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Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea Research Papers

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Symbolism in The Old Man and the SeaErnest Hemingway claimed to have written The Old Man and the Sea without intending symbols, although he did not mind if people found their own symbols in his work.

  • Santiago, the fisherman, is an Everyman character.
  • He is an individual, yet he represents the struggles of all men as they go through life.
  • His bad luck represents the vagaries of life that afflict all people.

The character of Santiago’s struggle with the marlin and then with the sharks provides an even more compact and streamlined analogy for human life. The ocean is life and the marlin represents success. In order to succeed, Santiago must have the daring to go beyond the usual limits of other fishermen. He must risk a small profit (a tuna) in hopes of making a bigger catch. In both these acts of daring, he must have the ability to dream, to imagine succeeding beyond the scope of what the average man would aspire to do. He is willing to endure injury and risk death to reach his goal. His stoic acceptance of the destruction of his catch shows his character.

Hemingway is not an openly Christian writer, but Santiago can be read as a Christ figure. He physically assumes Christ-like positions several times and his name ties him to the Apostle James whom Christ called to be a fisher of men. The prayer to St. James specifically asks for strength in the struggle of life—something Hemingway’s Santiago embodies.

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