Ernest Hemingway, a prolific literary writer of his time, infused a multitude of symbolic elements into one of his well-known novels, The Old Man and The Sea, these elements assist in developing and constructing the struggles between Santiago and the marlin, his antagonist, that they symbolize overall themes of overcoming the sea, age, as well as developing religious aspects. Moreover, his use of symbols advances the plot towards the everlasting defeat of Santiago.
The first symbol that is embodied by the marlin stands as a common theme throughout the story. The marlin’s presents in the story not only reflects Santiago’s personality but, in fact, represents the sense of a long-desired hope. Described by the old man as the Great fish, the marlin is described as stubborn yet noble demonstrating its perseverance and strength as it drags Santiago’s skiff out to sea. The fish has a physical connection through the fishing line to Santiago, this enduring connection also demonstrates the honorable stubbornness and perseverance that is relentless in a way of giving the two symbolic correlations between the two bonds. By Santiago’s own admission he and the great fish are as brothers, the struggle of the fish is also Santiago’s own personal struggles and that becomes clear. “Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then, he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all of the skiff.” Moreover, the two both had faced a similar defeat, despite their once obtained honor and achieved glory. This promise personifies in the final fate of the marlin, destroyed but not defeated, becomes distinctively also Santiago who once held an honorable place among the other fishermen of his.
Another key theme that is placed in the story is how age affects people’s struggles. Santiago refuses to let his age hinders his struggles and hinder the way he sees life.“Everything about him was old except his eyes, and they were the same color as the sea, and the cheerful and undefeated”(10) Santiago is physically confronted by pain when holding onto the rope with his hands even though he won’t let go. He endures and accepts the pain physically destroying him but mentally was not going to be defeated. Santiago says, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated” (page 93) When the old man would look at the Manolin, he would see himself at a younger age, someone who cared more about the elderly and their legacy than the new ways bestowed to them. Santiago always has the same recurring dream of the lions at play on the beaches of Africa the Santago associate the lions with his youth, the dream suggests the circular nature of life. How the lion’s fierce predators, playing, it suggests a harmony between the opposing force like and death love and hate. Once so young and vibrant not seen as old and weak. But Santago is not seen for what he used to be but knows he still has a lot to give, “I may not be as strong as I think, but I know many tricks and I have a resolution.” Santago had taught many of his skills and techniques to mandolin yet, his parents disagreed on what mandolins had actually acquired with no fish caught by him.
A religious symbol also takes the main part through Santiago’s life. Many townspeople doubt Santago’s ways and abilities just as people doubted Jesus Christ’s words. Mandolins’ faith in Santiago was firm even when Santiago went under an unlucky period of not catching fishes. Yet, during the three weeks that Santiago undergoes every single day, he caught a large fish. These plentiful three weeks correlate to Chris and the three years of Christ’s public ministry in which Christ as well-prospered. Both Santiago and Christ went spans of time, which are both marked by the number three and both gained the most loyal supporters and disciples. Santiago’s difficult 40-day period without catching a fish refers to lent, the 40-days of sacrifice and hardship before Christ’s resurrection. As Santago gets back from the sea with his head bleeding and the skiff across his shoulders as he limps to make it home, “He started to climb again and at the top, he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder.” Another representation of Christ himself that had been carrying the cross and thorns around him. Christ and Santago bot had been seen to be destroyed but will not be defeated.
When Santago had endured many obstacles through his life, he developed many skills that not just himself acquired them but as well as mandolin. As time goes went Santiago becomes weak and seems to be destroyed but not defeated by life.