Symbolism in The Old Man and The Sea

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Earnest Hemingway, a prolific literary writer of his time infuses a multitude of symbolic elements into one of his most well known novels, The Old Man and The Sea, which assist in developing the many themes throughout the story. Hemmingway has constructed the struggle between Santiago and the marlin, his antagonist to symbolize overall themes of strength, perseverance, valor, and defeat. Moreover, his use of such symbols advances the plot toward the eventual defeat of Santiago. These symbols include Santiago’s community, the sea that supports it, and the people who make up the small fishing village. Figures appearing throughout act also on a symbolic level to foreshadow events and reflect inner conflicts central to the story. In addition to this, many of the symbols serve ambiguously to tie together Biblical principles, aligning relatively close with the life of Jesus Christ while maintaining a correlation to the plot. The timeless tale of an angler’s struggle beautifully portrayed through the use of symbolism, employ vivid uses of symbolic figures to connect the plot and the many themes of the story.

Manolin, Santiago's protégé, apprentice, companion, and one of the few characters presented throughout the story key to understanding his character, stands to symbolize the hope of the old fisherman. Clearly, Manolin himself has hope for Santiago as exemplified by the boy’s companionship to the old man, despite his eighty-four day period without a catch. However, the boy’s hope – rather the hope of the boy – becomes a vice used by Santiago through the course of his three day journey. When faced with a hopeless situation, Santiago relies on the hope of the boy to overcome. In the same vein, one should note that in Manolin’s absence,...

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