Symbolism In The Old Man And The Sea

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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway takes place on the seas of Cuba and conveys the story of an old man who struggles with catching fish for 85 days. Santiago, an old fisherman, participates in literal battles throughout the span of the novella. Over the course of the story, Santiago goes up against a giant marlin that proves to be a feisty competitor, a group of vicious sharks vying for the marlin, and he is also challenged by the difficulty of transporting the mast of his skiff to his shack once he returns from his trip on the sea. With the usage of characterization and symbolism, Hemingway demonstrates Santiago’s tenacious persistence, in order to show that hard work doesn’t always result in a positive outcome. On his 85th day out to sea, Santiago encounters a marlin who resists his attempts at catching him leading to a two-day feud. Once Santiago makes it to sea he manages to get a strong and huge marlin to fall for his bait. This is reminiscent to another time of his life when he went a prolonged time with bad luck and wasn’t able to capture anything, but when he finally made a catch, it was a giant fish. Instead of the marlin allowing Santiago a quick kill, he fights back and refuses to stop swimming, dragging along Santiago’s skiff with him. In Santiago’s mind, he isn’t that bothered or worried about the fish putting up a fight thinking, “This will kill him… He can’t do this forever” (Hemingway 45). Santiago, though, couldn’t have been more wrong.
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