“The Old Man and the Sea” narrates the story of a courageous Cuban fisherman and his relentless struggle with a colossal Marlin, symbolizing the powerlessness of humanity against uncontrollable forces. The novella propounds crucial life lessons to its readers by emphasizing three central themes: friendship, bravery, and Christianity.
The old man and the boy have an unlikely companionship in the story, but they have immense respect and loyalty for each other. Santiago treats Manolin as an equal, disregarding their age difference. Age does not affect their relationship. Manolin is mature and considers Santiago’s feelings. He even offers to accompany Santiago on fishing trips, defying his parents’ wishes. Santiago is seen as an outcast in his village for not catching any fish for more than eighty-four days and being considered “unlucky”. Despite this, Manolin remains loyal and desires to assist his friend, even against his parents’ orders.
The conversations between Santiago and Manolin are reminiscent of long-time friends. Their discussions often revolve around baseball and fishing, the two passions they share. The Yankees hold a special place in their hearts, and Santiago’s unwavering faith in the team never wavers, even when their star player, Joe DiMaggio, suffers from a heel spur. Through these conversations, Santiago not only imparts his knowledge of fishing to Manolin but also teaches him valuable qualities like faith.
In the story, Santiago’s bravery is unparalleled, but it is not until he catches the “great fish” that we truly witness his courage and determination. Hemingway uses Santiago’s actions to teach the reader about bravery and perseverance in the face of adversity. He shows that even when everything seems lost and hopeless, a determined heart and faith can overcome anything. Santiago has lost his “luck” and consequently the respect of his village. The description of his cabin also suggests that Santiago is a widower. Despite facing numerous difficulties, Santiago persists. He believes in Manolin, the Yankees, Joe DiMaggio, and most importantly, himself. This is possibly his greatest attribute because without it, he would never have found the strength to endure and defeat the enormous Marlin.
Faith is not the sole driving force behind Santiago’s perseverance. In addition, he draws strength from his past triumphs. Once he hooked the Marlin, he often reminisced about his victory in “the hand game” against a local inhabitant. This victory held significance beyond mere arm wrestling; it served as a reminder of his youthful days. Typically, these memories preceded a favorite dream of seeing numerous lions on a serene shore. These majestic creatures symbolized Santiago’s former self – young, robust, and capable of conquering any obstacle. Although age had taken its toll on his body, his heart remained resolute, allowing him to ultimately overcome the Marlin. Santiago’s unwavering determination and courageousness are further exemplified as he valiantly attempts to fend off the sharks. Being a lifelong fisherman, he was well aware of the inevitable fate awaiting his catch, yet he persisted in battling the sharks. This struggle was not merely about a fish; it represented Santiago’s principles. His heart remained that of a mighty warrior, fighting until the very end.
Christianity is a significant and evident symbol in the story, as demonstrated through the unique relationship between Santiago and Manolin. Their bond mirrors that of Christ and his disciples, with Manolin being Santiago’s devoted follower. Santiago imparts lessons on fishing and life to Manolin, embodying the role of a teacher. Among the valuable teachings is the importance of having simple faith, highlighted by Santiago’s words, “Have faith in the Yankees my son.” This type of faith aligns with the fundamental principles of Christianity.
Hemingway employs Christian symbolism in his depiction of Santiago. By describing Santiago’s hands as having “deep creased scars,” Hemingway alludes to the nail-pierced hands of Christ. Furthermore, Santiago’s acceptance of suffering is paralleled to that of Christ, as he settles against the wood and endures his pain. The comparison becomes even more profound when Santiago reacts to the sharks, emitting a noise reminiscent of a man feeling a nail pierce his hands and wood. Symbolism is further demonstrated when Santiago carries the mast on his shoulders, resembling Christ carrying the cross to Calvary. Similar to Christ, Santiago collapses under the weight and sleeps with his arms outstretched and palms upward upon reaching home. Hemingway skillfully intertwines these themes without conflicting with one another. While Christianity holds prominence over other themes, it is presented more symbolically rather than intentionally. Additionally, the relationship between Santiago and the young boy is not overshadowed but rather temporarily separated throughout the story. Moreover, Santiago’s bravery is not emphasized as a central theme; instead, his weaknesses are highlighted. Ultimately, Santiago’s perseverance and faith are rewarded as he earns the respect of the village and imparts lessons of faith and bravery onto Manolin.
In an essay authored by Chira, the primary focus is on Christianity. The initial two pages of the essay entail a summary of “The Old Man and the Sea” while the subsequent page and a half aim at comparing the book to biblical references. This correlation is also evident in my reading of the story. It is my belief that this tale imparts numerous valuable lessons, with one of the most crucial being the importance of faith in God.
In a 1962 essay published in TIME Magazine, it is stated that this story lacks Hemmingway’s usual truculence and is instead very straightforward in its approach. TIME also notes that any critic, even those belonging to critical cults, will regard this piece as a masterpiece. Furthermore, this essay references the Creator and the underlying theme of the book. Personally, I found this to be the finest critical essay I have read.
Oldello’s third essay centered on the Christian references found in the book, where he analyzed selected passages and juxtaposed them with biblical quotes. This comparative study revealed how the book echoed the teachings and motifs presented in the Bible. Oldello’s essay achieved great effectiveness by drawing parallels and differences between the “old man’s” hardships and those faced by biblical characters. Out of the three critical essays I read about “The Old Man and the Sea,” I found this one to be the most captivating.