Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea

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Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Santiago's Hands- Christ - Determination- Hard Work - PerseveranceWe found Santiago’s hands to represent old age, as well as perseverance. One reason for this is because his hands are beaten, battered and scarred, but he still uses them after all of his years to do harsh manual labor, thus persevering. “His hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert.”

The Sharks- Pontius Pilate - Injustice- Taking away what is rightly someone'sWe felt that the sharks could best be represented by a Pontius Pilate figure, going along with the analogy of Santiago to Jesus Christ. Continuing with this theme, the sharks also represent injustice, and the robbery of rightful achievement. This is epitomized by the quote: “‘He took about forty pounds,’ the old man said aloud. He took my harpoon too and all the rope, he thought, and now my fish bleeds again and there will be others.”

The Mast- The Cross of Christ - Life and death- A chanceIn continuing with the biblical and Jesus Christ theme, we saw the mast as symbolizing the cross and the ordeal of christ. We also saw it as symbolizing life and death. One quote is: “Then he shouldered the mast and started to climb. It was then he knew the depth of his tiredness.”

Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea

The Sea

Portugese Man-of-war

- The concurrence of beauty and danger- Mystery - AdventureWe felt the sea could be best represented by mystery, and the dualism of danger and opportunity. This is because the sea can offer a bounty of food and riches, but also offer danger and death. A quote that applies to show mystery is: “He looked across the sea and knew how alone he was now. But he could see the prisms in the deep dark water and the line stretching ahead and the strange undulation of the calm.”

- The dualism of hope and pain - Deceit- The concurrence of beauty and dangerWe felt that the Portuguese Man-of-War could be best symbolized by the concurrence of danger but also opportunity. This is because they are exceedingly dangerous and painful should you though them, but also are the harbinger of fish. One quote is the Old Man’s exclamation when he sees one. “‘Agua mala,’ the man said. ‘You whore.’”

Santiago's Eyes

- Youth - Strength - WisdomWe thought Santiago’s eyes to symbolize youth, and staying strong through tough times. This is because they still shine strong and young even after all of his hard years. “Everything about him was old except his eyes,” the narrator intones.

We felt we chose the images and themes as we did because they seemed to go along with the common theme of Santiago’s struggle for catch and keep the fish. For several, there was almost a Jesus Christ, latter half of the bible theme. We felt this applied because the story of Christ and his crucifixion went along with parts of Santiago’s, especially near the end of the book. Some of our other symbols were more abstract concepts like youth, perseverance- ideas that are not tactile. Throughout our symbols though, we felt we really did capture the many parallels and nuances of Santiago’s story.


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