Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea

Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea: Symbolism is widely used by modern authors like Ernest Hemingway. Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea is rich and in good quantities e.g. sea, the fish, sharks, the old man, the boy, the fishermen etc.

Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea – Sea as a Symbol

Sea has a strong symbolic significance in this novel. It is as old as the history of man. It is a symbol of knowledge immeasurable. Every sea wave represents passage of time. Man is yet to discover this knowledge with each new voyage. Sea, like nature, is loving and kind. But it is wild and dangerous too. It provides man with opportunities to earn his livelihood on his waters. It is generally calm and peaceful. Santiago and all other fishermen catch fish on its waters.

The might of sea represents the powerful nature which is bent on destroying whatever man strives to build on. When it is angry, it does not spare man. The sea, with all its might, shows the contrast to the insignificant man and symbolizes that man has a lot to endure in this world if he wishes to survive anymore. The sea is also a teacher as it teaches Santiago when he crosses the limit by going “far out” into the deep sea. It crushes and destroys Santiago.

Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea – Old Man

The Old Man, Santiago, is the symbol of fragile man versus the might of Nature. The only difference these weak humans can make is their strong will and perseverance. What causes the old man to win against the Marlin? Obviously, his sticking to the fish. He hangs onto it for 48 hours.

Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea – The Marlin

Marin is both the prize as well as the test of human effort. The marlin i.e. success does not come handy. It always test and tries human beings. The fall of marlin in the hands of sharks also symbolizes that success is never permanent.

Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea – The Sharks

The sharks are the hostile forces of Nature always at work to thwart human success. Man is alone against a mighty Nature. But this mighty and strong Nature does have a soothing and healing affect as well. God made it so. It is both a friend as well as enemy to man. It provides nourishment in the form of fish. But it also kills in the form of sharks.

Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea – The boy, Manolin

The boy is the hope of carrying the pure art of fishing. He is the continuity of the tradition of fishing like Santiago. He is unlike other fishermen that are greedy and material. They know no art.

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Further Reading & References:

  1. Original Text of The Old Man and The Sea
  2. The Movie The Old Man and the Sea