People have different interpretations of The Old Man and the Sea. Some may believe Santiago’s trip was worth it while others may disagree. In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway provides his readers with an allegory that illustrates the path to earned respect.
An allegory is a story, poem or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. This book has many hidden meanings and symbols. The sharks, fish, and skeleton are just a few of the symbols used in this book. Each symbol is a representation of something in Hemingway’s life.
Santiago’s fishing trips relate to Hemingway’s life in many ways. For example, Hemingway went about ten years without writing a successful novel (Clint Kalbach 1). In the novel The Old Man and the Sea, the 84 days that Santiago went without catching a fish represents the ten years that Hemingway’s went without writing a successful novel. Both the old man and Hemingway went through a period with some failures, but they overcame these hard times and succeeded.
The sharks represent the literary critics of Hemingway’s book. In The Old Man and The Sea, the sharks tore apart the marlin. The sharks leave Santiago with nothing but the stripped carcass of his hollow victory (Sean M. Donnell 7). This can relate to how the critics tore apart Hemingway’s book. The Marlin was a great accomplishment for Santiago, just as Hemingway’s novels were accomplishments to him.
Santiago proved his strength by going far out and catching the marlin. He had not caught a fish in 84 days (Hemingway 3) Many people believed he wasn’t a good fisherman anymore due to his old age and weakness. However, Santiago proved his strength when he returned from his fishing trip with the skeleton of the marlin he had caught. He caught the marlin by being patient and not giving up. During his trip, he endured significant amounts of pain and faced many challenges that tested his strength. He could feel the steady hard pull of the line and his left hand was cramped. It drew up tight on the heavy cord and he looked at it in disgust.(Hemingway 26). This is just one of the challenges he faced, after he caught the marlin, sharks came and attacked. They tore the marlin apart, and Santiago fought as much as he was physically able to. Although the only thing left of the marlin was the skeleton and the head, he proved to everyone that he was strong enough to be a great fisherman despite his age.
At the beginning of the novel, the other fishermen had little respect for Santiago. They believed that since he had not been successful for 84 days, he would not be successful in the future. Even Manolin’s parents did not believe Santiago would ever be a good fisherman again. After 40 days without catching a fish, Manolin’s parents would not let him fish with Santiago anymore. This did not stop the boy though, he was the only one there for the old man and possibly the only one that truly believed he was still a great fisherman. When Santiago refuses to fish with Manolin because of his own lack of luck, the boy says he will bring the luck(Saeed Momtazi M.D. 8&9). At the end of The Old Man and the Sea, when Santiago brings the marlin’s skeleton back from his fishing trip, the other fishermen have more respect for him. They see he is still capable of being a fisherman. Now that they see this they know that he is not just a weak old man, he is a brave and strong man.
Manolin and Santiago have a unique relationship. They take care and are always there for one another. While Santiago took care of Manolin on the water by teaching him how to fish, Manolin takes care of Santiago on land by, for example, making sure the old man eats.(Saeed Momtazi M.D. 2). The old man taught Manolin how to fish at a young age and earned his respect. He takes the boy out fishing whenever the boy is allowed. In return, the boy takes care of the old man by bringing his sardines to make sure he has something to eat.
Santiago’s fishing trip was definitely worth it. There are many reasons why this statement is true. Before the trip, he had no respect from others. By the end of the novel, everyone respected him and they realized how capable he was the whole time. While he was on the trip, he proved to himself that he was still a great fisherman. He doubted himself a few times and wished for the boy to be there many times. He had to eat raw fish and stretch his one bottle of water out to last him his entire fishing trip. His hand and back were wounded from holding the line for so long, and he did not sleep much. Despite all this, he gained admiration from others and brought home the marlin’s skeleton to show he had succeeded. If Santiago would not have gone so far out to fish, he might not have caught a marlin. He would not have gotten the other fishermen’s respect, and he would still be looked at as just a weak, old man.
Conclusion: In the Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway uses allegory to and symbols to give the readers a message about life. This novel shows that the only thing you need to succeed is to have faith in yourself and be brave. Believing in yourself allows you to achieve your goals in life.
Donnell, Sean M. The Old Man and the Sea: Hemingway’s Dialectic of Imagery. 2002.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. Macmillan Pub. Co., 1980.
Kalbach, Clint. A Biographical Analysis of The Old Man and the Sea. LEGACY, 2018, www.racc.edu/sites/default/files/imported/StudentLife/Clubs/Legacy/vol_1/Biographical.html.
Momtazi, Saeed. Destroyed but Not Defeated: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea : A Psychotherapeutic Story. History of Science – Bibliography – Pseudo-Science & the Occult – Dr Robert A. Hatch, 2003, clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/2003/hemingway%20T.O.and%20T.S.html.
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