Symbolism and Allegory in “The Old man and the Sea”

‘The old Man and sea’ is an allegory. It denotes moral and religious ideas before the reader. This novel is the best example of parable.  We can not ignore the hidden meaning of ‘the old and the sea’. At first the novel seems about the sea, fishermen and fish.

When the reader goes on the novel, he feels that it presents the struggle against suffering and uneven happenings of life.  The hero introduces himself the moral truth Santiago declares, “But man is not made for defeat, a man can be destroyed but not defeated” when he fights against the sharks.

The giant marlin stands for a distant goal of life for a human being. The journey towards the goal causes much distress and much pain. His wounded hands symbolize the rebuffs suffered by a man in the course of his efforts. The long and strong resistance shows that it is easy to get high ideals of life. The old man wins a victory over the marline by means of will power, technique and strategy. The memories, the thoughts of Dimaggio and manolin, African beaches and his own wrestling defeating a Negro have symbolic significance. All these represent that man is ever alone, but he has to fight the battle of life alone:  As the old man is alone he has not caught any fish for 84 days. He is still hope full and optimist. He behaves in his own abilities. He thinks that eighty-five is the lucky number. Furthermore, he knows that he is not strong for fishing. But he believes in his own tricks and resolution. He never thinks about dreams or defeat. He dreams of youth and lions. In the worst moments of misery, he remembers his heroic fight against the Negro. He looks for spiritual help and promises to say “our fathers and “Hail Mary’s”. Several times he also invokes the help of the Virgin. He remembers his heroic fight against the Negro in the moments of his own suffering.
During his fight against Marlin or sharks, he speaks many times, “I wish the boy was here, and I wish I had the boy”. The boy is a source of youth’s courage. He also remembers the help of the boy. He is compelled to hang on the line after hooking the Marlin. He thinks no one should be alone in the old age.  It seems that sharks have defeated the Old Man. Santiago has failed to save his huge Marlin from sharks. But the writer wants to clarify that there is a lot of “gain” in the loss” of big fish. The Old Man is the winner against the hostile forces. He comes out of his conflict with human dignity and untended courage. He fights undauntedly and saves his honor. He is not defeated by the big fish. He fights like a warrior. He does well with all his energy, strength & courage.
For the
Santiago, the image of the lions is a source of strength in his old age. Before his ordeal when the boy had left him, he dreamt of Africa when he was a boy. He heard the roars of the lions in his dreams. He no longer dreamt of storms, fights, fish women and contest of strength. Not only that, but he only dreamt of places now and of lions playing like young cats in dusk and loving them like he loved the boy.  Santiago in is difficult time is supported by the memories of the lions and the boy which are the symbols of his youth times. Through the double vision of the boy and the lions he recollects the golden time of his youth and strength. This story when viewed in this way can be called as a parable of youth and age. 

126 thoughts on “Symbolism and Allegory in “The Old man and the Sea””

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