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Literary Devices in The Old Man and the Sea Essay


In Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea an old seasoned fisherman name Santiago struggles with the greatest catch of his life. A swordfish he struggles with for three days and three nights but unfortunately, his swordfish is eating by a large shark before he is able to make it back to his village. This research paper will be about why this was chosen for the Pulitzer Prize. The reason it was chosen for the Pulitzer Prize is because the book has great usage of symbolism, man themes, and simple but great characters.

The Novel The Old Man and the Sea there are so many different types of symbolism used. Almost every character, animal and objects can be used to come up with a different type of symbolism. The book even begins with the old man with out catching anything for eight-four days straight. It takes pride to go out there day after day and not catch anything, going out farther than all the other fishermen so he can catch the big catch. Santiago is pitted against the creatures of the sea, some reader choose to view the tale as a chronicle of man's battle against the natural work(sparknotes). Another example of pride that Santiago shows is the way he apologies to the swordfish as if they didn't fight a fair fight.

Santiago's frequent dreams about the lions is another element that could be considered apart of the books great usage of symbolism. The lions symbolize Santiagos lost youth as well as his pride. Santiagos love for the lions, which are fierce predators, also mirrors his relationship with the marlin, whom he loves but whose death he feels is necessary to his survival(litcharts). Santiago feels genuinely lucky to find himself matched against a creature that brings out the best in him: his strength and courage, his love and respect (sparknotes).

The marlin he is fighting to kill to survive not only is it not considered an evil symbol but it is considered a worth opponent for Santiago to fight. Santiagos struggle with the marlin is in fact a struggle with himself. It is not a struggle of strength but rather of endurance, a refusal to accept defeat. Santiagos struggle with the marlin is in fact a struggle to face and overcome his own weaknesses as much as it is a struggle to subdue the great fish (litcharts).

The Shovel nosed sharks are the symbols that are to be considered the evil ones. Stealing Santiago's pride in being able to bring back a big catch. They symbolize the embody the destructive laws of the universe and attest to the fact that those laws can be transcended only when equals fight to the death. Because they are base predators, Santiago win no glory from battling them (sparknotes).

There is also something in to story that could be seen as religious symbols. Like when Santiago is taking down his mast and carrying it up the beach. The position in which Santiago carries the mast exactly mirrors the position in which Jesus Christ was forced to drag his cross on the way to his crucifixion. The mast, then, becomes a symbol for the cross, and cements the parallel that Hemingway sets up between Santiagos ordeal and Christs( litcharts). The sharks could also be considered some what of a religious aspect of the novels symbolism. The shovel-nosed sharks can be seen as symbolizing the destructive forces of nature and of the people of Jerusalem, whose petty jealousies and rivalries led to the crucifixion of Jesus (litcharts).

The themes are another thing that shouldn't be over looked when figuring out why this novel won the Pulitzer Prize. Without these bold themes the novel would have never been chosen for the Pulitzer Prize. Perseverance is an underlying theme of this novel. The old man's battle with the fish is not only a battle of strength, but a battle of wills. Endurance becomes a way we connect the old man and the fish he fights, as they share a determination that, in its magnitude, separates them from other people and creatures (shmoop).

The natural world is another big theme through out the book. Being able to survive and being able to stay alive is a big part of the novel, the natural world being the animals, man, ocean all of that would be considered the natural world. The old man is unique in his relationship to and understanding of the natural world. He talks about the sea as thought it were a woman, the birds as friends, and the sharks as personal enemies. The creatures and the natural world become a lens through which we examine the old man; they become parables and analogies that allow us to gain insight into his character (shmoop).

Defeat is another common symbol associated with the novel. Though not in the sense that Santiago was defeated because Santiago does not believe a man can be defeated only destroyed. Is the old man defeated? This is a persistent question by the end of the of the story. The Old Man and the Sea asks its readers to define defeat, to struggle with what it really means to be beaten. Interestingly, Santiago draws a distinction between being destroyed and being defeated (shmoop).

There are very few characters through out the novel, it mainly consists of the main character Santiago who is a old seasoned Cuban fisherman. He endures a long and grueling struggle with a marlin only to see his trophy catch be destroyed by sharks. Yet, the destruction enables the old man to undergo a remarkable transformation, and he wrests triumph and renewed life from his seeming defeat ( He views his aging body as a kind of betrayer, and fondly remembers his younger days, when he was exceptionally strong and a successful fisherman (litcharts).

The only other human character that needs mentioning would be a young boy named Manolin. Though he only has a short part in he novel he is a big roll in understanding it. Manolin's purity and singleness of purpose elevate him to the level of a symbolic character. Manolin's actions are not tainted by the confusion, ambivalence, or willfulness that typify adolescence. Instead, he is a companion who feels nothing but love and devotion (

I Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is considered to be one of his greatest novels ever. He was able to get so much symbolism in to 127 page book. His themes were very distinct and well thought out. Even though his novel only consisted of two human characters they were simple but complex at the same time. This is why he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953.

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