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The Old Man and the Sea: An Annotated Bibiliography Essay

Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea, can be construed as an allusion to the Bible and the struggles of Jesus based on Santiago’s experiences. Baskett, Sam S. “Toward a ‘Fifth Dimension’ in The Old Man and the Sea.” The Centennial Review 19.4 (Fall 1975): 269-286. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna Sheets-Nesbitt. Vol. 36. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. Baskett provides a detailed analysis of the symbolic detail in The Old Man and the Sea ranging from biblical allusions to Santiago’s aura of “strangeness”, which he says contributes to Hemingway’s “fifth dimensional prose”. He lists multiple examples of how Hemingway employs fifth dimensional prose like how Santiago is rarely often referred to as “Santiago” but prevalently more as “the old man” or analyzing the relationship between Santiago and Manolin. Furthermore and more importantly, he begins to describe the biblical allusions found in Hemingway’s novel. A large comparison he makes is between a passage in the bible and the symbolism of the lions in Santiago’s dreams. The passage can be summarized to be about normally antithetical and contradicting creatures that live and play in youth and peace in God’s “holy mountain” like a lion and an ox or a cow and a bear.

The author argues many significant points in his essay. The comparison between the scripture found in the bible is one main resemblance that Baskett makes clear. The relation between the placid and youthful kingdom and Santiago’s dream may be an intentional allusion by Hemingway. In both instances, a peaceful harmony has been materialized out of a situation where fear and discord might have naturally prevailed. Both carry the same theme of peace and harmony in a normally apparent and dangerous situation. While the lions in Santiago’s dreams only youthfully play in the presence of the boy Santiago and his love for Manolin, the lions along with all the other animals all play youthfully with a little child leading them. Although the comparisons are not exact, there is indeed a general resemblance between the two pictures of “a peaceable kingdom”.

Flora, Joseph M. “Biblical Allusion in The Old Man and the Sea.” Studies in Short Fiction 10.2 (Spring 1973): 143-147. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna Sheets-Nesbitt. Vol. 36. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. Flora argues that The Old Man and the Sea is Hemingway’s “parable of practical Christianity”. She writes about how Hemingway’s novel illustrates the essence of Christian discipleship and does so specifically in biblical terms. She starts with mentioning that Santiago is Spanish for Saint James and that Saint James was one of the 12 disciples, most of whom were fishermen.

Additionally, she quotes a story from the bible with a similar situation to Santiago’s in The Old Man in the Sea. The biblical story is about Jesus telling a group of fishermen to let down their nets, even though the fishermen have not been able to catch anything all night. When they set it down, they catch a great number of fish, breaking the net. They asked another ship to come and help but the fish filled both boats so that they began to sink. After their boats sink, the fishermen leave everything behind and follow Jesus. Flora discusses how there is not a one-to-one parallel between this account and the events of The Old Man and the Sea, but how Hemingway was likely to look at the theme of this parable and recreate it in his novel.

This article points out many aspects of The Old Man and the Sea being based off of religious accounts. For example, Flora quotes a story from the bible about Simon, a fisherman, who took as much fish as he could in the net but later resulting in his loss of the fish when he overflows the boats. Similarly, Hemingway’s novel is about an old man who tries his best to land the marlin, but results in the marlin getting eaten by sharks when the marlin finally catches Santiago’s hook. After Simon and his fishermen face the loss, they then join Jesus in discipleship. Though Santiago faces his loss, he becomes more humble at the end, showing characteristics of a disciple for his efforts. Pratt, John Clark.

“My pilgrimage: fishing for religion with Hemingway. (Articles).” The Hemingway Review 21.1 (2001): 78+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. Pratt covers the time-period between 1952 to the present and chronicles his own efforts to define and explain Hemingway’s use of religious allusion in his fiction. Pratt begins to correlate symbols in The Old Man and the Sea to the bible. For example, he mentions how Santiago refers to Saint James, who was a great fisherman who is also considered by some religions to have been the brother of Christ. He continues by explaining how the skeleton of the fish, a universal Christ symbol, is given to Pedrico, translating to Little Peter, to “chop it up and use in fish traps” (124). He concludes by stating that if people are not very careful to resolve universal paradoxes, they may well act like Hemingway’s ignorant tourists at the end who, knowing none of the details or the history of this symbolic struggle, mistake the skeleton of the marlin for that of its evil opponent, the shark.

