Biblical Influence and Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea
Many times, stories by Ernest Hemingway have much religious influence and symbolism. In The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, numerous occurrences in the life of Santiago the fisherman are similar to the incidents recorded in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The names of the characters translated from Spanish to English are just one of those many similarities.
The characters in The Old Man and the Sea are in actuality, major figures in the New Testament. Santiago is an old man, yet he had young eyes. No matter how defeated he was, he would never show it and he would look on the brighter side of things. In my mind, these traits make Santiago a god-like figure. Manolin, which translates into Messiah, is Jesus (Stoltzfus qtd in CLC 13:280). Santiago is the "father" who teaches his symbolic son and disciple, Manolin. After catching the largest marlin, Manolin will leave his parents in order to follow the teachings of Santiago, his master, just as Jesus did (Stoltzfus qtd in CLC 13:280). Pedrico is actually Saint Peter, Jesus' closest apostle and a great fisherman (Wilson 50). Peter helped Jesus fish for souls as Pedrico helped Manolin fish for food. Santiago gives Pedrico the head of the mutilated marlin which symbolizes Saint Peter as head of the Christian church and the first Pope (Stoltzfus CLC 280).
In the story, there are many references to the crucifixion of Jesus. Santiago's badly injured hands evoke the hands of the crucified Jesus and three other situations reinforce this theory (Brenner, The Old Man and the Sea, Story of a Common Man 37). First, Santiago's marlin is approached by a pair of shovel nosed sharks. "Ay', he said out loud." (Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea 107) There is no meaning of "Ay", but perhaps it is the sound a man makes as his hands are nailed to wood (Brenner, The Old Man and the Sea, Story of a Common Man 38).
Next, once back on shore, Santiago climbs the hill to his shack, with the mast on his shoulder, falling several times (Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea 121). This is an obvious reference to Christ's struggle to carry the cross up the hill Cavalry (Crossan, The Historical Jesus 163).