English Literature » Notes » Comment on symbolism in “The Old Man and The Sea”

Comment on symbolism in “The Old Man and The Sea”

Hemingway‘s novel shows preoccupation with the nobility of the human spirit in the face of odds and adversaries of life. He is The Old Man and The Sea has been considered a masterpiece on the purely literary level, this story of an old fisherman single handed encounter with the giant marlin in the gulf stream of north Havana is a magnificently written narrative direct intense and enthralling. Every action and motive maybe interpreted symbolically.

In the light of what we know of Hemingway’s major preoccupations we might interpret. The Old Man and The Sea as a story with a double layer of meaning a story symbolising not only man struggle against adversaries but also often artist struggle to find a proper medium of expression. But a strange paradox, Ernest Hemingway never written more universally or more meaningfully of himself then in the story of an old fisherman’s who to sails out beyond the limits of an ordinary fisherman with the belief that ‘man can be destroyed but not defeated’.

The symbolism of lions is an concern with the old man desire for care free leisure more importantly, the man symbolises the nobility of human spirit. When he meets disasters Santiago tries to wrest to a moral victory through courage and resolution. Though he is physically broken after the loss of merlin flesh he does not desperate; instead it takes defeat with humility Santiago may be physically broken but his spirit remains undefeated.

The Christian symbolism that Hemingway uses throughout his story is subtle and suggestive. Towards the close of the book Santiago described as climbing up to his shanty. He stumbled under the weights of the most synonyms with the crosstree he is earning to collapse finally on his bad, with arms stressed like Christs and the plans of his laureated hence upwards. The story might also be interpreted as symbolically representing the the artists struggle with the the familiar of his art. The sharks that tear away at the meat of the merlin are the critics who were adverse to Hemingway. Santiago’s respect for the giant merlin, his fight with the shark and the undefeated courage and hope that makes him determine to go out the sea again – include among their many meaning that Hemingway has been doing in the practice of his heart.

Apart from the main symbol there are other symbol to suggest the old man’s determination and his firm believe that man may be destroyed but not defeated. The wish to have the boy Menoline with him can be interpreted as old man afford to energises. The references to baseball a specially the great baseball player Di-Magio show the old man’s enthusiasm.

The point especially to the fact that luck and failure are pyrrhic what matter is the determination and it is determination to win against odds that bring out the similarity between the old man and his ideas. In other words The Old Man and The Sea can be interpreted on two level. On the level of the story it is an enthralling narrative of the adventure of an old fisherman far out in the gulf stream; on the level of symbolism it shows the spirit of fighting till the end, braving whatever adversaries come in life.