The Old Man and the Sea The Old Man and the Sea discussion


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the symbols

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Menna  Emad Do you think that the old man is symbol for the human and the fish is symbol for the life.
He pulls it and never let it go, and it drags him.
and when he thought that he overcome it, he lost it and lost everything and would never return as before.


Sara The loss of the fish isn't really the tragedy the old man thinks it will be, though. I remember thinking that the journey itself and the experience were what the old man craved.

It's been about ten years since I read the book, though, so I may be mis-remembering.


BubblesTheMonkey I would think that the Old Man could be a symbol of Jesus Christ. After he lost the battle with the fish, he came in with his mast (which was the shape of the cross). He carried it on his back. He was also very beat-up. Soon after, he died (like Christ).


Sara Rachel wrote: "I would think that the Old Man could be a symbol of Jesus Christ. After he lost the battle with the fish, he came in with his mast (which was the shape of the cross). He carried it on his back. He ..."

Oh he's DEFINITELY a Christ figure. Hemmingway was a huge fan of Christ figures.


message 5: by Christos (last edited Jan 12, 2012 01:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Christos Tsotsos I think the old man is an old man and above all a man and the fish, that is also a man, is a damn good catch that no fisherman who (is a man and) hasn't got a catch for weeks and with very little fishing days left in him will let go even if it kills him. And the boy is a good student that will probably grow up to be a good and honest man...


Keeley christ figure, christ figure, christ figure!


Jason Lilly Has anyone looked into what Hemingway said about this book: "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 shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is $#!+. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know."

I agree.


Christos Tsotsos Jason wrote: "Has anyone looked into what Hemingway said about this book: "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 shark are all sha..."

diddo


Avalon I love your decision to explore the symbolic. I read this book for exams when I was 14. Our teacher prompted us to explore beyond what was seen and said. I believe the man represents the essence of our humanity.(our desires and our frailty) We struggle and struggle for what we desire(the fish) but in the end, it is the journey, or the exploration of our humanity, which brings us the greatest reward. This book represents life, human struggle, achievement and fulfillment.


message 10: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara Jason wrote: "Has anyone looked into what Hemingway said about this book: "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 shark are all sha..."

I don't give two shits what Hemmingway said about it. Whether he was conscious of the symbols he was manifesting in his work doesn't mean they aren't there. The writer writes, not always with symbol in mind, but it lives, sometimes, in spite of the writer.


Christos Tsotsos Sara wrote: "Jason wrote: "Has anyone looked into what Hemingway said about this book: "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 sha..."

yeah keep believing that the subconscious mind of the writer creates symbols for the world to talk about in classes...


message 12: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara Christos wrote: "yeah keep believing that the subconscious mind of the writer creates symbols for the world to talk about in classes..."

Jung (and Rollo May) would suggest that it's not just the writer, but the cooperation between the subconscious of the writer and the reader that is critical to create symbol. And no story is JUST about the writer or what the writer wants. If it were, it would never be released for public consumption.


Chris Gunnell To rely on only the intention of the author to gain meaning in a text is pretty limiting, in my view. To take this book, if The Old Man and the Sea is really just about a man who goes fishing and gets his fish eaten and comes back, then why would anyone care? The point of literary analysis isn't to figure out "what does Hemingway mean," but to figure out what the BOOK means and what we can take out of it. If you want to believe the Old Man is a Christ figure (a very popular view) that's fine. But to say that it is the CORRECT interpretation of the text is to basically end all reading of it, which isn't good.
tl;dr Either he is a Christ figure or he isn't. There doesn't have to be one answer and multiplicity of meaning is what makes great literature great.


message 14: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara Chris wrote: "To rely on only the intention of the author to gain meaning in a text is pretty limiting, in my view. To take this book, if The Old Man and the Sea is really just about a man who goes fishing and g..."

Exactly. As long as it can be logically supported in the text, other interpretations are definitely welcome. Literary theory is not about one right answer. That's one reason why I love it.


