Concealing the pain and suffering can be necessary to define true power and character. Hemingway’s interpretation of Santiago in the novella The Old Man and the Sea can be seen as a comparison to Christ and his struggles through excruciating treatment and crucifixion. The portrayal of Santiago as a Christ figure reflects the importance of inner strength to overcome challenges.
The mast of Santiago’s skiff can be recognized as Christ’s cross he carried to his crucifixion, posing a challenge to the feeble old man who consistently concealed his pain to create a tough shell. The old man carried the mast on his shoulder, (Hemingway 15), relating to Christ hauling the cross on his shoulder to his forthcoming demise- a reflection of Santiago beginning his soon-to-be dreadful expedition. Santiago arrived back in his town and had to sit down five times before he reached his shack, (Hemingway 121) emphasizing the absolute exhaustion of Santiago after his physical deterioration from reeling in the marlin and battling the sharks. Santiago started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder, (Hemingway 121), characterizing him as one who perseveres through tough situations and makes an effort to assert his strength even with an aching struggle on the inside. The ideal of stoicism can be used to depict Santiago’s mindset in the novella due to his motive to conceal his misery and prove himself to his surroundings.
The sharp pain that Santiago receives throughout the fishing process can directly relate to Christ as he was nailed to the cross and Hemingway’s emphasis on the peskiness of Santiago’s left hand alludes to the Bible’s descriptions of the left hand as hellish and evil. Santiago is pictured feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood, (Hemingway 107), alluding to the nails that were hammered through Christ’s hands in the bible and suggesting a relationship between the pain Christ endured while being hung on the cross and the pain Santiago felt in his hands that were severely slashed by the fishing line. Santiago’s burden on his left hand was illustrated as the fishing line burned his back and his left hand, and [it] was taking all the strain and cutting badly, (Hemingway 82), creating a clear exaggeration on the displeasure felt on his left hand over his right; which the Bible has repeatedly declared sinister. Santiago portrayed his left hand as a traitor [that] would not do what he called on it to do, (Hemingway 71), further illustrating the analogy of the untrustworthiness and trouble his left hand brought him relating to the negative connotation the Bible describes the left hand as. The similarities Santiago and Christ share throughout their experiences allow the comparison of Santiago to the agony of Christ’s crucifixion.
Santiago deeply expresses his character throughout the novella through personal commentary on his pain and perseverance; much of relating to Christ’s enduring pain throughout the path to crucifixion and concluding death lying on the face of the cross. The importance of the qualities of a man to Santiago are seen as one that can be destroyed but not defeated,”” (Hemingway 103), indicating his attitude towards giving up and persevering through even the toughest instances, such as his battle with the sharks. Santiago’s conflict with the sharks enables him to show [them] what a man can do and what a man endures, (Hemingway 66), characterizing him as one who allows the basic qualities of a man define his thoughts and actions. Santiago confesses in the end that the sharks truly beat [him],”” (Hemingway 124) and admits that he suffered plenty, (Hemingway 126) in a discussion with Manolin, reflecting the ultimate resolution to Christ as he was truly destroyed as he hung from the cross and relating to the finale to Santiago’s struggle with the sea and his eventual death. Both Christ and Santiago faced the same fate; however, both endured as tremendously as possible and never allowed themselves to be defeated.
The consistency of Santiago concealing his pain even when he fished in isolation the entire trip defines his character as he constantly denies complaint and never gives into adversity. The major connections to Christ seen through the novella such as the carrying of the mast and the nails in his hands highlight the strength and perseverance of Santiago and provide insight on the excruciating pain both Christ and Santiago endure throughout their hardships. Hemingway concluded the novella with the implied death of Santiago, a comparison to the eventual death of Christ on the cross. Though Santiago was physically broken throughout the catching of the marlin and the battle with the sharks, Santiago never accepted defeat and persevered throughout all pain and aching, proving to be a strong-willed masculine figure that Hemingway strives to interpret into his novels.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. 1952. New York: Scribner, 2003.
What about the Left Hand of God?, www.thywordistruth.com/questions/Question-428.html#.W5h23S2ZN-V.