Santiago as a Christ figure in the novel The old man and the sea


The Old Man and The Sea” (1952) is a novella of religion from an allegorical perspective. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) portrays his religious belief and outlook through the character of Santiago, an old fisherman of eighty-five.

In Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Old Man and the Sea,” the character of Santiago is often interpreted as a Christ figure. Here are some points that prove him as a Christ-like figure,

1. Physical appearance of Santiago:

Hemingway describes Santiago as having “deep-creased scars” on his hands, which can be seen as stigmata, or the wounds that Christ suffered on his hands during his crucifixion. Santiago also has a “face like the old man of the sea,” which could be interpreted as an allusion to the biblical figure of Noah, who survived a great flood.

More Notes: The Old Man and The Sea

2. Endurance: 

Santiago endures physical exhaustion, hunger, and dehydration during his three-day struggle with the marlin. To catch the Marlin he prays to God, 

God help me to have the cramp go…Because I do not know what the fish is going to do.”

He also perseveres through ridicule from other fishermen who doubt his ability to catch a fish. Christ also endured physical and emotional suffering during his crucifixion.

3. Isolation of Santiago

Throughout the novel, Santiago is isolated from other people and spends most of his time alone on his boat. Similarly, Christ spent much of his life in isolation, wandering the desert and often being rejected by others.

4. Sufferings of Santiago

Santiago endures great physical and emotional suffering throughout the novel. He faces hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and the pain of his wounded hands. These hardships can be seen as a parallel to the suffering that Christ endured during his crucifixion.

5. Santiago’s humility

Despite his skill and experience as a fisherman, Santiago is humble and does not boast about his abilities. This humility is similar to Christ’s own humility, as he often preached about the importance of humility and service to others.

6. Selflessness: 

Santiago’s selflessness is evident throughout the novel. He is willing to endure great physical and emotional pain in order to catch a giant marlin, not for personal gain, but to prove his worth as a fisherman. Similarly, Christ was selfless in sacrificing himself for the greater good of humanity.

7. Symbolic imagery: 

Hemingway employs symbolic imagery to reinforce the Christ-like associations of Santiago. For example, Santiago’s hands are described as being “crucified” during his battle with the marlin. Additionally, Santiago’s physical exhaustion is likened to the “stigmata” of Christ.

8. Awareness of Sin

To kill Marlin Santiago reveals his thought of sin. He feels that he has committed a great sin by killing the Marlin. Here we find him saying, 

“Perhaps it was a sin to kill a fish”

After that, he comes to the conclusion that it was not a sin because he loved the Marlin when it was alive and he loved it afterward.

9. Sacrifice of Santiago

At the end of the novel, Santiago makes a great sacrifice by giving up the Marlin he has caught, which represents his greatest triumph as a fisherman. This sacrifice can be seen as a parallel to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, in which he gave up his own life for the sake of others.


To conclude, it becomes crystal clear to us that the character of Santiago in “The Old Man and the Sea” shares many similarities with the traditional image of Christ in Christian theology. Through his physical appearance, isolation, suffering, humility, and sacrifice, Santiago can be seen as a symbol of Christ’s teachings and example.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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