Illustration of a marlin in the water

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

Start Free Trial

In The Old Man and the Sea, what literary device does Hemingway use in the description of the shark's approach?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hemingway uses a simile to compare the shark to a pig racing to its food trough.  A simile is a figure of speech that uses “like” or “as” to compare two things that are not alike.  The use of the simile gives the reader a visual way to understand the relentlessness of the sharks to eat Santiago’s marlin.  Santiago has been fishing for days and finally lands the huge marlin only to be attacked by the sharks that start to devour the prize marlin.  If you’ve ever been to a farm and have seen pigs being fed, you want to get out of the way!  They will not stop until they’ve devoured everything given them. The sharks represent an uncaring nature that isn’t sympathetic to the plight of Santiago.  Although Santiago battles to save the marlin, the sharks charge the marlin over and over again until there is nothing left of the marlin for Santiago to take back to shore.  They represent another defeat for Santiago who struggles to save his catch and his pride.  Santiago's defeat also shows how man is ill-equipped to overcome obstacles in a cruel, unforgiving environment like the sea.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial