The Effective Use of Imagery in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea

2795 Words6 Pages

The Effective Use of Imagery in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea has engendered some lively debate in literary circles. Critics have concentrated on everything in the novella from the verity of Rigel's early evening appearance over Cuban skies in September (Weeks 192) to William Faulkner's judgment that Hemingway discovered God while writing The Old Man and the Sea (Bradford 158-62). Yet the most insightful commentary has gravitated invariably toward biblical, natural, and classical imagery in the novel. These images turn an otherwise simple fishing tale into a sublime narrative of human endurance. A reading that examines these images will serve to clarify the hidden significance in Hemingway's novel.

Biblical imagery literally abounds in The Old Man and the Sea. The name "Santiago" itself is a biblical allusion. Donald Heiney informs us that "Santiago is simply the Spanish form of Saint James, and James like Peter was a fisherman-apostle in the New Testament. Santiago de Compostela is the patron saint of Spain and is also greatly revered by Cuban Catholics" (86). Sam Baskett enhances this image by indicating that Saint James "was martyred 'with the sword' by Herod" (278). In the novel, we see Santiago entrenched in battle with a swordfish, and, if we are to believe Baskett, he eventually dies after the struggle (269). In a sense, Santiago, like James, is martyred "with the sword."

Santiago's battle with the fish produces myriad biblical images, and while the most obvious are Santiago-as-Christ, others exist as well. Arvin Wells, for example, provides a Santiago-as-Cain analogy: "Repeatedly, [Santiago] addresses the fish as 'brother'. . . Yet, at the same ti...

... middle of paper ...

...y, Donald W. Barron's Simplified Approach to Ernest Hemingway. Woodbury: Barron's Educational Series, 1965.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: MacMillan, 1952.

Jobes, Katharine, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Old Man and the Sea. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Moseley, Edwin M. Pseudonyms of Christ in the Modern Novel: Motifs and Methods. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1962.

Rosenfield, Claire. "New world, Old Myths." Jobes 41-55.

Sylvester, Bickford. "Hemingway's Extended Vision: The Old Man and the Sea." Jobes 81-96.

Weeks, Robert P. "Fakery in The Old Man and the Sea." College English 24 (1962): 188-92.

Wells, Arvin R. "A Ritual of Transfiguration: The Old Man and the Sea." Jobes 56-63.

Young, Philip. "The Old Man and the Sea: Vision/Revision." Jobes 18-26.

Open Document