The Old Man and the Sea

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The Old Man and the Sea
Callie Dorfman
Amanda Cockburn


In the book The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway uses the flashback technique in order to characterize Santiago and develop key themes of the novel, such as Santiago’s connection with nature and what it means to be a hero. Hemingway employs several flashbacks as an effective technique that develops Santiago’s character as he recalls past occurrences in order to renew his strength of will. There are three flashbacks in particular that are critical to the development of this story. The first flashback describes a time when Santiago associated himself with the marlins. The second flashback occurs when Santiago arm-wrestled the town’s strongest competitor. The third flashback discusses lions, as lions symbolize strength Santiago’s strength of will and s sense of heroic renewal throughout the novel.

Santiago’s first flashback was a memory about hooking a female marlin and “all the time the male had stayed with her” (49) until she tired and did not want to fight anymore. The male marlin acted almost upset to see that Santiago had caught his female mate. The male’s was devotion to his partner, whom Santiago had killed, “was the saddest thing [he] ever saw” (50). In fact, he refers to killing the female marlin as an act of “treachery” (50). That Santiago feels as though he betrayed the fish highlights his close connection with nature. He sympathizes with the fish as though they were human. This suggests that he views himself as an equal with creatures of the sea. Moreover, this flashback foreshadows how he identifies with the marlin.

Though Santiago feels a connection with the marlin, he is also awestruck by his glory and size when he witnesses the marlin for the first time. In order to boost his confidence and to remind himself that he is a worthy opponent, with the same heroic qualities of the fish, he remembers “the time in the tavern at Casablanca when he...
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