respects and loves Santiago as his teacher.

As far as the sea, it is among the most universal, naturalistic settings in all of literature.  There are three levels of symbolism that I use to teach the novel: below the sea, on its surface, and above (in the air).  The obvious correlations are fish (below), man (surface), and birds (above).  I think Hemingway says there is much for man to learn from all creatures big and small: from below (the secrets of the deep) and from above (the freedom to see all).

Santiago's hands are another major symbol.  He speaks to them often when they cramp.  They are like Wilson, his only companion, in the film "Cast Away."  (He often speaks to the boy, not present, as well: another instance of apostrophe).  Santiago's hands represent both his strength (the arm wrestling match) and his weakness (old age).

The marlin is symbolic of the novella itself.  Hemingway is trying to bring it so shore for all to read, but inevitably he can only bring back a skeleton (a limited version of the idea he intended to create).

Inside the story, the marlin also represents the grandeur of all creatures and the brotherhood between man and beast in terms of survival.  Santiago calls him "brother" and "my fortune" (economically, and it terms of reputation among other fishermen).

Sharks, however, are not brothers, and Santiago uses his knife to stab them in the brain.  They are scavengers (like literary critics).  They only take, without creating.  Hemingway has little respect for them.

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