Symbolism in Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea

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Symbolism in Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, Thesis Paper

In Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway uses symbolism to portray the traits of the main characters in his stories. Hemingway uses symbols to give the reader a better look and an easier understanding of what the book is about. The use of symbolism in his books gives them deeper meaning sort of like a lesson. Hemingway places symbols, leaving the reader to look deeper into the obvious plot of the play.

The symbol of courage and determination is used in Old Man and the Sea. Stated above, Hemingway portrays the men in this book with very dominant and strong characteristics. In Old Man and the Sea, the old man, Santiago, is a very old fisherman who doesn't have good luck when it came to fishing. One day, when he is out at sea, he hooked a great marlin and realizes he is unable to quickly kill the fish, and it proceeds to tow him farther out to sea. "Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either one of us" (Hemingway 50). The old man and the fish are both mere inhabitants of Gulf Stream, bonded by the fact that they are at the mercy of the sea. Santiago then says," You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother." (Hemingway 92) The way Santiago says the statement sounds like he will do anything to catch the fish and even risk his own life. It takes courage to risk your life In the opening lines of the book Hemingway uses the numbers "eighty-four" which is seven times twelve, the two great "epic numbers" which have been incorporated into many Biblical text. The second line, where Hemingway uses another epic number forty, which was the number of days and nights Jesus spent in the desert.

The scars on the old man's hands are introduced in an opening description of Santiago. 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" (Hemingway 10). Later, during his encounter with the marlin, the line cuts his right hand when the fish lurches. Santiago understands, "You're feeling it now, fish....And so, God knows, am I" (Hemingway 56). Santiago's hands bleed and cramp recalls the image of Jesus Christ's hand bloodied by the nails used to crucify him. When the old man returned to shore the boy saw his hands and began to cry just like Mary did at the foot of the cross when she saw the blood coming from Jesus.

Also, after returning home Santiago begins breaking down his ship and equipment. Santiago removes the mast and places it on his shoulders and walking to his shack "put the mast down and stood up. He picked the mast up and put it on his shoulder and started up the road. He had to sit down five times before he reached his shack" (Hemingway 121) this is just like when Jesus Christ carried the cross through the town before he was crucified. The mast looks very like a cross and the cross was what Jesus was crucified on.

The books setting takes place near or on the ocean. To Santiago the ocean symbols life. In these days to live you have to eat and breathe. The ocean provides Santiago with fish for him to catch and eat and sell for a profit for other things. In life people face obstacles like Santiago did when he caught the fish he had to protect the fish from the sharks. The sharks symbolize people today, in that people are always looking for something. Since the Marlin is tied up the sharks have easy picking on the marlin and will keep eating and eating until the marlin is bare bones. People today keep taking and taking until there is nothing left. But in this story Santiago symbolizes the hard workingman in the world. He gets and goes out to catch fish so he can live another day.

Ernest Hemingway uses symbolism to portray his characters to give the reader a better look and an easier understanding of what the book is about. He uses the symbolism to give the reader a message that is deeper than what many read. Even though the Old Man and the Sea was very short it had a much greater meaning.

Article name: Symbolism in Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea essay, research paper, dissertation