Hemingway's Allusions of Jesus
Many times, stories by Ernest Hemingway have much religious
influence and symbolism. In The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway,
numerous occurrences in the life of Santiago the fisherman are similar to
the incidents recorded in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The names of the
characters translated from Spanish to English are just one of those many
The characters in The Old Man and the Sea are in actuality, major
figures in the New Testament. Santiago is an old man, yet he had young
eyes. No matter how defeated he was, he would never show it and he would
look on the brighter side of things. In my mind, these traits make
Santiago a god-like figure.
Manolin, which translates into Messiah, is Jesus (Stoltzfus qtd in
CLC 13:280). Santiago is the "father" who teaches his symbolic son and
disciple, Manolin. After catching the largest marlin, Manolin will leave
his parents in order to follow the teachings of Santiago, his master, just
as Jesus did (Stoltzfus qtd in CLC 13:280).
Pedrico is actually Saint Peter, Jesus' closest apostle and a
great fisherman (Wilson 50). Peter helped Jesus fish for souls as Pedrico
helped Manolin fish for food. Santiago gives Pedrico the head of the
mutilated marlin which symbolizes Saint Peter as head of the Christian
church and the first Pope (Stoltzfus CLC 280).
In the story, there are many references to the crucifixion of
Jesus. Santiago's badly injured hands evoke
the hands of the crucified Jesus and three other situations reinforce this
theory (Brenner, The Old Man and the Sea, Story of a Common Man 37).
First, Santiago's marlin is approached by a pair of shovel nosed sharks.
"Ay', he said out loud." (Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea 107) There
is no meaning of "Ay", but perhaps it is the sound a man makes as his
hands are nailed to wood (Brenner, The Old Man and the Sea, Story of a
Common Man 38).
Next, once back on shore, Santiago climbs the hill to his shack,
with the mast on his shoulder, falling several times (Hemingway, The Old
Man and the Sea 121). This is an obvious reference to Christ's struggle
to carry the cross up the hill Cavalry (Crossan, The Historical Jesus
Also, when Santiago makes his way into his shack and collapses
into his bed with "his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up."
(Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea 122) This is the same way Jesus was
positioned on the wooden cross.
Finally, Santiago had hooked a fish. It was a Friday, symbolic of
Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. The hook went into and through
the mouth of the fish, just as the nail went through the hand of Jesus.
On the second day, the old man anxiously awaited the rising of the fish to
the top of the water. Santiago said ten Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers.
On the second day after the death of Jesus, his followers awaited his
resurrection and prayed. On the third day, the fish rose and the old man
speared and killed him. This day refers to Easter Sunday when Jesus rose
from the dead, and then ascended to heaven.
Therefore, the incidents that occurred in the life of Santiago
were very similar to the occurrences in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Ernest Hemingway decided to construct his story to reflect upon the life
of Jesus but did not make this too obvious to the reader. There are many
references to the crucifixion of Jesus. This shows that the old man and
Jesus suffered in many of the same ways. They were both fishermen. The
old man was the fisherman of fish and Jesus was the fisherman of souls.