Christian Symbolism: the Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea may seem like a shallow book on its face level, but many extensive themes are evident throughout the book. Specifically, Christian Symbolism is apparent throughout. These are the themes displayed in my artwork, which shows Santiago as a Christ-Like figure. This is because he persevered through pain and suffering, and turned it into reward and victory, just how Jesus went through pain on the cross, but renewed his life and won. These themes are initially evident in the book during his struggle with the fish.

First, while the old man is fighting the marlin, his hands are cut by the fishing line. The cuts not only symbolize the wounds on Jesus’ hands while he was on the cross, but how he went through pain and suffering in his crucifixion. Santiago is a direct portrayal of Jesus and his suffering. The old man is willing to suffer and maybe even sacrifice his own life, just how Jesus was willing to do the same. Also during the fight, on page 107, Hemingway describes a noise Santiago has made, Just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the woods” (107). This is a direct association of Santiago and Jesus Christ. This quote relates to how Jesus’ hands were nailed to the cross, and a sound he might have made when nails were driven through his hands into the wood.

Another example of Santiago being a Christ life figure is how he carried the mast of his ship up the hill and back home. This alludes to Jesus’ walk towards Calvary with the cross on his back. Also, towards the very end of the book, when Santiago lays down on his bed, Hemingway describes him laying down face down with his arms out and his palms/hands up. This evokes a picture of how Jesus Christ was suffering on the cross. He does this to even further link Santiago to Jesus. The whole story draws similarities between the two, where they both turn pain and loss into benefits and victory. Because of how often they relate, I chose to draw Santiago as Jesus to show this connection and how Hemmingway relies on this symbolism as a major overarching theme in the book. The parallels between the two drive how the old man is willing to sacrifice for the greater good, and the praise that comes from this sacrifice. He matches the two to relate to how Jesus sacrificed himself for the greater good of man. This connection also develops other, more face value, themes that Jesus and Santiago both show.

Santiago being a Christ like figure plays into the theme of perseverance. You must go through some discomfort and a fight to yield rewards. Persevering and sticking through hardships results in rewards. Both Jesus and Santiago went through tough times but eventually their struggles bore fruits. In Santiago’s case, the strenuous fight with the marlin shows this because he eventually killed the fish and ended his fishing drought. Also, the book shows how skill of mind is more important than brawn. Jesus didn’t actually fight people with his hands in wars, he used his knowledge of God and stories to gain followers and baptize people.

Santiago did the same where his knowledge and experience of the sea makes up for his weak self (being an old man). He may not have been able to finish the fish if he didn’t have knowledge of the oceans and fishing. Santiago won by outsmarting the fish, rather than trying to forcibly and physically beat it. Both used their minds and knowledge more, rather than their physical strength to do their work. It again shows how the mind is more important than physical strength. Santiago is symbolized as a christ figure throughout the novel, both Jesus and Santiago were fixed to their faith in times of uncertainty and suffering. Santiago is meant to symbolize Christ, his teachings, and his struggles during his crucifixion. All of these reasons relate to the connection between Jesus and Santiago, and it is why Jesus was drawn in the art, to show this relationship.

Leave a Comment