Ernest Hemingway claimed there was no symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea.
He even went as far as to tell critic Bernard Berenson “There isn’t any symbolism, “The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man … The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit.
What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.” Although Hemingway himself had a strong stance on that there is no symbolism in the book there has been numerous claims that symbolism is evident in the book. Hemingway killed himself 9 years after the book was published so it is plausible that his stance was caused by a deteriorating mental state.
Marlin- the Marlin in the book represents the “ideal opponent” and how Hemingway often referring to life as a cycle in which everything tries to survive by doing what it can. This is why Hemingway likes the Marlin fighting as it brings out his full strength, determination, and respect for animals.The Shovel-Nosed Sharks- these sharks contrast the symbol of the “gracious bold Marlin” and represent something more sinister. Hemingway refers to the Shovel-Nosed Sharks as “base” predators in which no glory can be attained, but the poundage/battling of the great Marlin can gain him respect and honor amongst local fisherman. General Summary (no chapters in this book)Day 1: For the first forty days, a boy named Manolin had fished with him, but Manolin’s parents call Santiago Salao or “the worst form of unlucky,” forced Manolin to leave him in order to work in a more prosperous boat. The old man is wrinkled, splotched, and scarred from handling heavy fish on cords, but his eyes, which are the color of the sea, remain undefeated. When Manolin and Santiago go to the café he is made fun of by other local fisherman which makes him determined to venture out into sea further the very next day. Manolin cares for the old man and puts the bait on his boat early in themorning.
Santiago is very poor and lives with the bare necessities such as a bed, a table and chair, and a place to cook.Day 2: The next morning, before sunrise, the old man goes to Manolin’s house to wake the boy. The two head back to Santiago’s shack carry the old man’s gear to his boat. Santiago claims he is confident today, but he has always had those feels for the past weeks. Ernest Hemingway also often uses imagery when describing the sea and Santiago has much respect for the sea as he has been around it all of his life. He thinks of the sea as a woman whose wild behavior is beyond her control. The old man drops his baited fishing lines to various measured depths and rows expertly to keep them from drifting with the current.
Above all else, he is precise. Soon after, he feels something bumping up against his lie. The marlin plays with the bait for a while, and when it does finally take the bait, it starts to move with it, pulling the boat. The old man gives a mighty pull, then another, but he gains nothing. The fish drags the skiff farther into the sea. No land at all is visible to Santiago now. Santiago is far out into sea and preparing for a fight, but he has no idea just how long this fight will last.
Day 3: Even into the very next day he is still holding strong onto the relentless Marlin. Early in the morning with little sleep the Marlin jolts the line to wake up Santiago. The Marlin nearly pulled Santiago overboard. Santiago notices that his hand is bleeding from where the line has cut it. Aware that he will need to keep his strength, the old man makes himself eat the tuna he caught the day before, which he had expected to use as bait. Santiago also wishes that he put some salt water on the deck and let it dry so he could use the salt to give the tuna a spiced up flavor.
This shows that Santiago is very experienced and can improvise. ust before nightfall, a dolphin takes the second bait Santiago had dropped. The old man hauls it in with one hand and clubs it dead. He saves the meat for the following day.
Although Santiago boasts to the marlin that he feels prepared for their impending fight, he is really numb with pain. Day 4: Throughout the book Santiago refers to the “Great DiMaggio” Whose father was a fisherman. He uses this reference multiple times to get him through tough times.
Again for the second day in a row Santiago had little sleep and is exhausted when a sudden jerk of the line wakes him. The line fed out fast, and the old man braked against it with his back and hands. His left hand especially is badly cut.
Santiago wished that the boy were with him to wet the coils of the line, which would lessen the friction. For hours the old man fights the circling fish for every inch of line, slowly pulling it in. Eventually, he pulls the fish onto its side by the boat and plunges his harpoon into it. The fish lurches out of the water, brilliantly and beautifully alive as it dies. When it falls back into the water, its blood stains the waves. At this point he has been gone from home for a while and knows the boy misses him. He then fastens the whopping size marlin to the side and begins is long and slow journey home. Again, Santiago tries to cheer himself by thinking that DiMaggio would be pleased by his performance.
Four hours into his trip home a pair of shovel-nosed sharks arrives, and Santiago makes a loud noise the sharks attack, and Santiago fights them with a knife that he had lashed to an oar as a makeshift weapon. When he finally makes it home it is nearly three in the morning and the whole town is asleep. After shark after shark attack only the tail remains against his boat with the skeleton. Exhausted and defeated he doesn’t even clean his boat or unload his gear and heads home to sleep.
Day 5: Early the next morning, Manolin comes to the old man’s shack, and the sight of his friend’s ravaged hands brings him to tears. He goes to fetch coffee. Fishermen have gathered around Santiago’s boat and measured the skeleton of the Marlin at eighteen feet.
Manolin waits for the old man to wake up, keeping his coffee warm for him so it is ready right away. When the old man wakes, he and Manolin talk warmly. Santiago says that the sharks beat him, and Manolin insists that he will work with the old man again, regardless of what his parents say. Finally, he falls back asleep later and dreams about the lions. (He dreamed about the lions three times throughout the book which is a reference to when he used to work the boats off the coast of Africa he used to see lions on the shore. This dream brings back great memories of Santiago’s Youth.