This story was published in 1952 and is one of the most beautiful stories Hemingway ever created. It is about an old Cuban fisherman and his battle against a marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. The old man’s name is Santiago and his only friend is a young boy called Manolin, who also lives in the small fishing village near Havanna, Cuba. The boy used to go fishing with the old man until his parents stopped him because Santiago was regarded as "unlucky". Having not caught a fish for the last 84 days, Santiago sets out alone one morning…
As the story is very complex many different ways of interpreting it are possible. I am going to discuss some possible themes which can be found within the story. The story is about an eternal combat. The old man represents the human race and the sea represents nature. The story could be regarded as a metaphor of the struggle that takes place between human beings and nature; but the story also proves that nature is always superior and that the human race is not able to win this fight. To support this thesis on could apply a statement made by the old man. " 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." Santiago knows that mankind is always inferior; he admits that he is happy that he does not have to try and kill the moon or the stars because he knows that they are much stronger and that he would always lose a fight against them.
Many people have tried to interpret the symbols that can be found throughout the whole story. For example a parallel is drawn between the bleeding hands of Santiago and the suffering of Jesus Christ, whose hands were equally wounded by the nails used to crucify him.
The "great DiMaggio" is said to be a symbol of courage, endurance and success.But, nevertheless, we should also have a look at the statement made by Hemingway himself about the symbolism of that story. He says: "There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know." And I personally think that we have to accept what the author says about symbolism, because he knows best what he wanted to say when he wrote this story.
It is also important to look at the language that Hemingway uses in order to fully understand the author’s intention of this book. The author uses language to produce a realistic picture of the human beings that appear in the story. When the old man sits in his boat, he talks in monologues. They make the reader experience his long path through life as he often digresses to the time when he was young; the monologues also show that he is not only very lonely, but that he also tries to overcome his permanent loneliness. He longs for contact; that is the reason why he talks to the sea, the moon and the stars.
Santiago speaks in short, uncomplicated and very simple sentences; this is due to his job as a fisherman. He dos not have to make long speeches in front of many people as he spends most of his time fishing in the ocean all by himself.
This way of talking, namely the preference of talking in short sentences could be described as "staccato-style" compared to long, complicated sentences used by many other authors that could be named "legato-style".
The old man often repeats sentences ("If the boy were here, if the boy were here…") which seems to be quite typical of him. Language here is a very important indication of the social class and the background Santiago comes from.
What I like most about the story "The Old Man and the Sea" is its simplicity. I think this is one of the reasons why it has become so successful and word famous. Hemingway doesn’t try to impress the reader with an artificial, complicated and unrealistic story. It is the fact that every word of the story is essential and none is superfluous or meaningless. This is the reason why the story is so beautiful and unique within the literary world.