Christos Tsotsos Sara wrote: "Literary theory is not about one right answer. That's one reason why I love it. "

Great lets get drunk and argue about the novel and create many right or plausible answers...


Christos Tsotsos Chris wrote: "To take this book, if The Old Man and the Sea is really just about a man who goes fishing and gets his fish eaten and comes back, then why would anyone care?"

I guess when you put it like that nobody would care reading about it, try and put that in a plot that might help one to understand variable aspects of human nature... I bet someone would want to read it. Simple no jung and freud and rollo may or crap about crap just life and how people live it, what they think about it when it is about to end, how it feels before it, what do they dream, what they regret, what they miss the most, I don't know... I would read something like that and skip the class on "how to desifer or psychoanalyse novels after you read them?"


message 17: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara Christos wrote: "Sara wrote: "Literary theory is not about one right answer. That's one reason why I love it. "

Great lets get drunk and argue about the novel and create many right or plausible answers..."


I've done that many, many, MANY times. One of the beauties of having a degree in English.


Jason Lilly Wow. I never said it wasn't possible for the reader to find symbolism in the book. I just like pointing out what the author says about his book. I think it is important to at least consider his opinion.

But I do love that it stirred such great discussion.


Chris Gunnell Christos wrote: "Chris wrote: "To take this book, if The Old Man and the Sea is really just about a man who goes fishing and gets his fish eaten and comes back, then why would anyone care?"

I guess when you put it..."

The problem is the Freud, Jung and others of that school have a lot to say about human nature and the way we think and the way we act in the world. To call it "crap," is to undermine almost a century's worth of literary theory that has defined the ways people read. You don't have to necessarily agree with his views but there is a large school of people who do, and I would advocate respecting people with differing ideas, instead of labeling their thoughts as "crap."

Also, the idea that we can "get drunk," and throw out random interpretations is a gross overstatement of what I said. Just because there is no one interpretation of a text does not mean that "any interpretation is as good as any other." A multiplicity of meaning doesn't mean one can say anything about the text and have it be regarded as a logical, thoughtful view.


Christos Tsotsos Chris wrote: "Christos wrote: "Chris wrote: "To take this book, if The Old Man and the Sea is really just about a man who goes fishing and gets his fish eaten and comes back, then why would anyone care?"

I gues..."

Sorry I come from a background with proper scientific method and tend to consider certain cargo cult sciences as gobbledygook. I guess I am narrow minded expecting things to add up reasonably to one true interpretation rather than all kinds of philological horsedang that does not mean anything in particular but could all be 'correct'.

"Lets get drunk and talk about it" is the only beneficial thing you can do with the so called literature theory if you want to keep any of the literature and manufacture the facts to baptise ideas and hypotheses into theories.

Academically speaking it is cargo cult science.

:p


Klæmint Vágadal Jason wrote: "Has anyone looked into what Hemingway said about this book: "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 shark are all sha..."

I don't think Hemingway could have said anything else, as it is not common for authors to give away symbolics. Every individual has their interpretation of The Old Man.

Orson Wells also said that in his movie, The Trial (Kafka novel), there were no symbols. As with Hemingway, could he have said anything else?


message 22: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara Christos wrote:"Lets get drunk and talk about it" is the only beneficial thing you can do with the so called literature theory if you want to keep any of the literature and manufacture the facts to baptise ideas and hypotheses into theories. "

Not true. Just because there are multiple answers does not mean that the answers are less valid.

While it's true it's fun to drink and pontificate, when it comes to putting pen to paper with real theory, those theories have to be backed up with textual proofs. Recently it's become acceptable to also include biographical and historical proofs as context as well (though it was very out of vogue until the mid-'90s or so). And as in science, published work also needs to stand up to peer review to gain credibility.

Just because we can't take literature into the lab doesn't mean we don't require logical conclusions in the literary realm.