Pratt discusses many symbols and biblical allusions in The Old Man and the Sea. The analysis of the symbols is a strong support to prove that Hemingway used references from the bible to create his novel. Hemingway has combined allusions to Saint James, God and Christ in his novel. Santiago appears both as a God and a father figure to the boy, Manolin, which in Spanish is means Emmanuel. Yet it is he who worships, then kills his “brother” (57) the marlin, who comes “alive with his death in him” (94) after having been pricked in the side with a symbolic spear. Just like the biblical namesake, Pedrico will receive the head of the symbolic fish to help “trap” whatever or whoever comes along in the future, also alluding to when Jesus told his disciples that they will follow him to catch men. Wilson,, G. R., Jr. “Incarnation and Redemption in The Old Man and the Sea.” Studies in Short Fiction 14.4 (Fall 1977): 369-373. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna Sheets-Nesbitt. Vol. 36. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Jan. 2013.

Wilson asserts that the time spans mentioned in The Old Man in the Sea refer to the sacred Christian mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption. Throughout the essay, he points out a particular number of days and relates to the bible, creating the allusions. For example, Santiago’s being with the boy for 40 days and the three days covered by this novel are clear references to the Fasting in the Wilderness and to Christ’s Passion, respectively. Santiago and Christ both achieve triumph in apparent defeat. In addition, both are also able to return to their disciple about the deed they had accomplished. Concluding the essay, Wilson states that the Christian symbolism is not simply a pat overlay attempting to give weight to an otherwise mundane story, but rather to constitute the basic technique by which Hemingway presents his view of man as a coherent and intrinsically important part of the universe in which he must find value.

The main points in this essay to support the thesis are the allusions made by Wilson between the bible and the novel. Hemingway specifically using 40 and 3 are clear references to the Fasting in the Wilderness and to Christ’s Passion, respectively. It is during this time span in Hemingway’s parable that Santiago establishes his claim to heroic stature in the eyes of the boy Manolin and becomes the hero incarnate. While Christ’s triumph is over physical death, Santiago triumphs over the sharks which, though they destroy the great marlin, cannot diminish the heroism that has led to the union of man and nature climaxing between fisherman and fish. Likewise, Santiago and Christ are able to return to their own disciples with evidence about the hero deed they had accomplished; Santiago returns with the remains of the marlin.

Wittkowski, Wolfgang. “Crucified in the Ring: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.” The Hemingway Review 3.1 (Fall 1983): 2-17. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna Sheets-Nesbitt. Vol. 36. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. Wittkowski contends that Santiago’s struggle and suffering are patterned after that of Christ on the Cross. His first example of the analogy is when Santiago sees the shark come to eat the marlin, “Ay – a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hand and into the wood” (118).

Furthermore, he says that Santiago is himself the crucifier and killer. Leaning against the wood, reminding one of Christ on the Cross, Santiago says, “I’ll kill him though… in all greatness and his glory” (78). Another example is how Santiago is constantly laying on his chest whenever he is pushed back by the marlin. The author states that Santiago’s gesture is a variation of the Christ-analogy in which the protagonist refuses to admit defeat in the “facedown” position.

The author depicts three clear examples of biblical allusions found in Hemingway’s novel. When Santiago tells himself, “Ay”, he notes that it is the sound of nails going through someone’s hand and into the wood, which is clearly evident of Christ on the Cross. Also, when Santiago yearns to take down the marlin in its “greatness and his glory”, again, Christ on the Cross is called to the mind. In addition to what Santiago says, the author relates his gestures as an allusion to the bible. The constant “facedown” position of Santiago is another clear correlation to bible’s protagonists refusing to admit defeat, like how Santiago never gives up on the marlin.


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