Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea shows a strong representation of Christianity through the main protagonist, Santiago. Given Santiago’s suffering and willingness to endure pain for a marlin, this can act as the wounds of Christ’s stigmata, and Hemingway goes on to portray the old man as a Christ-like martyr.
Throughout the novel his hands being wounded like Christ’s, him carryings his “mast” up the hill to his hut like Christ carried his cross, and him being a fisherman is similar to Jesus. Additionally, near the end of the novel when the sharks arrive, Santiago makes a noise one would make “feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood.” Symbolism can be observed throughout the novel as a way to enhance the plot and the theme of religion motiff. In the Christian worldview, life on this earth is a constant struggle and in the end, there is death, but death is not a defeat for the Christian and Santiago is hopeful to break his 80 day streak of not catching a single fish.
Too deeply understand how religion is important in this story, Hemingway uses Santiago name as a reference to Saint James who was a fisherman as well. Within the story, the meaning behind the name adds depth to Hemingway’s novel. Saint James was one of Jesus’s disciples and was also in a very famous Bible story. He and several disciples were fishing but having no luck. Jesus told them to cast their nets again.
They did so, and they had trouble pulling in nets because they were so filled with fish. Santiago had a familiar experience since he had a streak of bad luck but then hauls in the catch of a lifetime. By using these two names, Hemingway has drawn strong parallels to one of the Bible’s most recognizable stories, The Miracle of the Fish. Sam Baskett enhances this image by indicating that Saint James “was martyred ‘with the sword’ by Herod”.
In the novel, we see Santiago entrenched in a 3 day battle with a swordfish, and, if we are to believe Baskett, he eventually dies after the struggle. Santiago closely resembles St. James, which both as martyred “with the sword.” “But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Santiago is given a Saint like characteristic as a virtuous man since he cares so deeply about mother nature. Alike St James, Hemingway hints that immortality is achieved by Santiago, not through successfully returning with a fish, but by fighting against insurmountable odds.
Santiago and Manolin have a master-disciple relationship, which parallels Christ’s relationship with his Twelve Apostles. Despite Santiago’s widespread doubt, his young friend, Manolin, admires Santiago’s values and has a strong faith in Santiago. Though Manolin’s faith in Santiago is firm, the rest of the town doubts his abilities, just as many people doubt the words of Jesus Christ. “Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
Ultimately, luck may have nothing to do with success. A father like figure to Mandolin, Santiago taught his young student important aspect about life and fishing. Mandolin is taught how to succeed in life by living on basic principles and by refraining to commit imoratalites. He is Santiago’s friend, a compassionate server to the old man. Christ acted as a figured who just not taught about faith but about life. The two were never liked at the start but later influenced people. If Santiago is a Christ -figure then Manolin is his disciple. He believes in Santiago long after others have written him off.
Santiago is a fisherman, and for him that’s how he makes his living in a small Cuban port. It is clear that a fish has an important meaning to him. It acts as a powerful christian faith and its values. This particular animals has a unique characteristics that help readers draw a more deeper connection to Santiago’s faith. The fish is sympathetic, persistent, and has a strong sense of mind. Santiago is the Christ-figure. On a symbolic level, the fish is a “true brother,” one who gives life to the fisherman. Santiago says, “It is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.”
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