By the way, is sound a particle or is it a wave? Yeah, there's not always one answer in science, either.


message 23: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara Klæmint wrote: "I don't think Hemingway could have said anything else, as it is not common for authors to give away symbolics. Every individual has their interpretation of The Old Man.

Orson Wells also said that in his movie, The Trial (Kafka novel), there were no symbols. As with Hemingway, could he have said anything else?"


Agreed. I think most writers understand that to reveal the symbolism they saw in their own work will be to limit its power. If Hemmingway would have said, "Oh yeah, the Old Man is absolutely a Christ figure," his statement would have discouraged further discussion of the other possibilities. There's certainly such a thing as the author saying too much about his or her work.

I successfully argued at one point that the fish was a Christ figure too, by the way. ;)


Klæmint Vágadal Sara, the Christ figure never popped in to my mind, maybe because I did not know he was in to that :) I just read the novel as a man struggling with existence, never giving up.

The Christ reading could be very interesting, if one "could pull it off", so to speak.


Christos Tsotsos Sara wrote: "Christos wrote:"Lets get drunk and talk about it" is the only beneficial thing you can do with the so called literature theory if you want to keep any of the literature and manufacture the facts to..."


Actually in science there is very clear definition as to what a sound particle really is in its mathematical sense and what it means compared to the size of its wavelength...

But the way you present your case is sound. to me this appears more like an analysis of the text, context, based on a biographical (or psychological) sketch of the writer, their life and influences.

I agree, a theory needs to be backed by facts and to do that requires proper scientific method. I do not know which one that is but I see where you are coming from.

I mm not sure. I think it is a hard task and almost impossible. The mind of a person is complex, multifacarious, and there are always little but very important facts that escape the quester.

Sometimes what you see is what you get and that in itself is more important than hidden symbols and meanings that may or may not be there.


message 26: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara Christos wrote: "Sometimes what you see is what you get and that in itself is more important than hidden symbols and meanings that may or may not be there."

And sometimes the analysis says more about the reader than it does about the author. ;)


Chris Gunnell ALL analysis says something about the reader/analyzer. To try to become a completely impartial judge of a text is something that is truly impossible, given the great affect society has on a person. We are a product of our environment, at least to some degree.
Also, the scientific method you speak of is something I do take into account when I arrive at what I think is "true," in a text. I'm not saying "Santiago is a symbol for Barack Obama or Genghis Khan," because I have no reason to say that and I have no evidence to support this. The case that he is a Christ figure/represents "a man struggling with existence," as Klaemint put it (which, after all, is really what Jesus did more than anything) is supported by many people and has enough evidence to support it.
I'm not trying to say "that is the right interpretation," or that if you don't believe that, you're wrong. I'm simply saying that to argue for that reading is not an invalid thing to do.


message 28: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Biton you got it there sarah. fiction and poetry always has a way of living beyond. it has a life of its own, whether the writer intends it or not.


Colette Ni Writing is pretty much like Art, it is constructed by one person for interpretation by many. And as each person finds something in a painting that is specific to what they are seeking in it, the written word offers the same service.

I have a friend who paints and when I used to tell her what I saw in her work, she was pleased that I had found another dimension to that which she had in mind when she started. As a writer, I draw on many experiences in my own life and I mingle them with what I create. If Hemingway says he had no symbolism in mind, he probably had not, why would he lie? If there was an undercurrent of symbolism that edged its way out without him realising it, fine. It probably means more to the person who found it rather than the one who wrote it. In the end, does it matter? A good read is what we need and if a book offers more to savour, all the better. Have a drink, cry for the fish, love the old man and let the sharks do what they have been doing forever. And, enough for God's sake, guys!


message 30: by Vance (new)

Vance Lindahl I think if the book is symbolic of anything it is symbolic of Hemingway's own writing process.


message 31: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael Ryan Hemmingway always wrote about men who were very tough and endured more than anyone thought they could, because of the bigger picture. And he wrote about it really well, in almost all of his books. Be it a war, the Gulf of Mexico, or Paris in the '20s. I don't recall any of his other men being Christ figures, though they were all heroes and all suffered mightily, some making the ultimate sacrifice.


