symbolism of The old man and the sea

By Deborah Matthews,2014-12-06 05:11
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     On the Symbolism of The Old Man and The Sea

I. Introduction

     1.Hemingway in American Literature

     Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 July 2, 1961) was an

    American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works. Three novels, four collections of short stories, and three non-fiction works were published posthumously. Many of these are considered classics of American literature. Hemingway's legacy to American literature is his style: writers who came after him emulated it or avoided it.

     2. Brief introduction of The Old Man and The Sea.

     The Old Man and the Sea is a novel written by the American

    author Ernest Hemingway in 1951 in Cuba, and published in 1952. It was the last major work of fiction to be produced by Hemingway and published in his lifetime. One of his most famous works, it centers upon Santiago, an aging fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer

    Prize for Fiction in 1953 and was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.

     The Old Man and the Sea is Hemingway's final work published

    during his lifetime. The book, dedicated to Hemingway's literary

    ]editor Maxwell Perkins,was featured in Life magazine on September 1,

    1952, and five million copies of the magazine were sold in two days.The

    Old Man and the Sea also became a Book of the Month selection, and

    made Hemingway a celebrity. Published in book form on September 1, 1952, the first edition print run was 50,000 copies. The illustrated edition featured black and white illustrations by Charles

    Tunnicliffe and Raymond Sheppard. The novel received the Pulitzer Prize in May, 1952,and was specifically cited when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. The success of The Old Man and

    the Sea made Hemingway an international celebrity The Old Man and the

    Sea is taught at schools around the world and continues to earn foreign royalties.

     3. Brief introduction of Symbolism

     Symbolism was largely a reaction against naturalism and realism, anti-idealistic styles which were attempts to represent reality in its gritty particularity, and to elevate the humble and the ordinary over the ideal. Symbolism was a reaction in favour of spirituality, the imagination, and

    dreams.Some writers, such as Joris-Karl Huysmans, began as naturalists before becoming symbolists; for Huysmans, this change represented his increasing interest in religion and spirituality. Certain of the characteristic subjects of the decadents represent naturalist interest in sexuality and taboo topics, but in their case this was mixed

    with Byronic romanticism and the world-weariness characteristic of the fin de siècle period.

?. Analysis of the symbolism in The Old Man and The Sea.

     1.The religious symbolic meaning of Santiago

     A.The symbolic meaning of old man’s name

     Ernest Hemingway presents the fisherman as the ideal man - - independent in his action, eager to follow his calling, and willing to take chances in life. The old man' s most notable attribute, however, appears to be his unquenchable spirit: no matter how his body is beaten, his spirit remains undefeated, through all trials. Here, Hemingway has created a hero who personifies honor, courage, endurance, and faith, and most important of all, Santiago was described as being a figure of Christ

    First, the name "Santiago" itself is a biblical allusion. Santiago is

    simply the Spanish form of Saint James, and James like Peter was a fisherman- apostle in the New Testament. Santiago is the

    patron saint of Spain.

     B.The symbolic meaning of wounds on the old man

     During the old man’s battle with the marlin, his palms are

    cut by his fishing cable. The wounds are suggestive of Christ’s stigmata,

    and Hemingway goes on to portray the old man as a Christ- like martyr. As soon as the sharks arrive, 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.

     C. The symbolic meaning of the hill that the old man

     struggles up

     once back on shore, Santiago struggles up the hill to his shack, with the mast across his shoulders, falling several times. This is an obvious reference to Christ' s struggle to carry the cross up the hill Cavalry. Even the position in which Santiago collapses on his bedhe

    lies face down with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands upbrings to mind the image of Christ on the cross. Hemingway employs these images in order to link Santiago to Christ, who exemplified transcendence by turning loss into gain, defeat into triumph,

and even death into life.

    2.The symbolic meaning of Manolin

     A.Manolin symbolized the disciples of Jesus.

     It mainly deals with Santiagoas being a figure of Christ and other Characters as props,that is,characters which carry out the form of Biblical themes.

     Manolin liked to be around the old man and listen to what he had to say, So Manolin symbolized the disciples of Jesus. Santiago is the "father" who teaches his symbolic son and disciple, Manolin. Pedrico is actually Saint Peter,Jesus' closest apostle and a great fisher man (Wilson50).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 (StoltzfusCLC280).

