Literary Analysis on The Old Man and the Sea

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Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1518 Words
Date:  2021-03-15

Most of the times, people have fallen short of attributing success as being one of the indicators of a man's worth. It is, however, important to note that success in itself does not specifically convey the true message of a particular status and may not even have that much of a contribution to the journey that it takes a person to attain it. Among the many works that Ernest Hemingway has written, it does not come as a surprise that The Old Man and The Sea stand out. The book in the most unfathomed way embarks on a journey; that of redefining both success and victory. The story mainly revolves around an epic struggle between an old Cuban fisherman and what he considers the greatest catch of his life. Hemingway documents Santiago's five-day life, three of which he spends at the sea.

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Santiago, without luck, has gone for a period of eighty-four days without catching even a single fish. His unsuccessful attempts have had him return home empty-handed; Manolin is his young friend, have forced him to look for another fishing boat perhaps because his was filled with an unlucky charm. Manolin, out of the respect for Santiago, makes it his responsibility to provide him with his basic needs. He is also captivated by his past encounters and adventures in deep-sea fishing, and they spend time chatting about the American football. Santiago then resolves to sail further that he had previously with the hope that the unproductive streak would come to an end. True to his word, he sails past the other fishing boats on his eighty-fifth day into the deep sea. He then prepares his lines and on dropping them, he realizes that he presumes to be Marlin. The old man with a lot of expertise hooks the fish, but surprisingly as he tries to pull the fish, it overwhelms him such that it begins pulling the boat.

The following day comes but the man still unsuccessfully tries to take control over the fish. Each passing day comes with its struggles as he tries to overcome the pain caused as a result of the strain of the lines that he bears on his back and shoulders. The pain, however, does not dampen his faith as he holds onto the taut line with some admiration for the marlin, which is also as exhausted too. On the third day, Santiago manages to pull the fish to a range that he could kill with ease. The size of the fish was bewildering as he had never seen one with such an enormous size before. Satisfied, he lashes into his boat and eventually sails home. Though part of him was excited about the price that the fish will fetch, the other was, however, downcast because the people will not be able to appreciate the efforts he put into capturing the fish.

The blood trails that is left by the Marlin attracts sharks which attack the marlin so ferociously that they overpower the old man's attempts to repel them. All that is left of the marlin is its skeleton which attracts a large crowd that is amazed by the size of the fish. Manolin, who has been worried of Santiago, feels relieved that he is back and promises to look after him and that the two can fish together again. The old man then falls back to sleep and is engulfed by his usual dream of the lions playing on the beaches of Africa. Hemingway's novel, The Old Man and the Sea has elicited debates more so in the field that borders literally works. Some of his critics have however applauded him for his unmatched approach towards natural, classical and biblical forms of imagery. In fact, these images have in more than one way turned what would have been a simple fishing tale into a more profound narrative of human endurance. This paper examines and offers a full analysis of imagery as a form of literary device that will offer precise clarity on the novel, The Old Man and the Sea.


Point of View

It is a fact that all the literary works often employ a certain point of view from which their stories are told. These points of view, for example, may take the form of a single character or that of several characters who take turns. The Old Man and the Sea for instance take the third-person narrative, where the author acts as a hidden narrator. Such an omniscient point of view allows the narrator to be in control of the story while providing wider perspectives from which he can present the thoughts of both the boy and his main character; Santiago. For example, the narrator at the beginning of the narrative tells us what Santiago and Manolin said to each other. ...The old man had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him. (9)

There is also an instance when the other fishermen who through the narrator we realize that they were also sad for Santiago. "The older fishermen looked at him and were sad. But they did not show it." (14)

Biblical Imagery

There is a myriad of Christological symbols that revolve around the scene at the sea and involves the battle between Santiago and the marlin. Santiago, for example, takes the Cains analogy and addresses the fish on several occasions as brother. At the same time, though, he still had the burning desire and determination to kill the marlin fish (Wells, 59). Santiago finally manages to kill the fish by first nailing it and then lashing it to the wood of the boat (94). This serves as a reminder of how Christ was pierced on his side while crucified on the cross. As this scene unfolds, an image is created; that of a man leaning against the wood of the bow suffering and saying to himself, Rest gently now against the wood and think of nothing (58).

There is also the description of hands that were wounded, the dried blood on his face and the fact that he kept falling as he climbed the road with his arms wide straight while the palms of his hands up (121) Elicits the scenes that took place during the crucifixion. The author knowingly likens Santiago to Christ. The noise he makes, for example, is described as being similar to that of a man whose hands have nails being driven into them. There is also correspondence of certain biblical numerology in the novel, for example, the point where Santiago struggles with the marlin for three days, then landing him on his seventh-day attempt, the killing of the sharks and also the mention of resting which is said to have happened seven times. The return of Santiago from the death-stricken deep sea in a way parallels the resurrection. The religious symbols that are employed by the author's works echo the biblical views of the author and also voices his faith while at the same time acting as symbolistic devices.

Natural Imagery

Lions on the Beach

Santiago dreams three times about lions that are playing on the beaches of Africa. The first time he encounters the dream is before he leaves for his three-day fishing expedition while the second occurs while he sleeps on the boat during his struggle with the marlin. The third time occurs towards the very end of the book. Santiago associates the lions with his youth. The old man was dreaming about the lions (125). The dream, therefore, offers a preview of the circular nature of life. Also the fact that he recreates the images of lions, unfriendly Predators, playing in his dream suggests a harmony between two forces that are opposing, for example, life and death or the destruction and regeneration of nature.

Classical Imagery

There is also an instance which Santiago compares his pain against that of DiMaggios (a football player) bone spur. At some point, he wonders whether his mutilated hands equal that of the handicap athletes. In a way, the bone spur could be interpreted to have been his motivating factor that made it possible for him to endure the hardships that he faced while handling the marlin. But I must have confidence, and I must be a worthy of great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel. (67)

The Sharks also in their pursuit against Santiago up to the point where they wreaked havoc upon him is another example of a classical imagery. the sharks are not a matter of chance but rather that of bad luck. This suggests that they are form of bad luck that may have descended upon Santiago for killing the marlin (75).


Hemingway created several images in his novel that not only created enviable allegories that can only be understood through a coherent reading. The authors true genius in the way he managed to present the individual images with manifold applications. It is only when an individual realizes how interconnected the imageries are that they can fully appreciate its literary value.

Work Cited

Burhans, Clinton S. "The Old Man And The Sea: Hemingway's Tragic Vision Of Man". American Literature 31.4 (1960): 446. Web.

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Literary Analysis on The Old Man and the Sea. (2021, Mar 15). Retrieved from

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