Christos Tsotsos Michael wrote: "Hemmingway always wrote about men who were very tough and endured more than anyone thought they could, because of the bigger picture. And he wrote about it really well, in almost all of his books...."

ditto!


message 33: by Ella (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella "There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only one you." Page 23


message 34: by Todd (new) - rated it 4 stars

Todd Once the writer has written it is no longer theirs. Hemmingway's opinion has become one in a sea of many. An important one, nonetheless. I'm not saying that this is a good thing. I'm just saying it's a fact. Literary blowhards and gasbags will pontificate on end about the symbolism and such. Hemmingway's opinion is the only one I actually care about, and as quoted in the comments above, he didn't intend to symbolize The Old Man and The Sea.


Peter Whether or not there is an intentional Christ figure matters little. I never saw it in there myself. But from a Theological perspective anything that is symbolic of humanity, love, and suffering could easily also be symbolic of Christ. See Tolkien's essay On Fairy Stories, and C.S. Lewis in Myth Became Fact, which could apply equally well to any piece of literature and the religious. I agree with Vance. Most likely it is a simple tale with perhaps an unintentional symbolism in which this can be seen due to the thoughts of the writer and the writing process. If, as someone mentioned, Hemmingway is often preoccupied with these similar themes.


message 36: by Monty J (last edited Feb 13, 2013 12:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying What a person takes away from a piece of art is a function of who they are, the sum of their experience and education and their individual capabilities to comprehend. Each interpretation of a work of literature can be and is unique to each individual. Those who are trained in literary criticism can reach a consensus, but they rarely do; so even they diverge in their interpretations.

To me, Santiago represents the aging artist who has been elevated to the status of near sainthood by a lifetime of endeavor and accomplishment. The marlin is his work and the sharks are the critics, savaging away at his work. Manolin is both his lost youth and the child inside him who is the one critic who matters, who believes in him, who loves him no matter what comes, for it is only he who has witnessed fully his suffering in pursuit of the perfection of his art.


message 37: by Bhavye (last edited Feb 14, 2013 03:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bhavye Aggarwal Old man the sea is a book which appeals more so because of its artistic writing , Hemingway has written it in a manner that his words asks a lot of questions to its reader.
every reader can derive his own meaning from the words, that is the magic Hemingway has created.

he has put in a lot in very little.!


Feliks I always recalled the 'lions on the beach' being a symbol of flagging manhood; being the symbol talked about most over the years.


Wylee worst classic ever , no action


message 40: by Rand (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rand Feliks wrote: "I always recalled the 'lions on the beach' being a symbol of flagging manhood; being the symbol talked about most over the years."

The Lions on the Beach were an allusion to Hemingway's novel The Green Hills of Africa, which was about his time on safari in his youth. So, yeah.


Göktuğ Demiralp The novel is not a novel of Tragedy, for it to be a tragedy genre the hero must die. The genre is an epic genre, because it adheres to the characteristics of a typical epic genre. For example the hero sets himself on a quest to catch a fish, females hinder the hero as it is seen the boys mother intervenes in the boy setting out on the ship and many more examples could be given. The reason why I like this book so much is that Hemingway's use of symbolism is extraordinary. Especially in the end of the novel, when the old man carries the mast like Jesus up the hill when he was supposedly crucified. He returns to his home lying on his bed with his arm out representing the crucifixion and palm facing up with the cuts on his hand symbolising Jesus hands that have been nailed to the cross. Really short but sweet moving novel.


Marius Pontmercy Yeah, well, when I sleep, I also often sleep with arms out and palms facing up. Am I a Christ figure too now?

