What does the marlin symbolize in The Old Man and the Sea?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Old Man And The Sea, the marlin symbolizes pride, honor, courage, resourcefulness and endurance.

In the story, Santiago relates a time when he caught a female marlin. He states that the male marlin always lets the female feed first. Unfortunately, at this particular point in time, the female marlin gets hooked by Santiago in its process of feeding. The old man relates that the male marlin never left his mate's side even after she is caught. At last, when the female marlin is hoisted onto the boat, the male marlin makes one last jump to see her before he dives down into the ocean. The marlin's honor and loyalty to his mate impresses Santiago.

As Santiago battles the giant marlin, he comes to admire the marlin's resourcefulness, endurance, and courage. The marlin fights relentlessly and persistently, circling round and round, battling Santiago for every inch of line. Despite its wound, it refuses to surrender in defeat while it is still breathing. When Santiago finally manages to plunge the harpoon into the marlin's flesh, the giant fish jumps into the air in a brilliant death flight. Its courage and tenacity wins Santiago's admiration.

Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or a more noble thing than you...Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.

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The Old Man and the Sea

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