The Old Man and the Sea


An Analysis of Major Characters


Santiago is often interpreted as an archetypal character in the tradition of a religious figure or classical hero. As The Old Man and the Sea contains many references to symbols, numbers, and ideas important within Christianity, Santiago has been compared by various critics to Christ, Cain, and the crucifiers of Christ. Other critics have seen Santiago as a classical tragic hero.

The most common interpretation of Santiago as Christ is supported by the suffering he endures to achieve his difficult goal and prove himself to his disciple, Manolin. In this vein, the name Santiago means "Saint James," the fisherman who became the first of Christ's apostles to be martyred. Saint James was killed by the sword of Herod, and Santiago nearly dies in his battle with the marlin, who is often described as having a "sword" on his body. Santiago also bleeds from his hands and back while being pulled by the marlin, evocative of the passion of Christ.Critics have also compared Santiago to Cain, the Old Testament character who commits the first murder by killing his brother. This view is supported by the fact that although Santiago calls the marlin his "brother" and claims to love him, he remains determined to kill him. It is also echoed in the passage where Santiago says he is glad that mankind is meant to "live on the sea and kill our true brothers."

Finally, Santiago has been called a crucifier, with the marlin playing the role of Jesus. While Santiago is struggling with the marlin, he says "Christ, I did not know he was so big... I'll kill him though... in all his greatness and his glory." Traditionally, Jesus has been associated with the symbol of the fish. After he kills the marlin, Santiago wonders whether it was a sin to do so, since the marlin meant him no harm, then eats pieces of the marlin's body to gain strength.

Another critical view of Santiago is that he follows the tradition of a classical tragic hero. Santiago is neither purely good nor evil,...

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Essays About The Old Man and the Sea