Seems like any character that goes through any suffering or self sacrifice is a Christ figure in the eyes of some. It's ridiculous.


message 43: by Göktuğ (last edited Jun 07, 2013 07:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Göktuğ Demiralp its a novel get over it. I get what your getting at, no other human can compare to the noble character of Jesus, but this is how Hemingway chose to write the novel. We are just critically evaluating it, don't shoot the messenger.


message 44: by jyh (new) - rated it 3 stars

jyh I read this book just recently, then this thread, and I was thinking about the Christ-symbol scuff-up above me. I agree that the Christ-symbol is a pretty easy target. For it to hold any critical weight, the one pointing it out would have to say what the meaning of Christ himself is, either as real person or mythic invention. Right? The breadth of possible meanings and interpretations of the Christian Gospel's prime mover would make the superficiality of such basic comparisons obvious. Are we to think that Hemingway thought of the Old Man as Christ, or vice versa? Is it salvation, or mere suffering at play here? Is the Old Man's divinity in dispute? Are the only similarities their wounds and death? Maybe we are meant to compare the Old Man to Christ and see the disparity.

Hey, maybe the fish is the real Christ-symbol, and the Old Man is the imitator.


Anthony Land

I would suggest that once a work of fiction is in the hands of a reader, the author is no longer a factor in defining its meaning.

The meaning, at that point, becomes a product of the unique gestalt formed by the contents of the book and the intellect, experience and psychological and emotional character of each reader.

To interview or posthumously psychoanalyze the author in order to get at THE meaning is a bootless errand. At best, you would gain some insight into what the author intended to convey, overtly or symbolically, to the reader he or she imagined. Dostoevsky did not write The Brothers Karamazov with a 21st Century American reader in mind.

Thus a tipsy discussion of a book's meaning is a perfectly valid exercise because 1.) there is no such thing as THE meaning and 2.) it's fun.




message 46: by jyh (new) - rated it 3 stars

jyh Anthony wrote: "I would suggest that once a work of fiction is in the hands of a reader, the author is no longer a factor in defining its meaning. The meaning, at that point, becomes a product of the unique gestalt..."

If you believe that momentary transitive productions of meaning 'exist,' you might as well believe that original intended meaning continues to 'exist.'


Anthony Land J.,
If I understand your comment correctly, you are saying that the author's original concept and symbolism remains an unaltered substrate to the interpretations visited on it by its individual readers. I concur. My point was simply that the reader's unique interpretation of that objective content frustrates any effort to determine an objective meaning, valid for all readers for all time.


message 48: by jyh (new) - rated it 3 stars

jyh Okay, well, it's probably just a matter of the way you phrased it:
"The meaning, at that point, becomes a product of the unique gestalt formed by the contents of the book and the intellect, experience and psychological and emotional character of each reader."
Specifically the "at that point" part, as though the meaning once was one thing, and then that meaning itself morphed into something else. So I was saying that, while the interpretation and intended meaning may never be totally flush with each other, the original meaning "exists" just as much as an abstract, impermanent interpretation does, and it exists during and after that interpretation.
You say you concur, and I have no reason to doubt you; but perhaps you can see why, at first, I thought you might not.


Monty J Heying Anthony wrote: "I would suggest that once a work of fiction is in the hands of a reader, the author is no longer a factor in defining its meaning.The meaning, at that point, becomes a product of the unique gestalt..."

Very well put.

I believe Hemingway meant what he said about there being no self-intended symbolism in his marlin catching story. But I also believe that there was plenty of unintended symbolism in the work.

The unconscious deals in symbols, as anyone who has studied dream theory knows. And the unconscious is a primary resource for writers. I often don't know the meaning of a story I've written until someone else has read it and given me feedback. It's fascinating.


message 50: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Stephens Jason wrote: "Has anyone looked into what Hemingway said about this book: "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 shark are all sha..."

He trusted his readers to find their own symbolism, if any.


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