Analyzing The Old Man and the Sea Using Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Freudian Psychology

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Published in 1952, The Old Man and the Sea soon became Ernest Hemingway’s most influential and best praised book by critics worldwide. Both the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 were awarded to him “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence he has exerted on contemporary style.” Bernard Berenson, close friend and renowned art critic praised, “No real artist symbolizes or allegorizes – and Hemingway is a real artist – but every real work of art exhales symbols and allegories. So does this short but not small masterpiece.” At a superficial level, The Old Man and the Sea presents merely a simple story of an old man. However, beneath all this an intrinsically delicate web of deeper themes and motifs surges, ranging from symbols of life and death, strength and determination, to biblical accounts and parables of the crucifixion of Jesus, to classical imagery and mythological aspects. These images transform a simple tale into a complex and inspirational account of nearly legendary feats. Due to its nature, The Old Man and the Sea has been analyzed and critiqued since its publication. Even so, my focus in this essay is to expand the symbols and allegories of The Old Man and the Sea using Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, the Greek myth of Oedipus, and explore to what extent Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of the Oedipus complex can be applied, thus bringing about a different and renewed perspective on Hemingway’s novella. Throughout The Old Man and the Sea, the most important allegory presents itself in Santiago and Oedipus. Their lives and fates are linked, in different yet very similar ways as will be seen later on. The earlies... ... middle of paper ... ...Butcher. (2007) February 20, 2011. Harada, Keiichi. “The Marlin and the Shark: A Note on The Old Man and the Sea”. Donnell, Sean M. “The Old Man and the Sea: Hemingway’s Dialectic of Imagery”. (2002) February 20, 2011. Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. (Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, 1952) “The Nobel Prize in Literature 1954”. February 19, 2011. Poore, Charles. “Books: Hemingway”. The New York Times. (July 3, 1961) February 19, 2011. d’Aulaires, Ingrid and Edgar Parin. Book of Greek Myths. (Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.: New York, 1962), pp. 158-161.

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