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Old Man And The Sea

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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Many novels have two layers of meaning: the first is in the literal plot, while the second is in a symbolic layer in which images and objects represent abstract ideas and feelings. Using symbols usually allows authors to express themselves indirectly on delicate or controversial matters. Generally speaking, symbolism plays an important role in the development of a novel; this narrative technique is used to give significance to certain people or object. Hemingway's work "The Old Man and the Sea" is notable for its use of symbolism; the novel revolves around two major symbols: the old man and the sea. Besides that, some other objects that are described in the novel also have their symbolic meanings, such as Manolin, the marlin, the shark, the lion, etc. The Old Man and the Sea is a novel of much symbolic and the thesis of this research paper is the analysis of the many different usage of symbolism in the novel “The Old Man and The Sea”.

“We can’t ever go back to old things or try and get the вЂ?old kick’ out of something or find things the way we remembered them. We have as we remember them and they are fine and wonderful and we have to go on and have other things because the old things are nowhere except in our minds now”. ( Michael Palin 256) That was said by Hemingway to Bill Horne in 1923, it’s writing like this from Hemingway that has made him into such a great writer. Ernest Hemingway's novel "The Old Man and the Sea" is considered to be his last, and often his greatest, literary work. “Shenandoah Magazine called Hemingway’s Novel the best, time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us.”(Baker 503-504) “The Old Man and the Sea was an enormous success for Ernest Hemingway when it was published in 1952. At first glance, the story appears to be an extremely simple story of an old Cuban fisherman (Santiago), who catches an enormously large fish then loses it again. But, there's much more to the story than that... The short novel, recounts the trials of an elderly Cuban fisherman who is thrown into an exhausting life-or-death struggle of wills when he hooks an unmatchable marlin.”(James Topham) When questioned about the presence of symbols in the novel, Hemingway maintained that "There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. 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."(Cuba). Hemingway also said that to be a great writer “ A writer, if he is any good, does not describe. He invents or makes out of knowledge personal and impersonal and sometimes he seems to have unexplained knowledge which could come from forgotten racial or family experience. Who teaches the homing pigon to fly as he does?...” (O’Connor 99). I think what he said is true and without that thinking he had he may have not of been the great writer he is today. Despite the short length of the story and what Hemingway claims, the pages are packed full of symbols and themes open to interpretation. From the beginning sentence to the very end, Hemingway employs a very basic, honest approach to storytelling using efficiently minimalist language to deliver a complex and engaging tale of pride, struggle, defeat and resolution.

One ever-present symbol in Hemingway's novel is the sea. It represents the vast, limitless stage of life and the unpredictability of the world that surrounds it. Even more so, the sea represents Santiago's eternal friend and enemy. The man is at ease with the sea and her unpredictability even though he is at her will, for she provides the opportunities that rule his existence and livelihood and he understands that. The same is true if you view the sea and the novel itself as parallels for life; those who are living have no choice but to weather the tides and storms of time, and can only learn to accept that which comes to them. The sea here in the novel also stands for nature, love and freedom. "He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman" (Hemingway 29). What this means is that in Santiago’s eyes the sea stands for a beautiful woman full of love and gentleness, and she is a merciful mother, who nurtures all the sea creatures, the flying bird, the fishermen as well as Santiago.

But on the other hand, the sea also symbolizes cruelty and unpredictability of nature and fate. "Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel?...But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly, dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices are made too delicately for the ocean" (Hemingway 29). This show that people are so helpless in front of the nature and fate, the sea is so powerful that it can dominate the fate of all creatures in it. That is why the younger fishermen think of the sea as the masculine 'el mar' and consider it a contestant or a place or even an enemy. Hemingway symbolizes this through the old man, while the old man knows that the sea can be both gentle and cruel at the same time.

Now depending on how you read and understand the symbolism, the old man Santiago has different symbolic meanings. First the old man Santiago I believe stands for the indestructible spirit of human beings. In the novel, the old man, living in very poor conditions, is strong for his age and has a lot of scars; and his hometown is a little fishing village in Cuba. However, he still firmly holds the belief that every moment in life is worth to live and that every day gives you new chances. "Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready" (Hemingway 32). The most important thing for Santiago is to bring home the big fish even when it's only a skeleton, which shows that he is a hopeful fighter and he keeps up, never stopping during the whole fight. "Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated" (Hemingway 10). There is a prevalent saying that the heart's letter is read in the eyes and here Santiago shows us his determination and revolt against the fate through his blue and clear eyes. He has wide and keen eagerness and activities which still keep him effective, he would not think about the merely statistical fact of the number

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