The Old man and the Sea celebrate life and humanity


The Old Man and The Sea is the story of an old fisherman struggle named Santiago. His struggle was against the great Marlin in the gulf stream north of Havana. But it has different allegorical interpretations. In the beginning, it has been regarded as a Christian allegory. Then the allegory of an artist’s struggle with his material.  Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) reveals the struggle of humans against the unconquerable nature through the character of Santiago. Santiago as an experienced and proud fisherman shows his dignity and heroism. Here he is defeated but conquers a moral victory. 

More Notes:  The Old Man and The Sea 

Struggle of Santiago 

Santiago is an eighty-five years old Cuban fisherman. He did not catch any fish for eighty-four days. At last, he becomes successful to hook an eighteen feet long Marlin fish. The fish is more powerful than Santiago. Santiago needs the help of the boy Manolin. But he is alone in the sea. After the long struggle of forty-eight hours, Santiago becomes successful to harpoon the fish. He lashes the dead Marlin with his small boat.  

After some time, the sharks started to attack the Marlin. They ate up the flesh of the dead Marlin. Santiago somehow kills several sharks but more sharks appear. Then the unequal fight between Santiago and the sharks started. The sharks finished eating Marlin’s flesh and leaves the skeleton only. After reaching the shore, Santiago keeps the skeleton of the Marlin and falls asleep.  

Allegorical interpretations of Santiagos struggle 

The novel is a representation of life as a struggle against unconquerable natural forces in which a kind of victory is possible. It is an epic metaphor for life. While Santiago deals with the suffering of being hungry and poor, other boats from his village continue pulling in good fish every day. Anyone can have luck of course, but not everyone can have determination, skill, and perseverance. Hemingway’s message here is, a man does not depend on luck. So, he anticipates, 

“A man can be destroyed but not defeated” 

More Notes: Suggestions

Manhood and heroism of Santiago 

The old man, Santiago, demonstrates courage, determination, and respect for nature. He took on a 1500-pound fish on a small boat in the middle of the ocean which shows the conviction of a hero. Santiago’s heroism is highlighted by the fact that his boat is less than ideal for the task of taking on a 1500-pound fish. 

Santiago fends off several sharks, but by the time he gets to shore, there is nothing left of his marlin. So, Hemingway relates, 

Finally, he put the mast down and stood up. He picked the mast up and put it on his shoulder and started up the road 

A less heroic man may have given up, but Santiago perseveres for the marlin and fights off the sharks until there is nothing left to protect. 

Symbolic meanings 

Santiago’s effort of killing the great Marlin symbolizes a man’s gaining of his goal. His injured hand symbolizes the threat that a man suffers to attain his goal. The shark symbolizes the snatcher who takes away the fruits of man’s hard labor.  Still, Santiago does not lose hope for the future. Rather He dreams about the lion that symbolizes his inner youth. 

Christian allegory  

Both Santiago and Christ have general similarities, for Hemingway recreates Jesus as the old man in the novel. He is very patient and suffers willingly just as Christ did. When both are in plain, they don’t complain but do it voluntarily for themselves and others. The love for nature and life is in both the old man and Jesus. When fishing in the sea, the old man knows he is at the mercy of the ocean.  Since he is the son of the Creator of the world, Christ comprehends that men are only a small part of the world and must respect the environment. 


Thus, the Old Man and The Sea is an allegory of man’s life on earth, his struggle, and his defeat. Santiago passes through struggle and defeat like Jesus Christ, who suffers martyrdom. Again, like Jesus showing compassion, he wins the moral victory.  

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

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

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