Christian Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea
Christian symbolism, especially images that refer to the crucifixion of Christ, is present throughout The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway’s novel can be construed as an allusion to the Bible and the struggles of Jesus. Told simply and sparely, the contest between the old Cuban fisherman Santiago and a giant marlin is often seen as emblematic of human endurance and bravery against nearly overwhelming odds. 'A man can be destroyed but not defeated', Hemingway maintained. Santiago's story mirrors Christ's insofar as both men suffer greatly and it is, primarily, through the use of crucifixion imagery that Hemingway creates a symbolic parallel between Santiago and Christ, an analogy that elevates Santiago's trials. Hemingway seems to include small, yet noticeable details that allow the reader to relate the novel with the Gospel’s. “In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky” (Hemingway 5). To the religious layman, the latter may represent nothing special; however, for those looking for representations of the Bible, this is viewed as the first example in The Old Man and the Sea. Along with the reference of a fish, which the novel is largely centered on, as an ancient Christian symbol, the number forty holds special meaning in holy writings. Such examples of the number forty in reference to religion includes, the Great Flood of the Old Testament which lasted forty days, forty days is also “the length of time it took Christ to subdue Satan in the desert”, “fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter” lasts forty days for Christians (“Lent”). One can easily relate these examples to what occurs in the story. Santiago remains in the sea for forty days once with the boy and again without him, just as Noah did. Christians fast just as Jesus did for forty days which is...
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