    B.Manolin symbolized the continuation of the old man

    On the day before Santiago leaves when he wakes up,Manolin comes to his aid with food and drink.When Santiago comes back,Manolin awoke him and Santiago realized he had completed his last challenge and that his time as a fisher man was up.He passed on the sword from the great fish to Manolin for continuation of the skill she had taught his

    apprentice. Manolin was comparable to a disciple left in charge of continuing the work the Master had started.He learned from the old man and to listen to what he had to say about him.

    As a young man of Joe Di Maggio.Joe DiMaggio represents many things to the old man.Santiago sees DiMaggio as an equal.One whose father was a poor fisher man just like he is.When he was out fishing he thought to himself,would the great DiMaggio ever stay this long as he did and quickly replied to himself that DiMaggio is young and strong and that his father was a fisherman so of Course he would stay.This made him feel better because now he could compare himself to his hero.Santiago thought that DiMaggio would understand him because of their back ground being the same.He wanted someone like the boy that would listen to him but understood him more and he believes DiMaggio could be that person. Joe DiMaggio also represent shope that the old man has for Manolin. He wishes that the boy will grow up and be like the great DiMaggio so that the will not be a Poor fisher like he is.

3.The symbolic meaning of the sea

     A. The sea symbolized the really world that Hemingway lived

     On the surface, it is all the content of the old man’s living. In the

    whole story, the old man is fishing on the sea and his goal is to catch a big fish to prove his ability and dignity. In fact, the sea has prepared an

    enormous big fish and provided a place for the old man to realize his dream. In the old man’s opinion, the sea is cold-blooded but he pays no

    attention to the sea and is sympathetic to the weak birds.

     B.The sea symbolized the old man’s friend and opponent

    In the nature, the sea represents American political system at that time when people did not have democratic freedom and were oppressed deeply by the American government. The society is similar to the sea; people must have sufficient will and courage to fight against the predators to get what they want like the old man, who never sees the difficulty as a burden, but an opportunity to prove his ability.

    4.The Symbolic Meaning of the Huge Marlin

    In the novel, we see that marlin stood for many different things. For instance, he was the symbol of strength and durability. At the same time, the marlin represents the great struggle. Because of the struggle, he made Santiago a legend among other fishermen. "Never have I seen a greater or

     more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me, I do not care who kill who ". From this sentence, we are able to reach a conclusion that Santiago thought he was equal to the marlin.

    5.The Symbolic Meaning of the Lions

    The lions in Santiago's dreams stood for courage, childhood, youth,

    hope and cycle of life. Take strength for example. When he need strength on his long voyage,he

    thought of his dream of the lions. It seemed to make him stronger and gave him perseverance to continue with this in his mind to a certain degree. In addition, the lions symbolized pride, which is similar to Santiago. He took a pride in his fishing skills. He was capable of keeping his lines straight and at varying levels to improve his catch of fish. As for it, he did better than others. It is worth nothing that it is Santiago's thought that too much pride was not good, which may result in feelings of arrogance. For example, knowing that he rested on other people for food and other sustenance, he was kind. Marlin would love to bring Santiago shoes, clothes and a blanket when the weather was going to turn cold, which assisted Santiago a lot.

?. Conclusion

    In this novel, Santiago’s character and spirit is a constant inspiration to many readers. In their hearts Santiago is a hero whose will power bravery, the spirit of the struggle and character is powerful and impressive in the novel. The literature works origin from the life, but it means more than life itself. In the heroic novel, Santiago spirit appears in every chapter.

    Then the use of symbolism has played an important role. For example, the old man is the best representative of unyielding character and optimism, the sea represents the environment that Santiago lives in, and the marlin symbolizes his achievement and also his dream. and shark, lion, eagle, tuna all have symbolic meanings respectively. By using symbolism Hemingway succeeded in reaching his goal to convey the theme of the novel-the spirit of optimism. In other words, a man can be destroyed but can not be defeated.

    The Old Man and the Sea is highly praised by the readers and critics for the successful use of symbolism. The studying of the use of symbolism not only reveals the theme of the spirit of optimism, but also expresses the idea-there is hope in our life forever.

    Hemingway’s hero performs significantly in this book.In the

    boundless sea,Santiago’s famous saying,―Man is not made for defeat,a

    man can be destroyed but not defeated.‖is annotated fully.

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