Old Man and The Sea


In the novel The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway uses the
literary device of metaphors. Hemingway uses the metaphor of the ocean
to symbolize life and to depict the role that individuals play in life.
Hemingway uses the metaphor of the lions to signify people who live
their lives as active participants. The tourists in the novel represent
the individuals, who in observe their lives and are not active
participants. In the novels that Ernest Hemingway writes, he uses
metaphors to reflect his life experiences and opinions. The ocean in
The Old Man and the Sea is a metaphor, which represents

Hemingway's personel view of life. Hemingway believes that in life
everyone must find

their own niche and uses the metaphor of the ocean and the boats on it
to demonstrate


...most of the boats were silent except for the dip of the oars.
They spread apart after they were out of the mouth of the harbour and
each one headed for the part of the ocean where he hoped to find fish.
The old man knew he was going far out...1(page 22)

Hemingway feels that in life there are people who participate in life
and people who

observe life as it passes just like on the ocean where there are boats
that do not test their

boundaries. The boats are the people in life, and most of the boats are
silent. They paddle

within the areas they know to be safe and always are cautious not to
upset the life that

they have established for themselves. Hemingway is explaining that most
people don't

raise a commotion, they just allow life to happen to them. The old man
is testing his

limits, he is challenging the ocean, and rowing where he wants to go,
not where the ocean

wants to take him. Hemingway believes that in life, the farther a
person stays from the

observers, the more free and exhilarated they will be.

If there is a hurricane, you always see the signs of it in the sky for
days ahead, if you are at sea. They do not see it ashore because they
do not know what to look for, he thought. The land must make a
difference too, in the shape of the clouds. But we have no hurricane
coming now.2(page 51)

Hemingway theorizes that in life there are going to be unexpected
collisions. Just as the

sea creates storms life creates storms. Those who live life to the
fullest will be the least

affected by these storms because they have the strength and the
knowledge to handle

them, but the observers or those on land will be destroyed because they
do not have the

power to handle the destruction that the storms will cause. The
individuals who are far

out to sea have the knowledge that the ocean will test them with
momentous storms, and

this is why they go so far out to sea. The people who Hemingway thinks
face life head-

on are represented by lions in the novel.

 Hemingway uses the metaphor of the lion to depict the
 participants in life.

When Santiago is a child he visits Africa, and tells Manolin of the
lions he sees. "When I

was your age I was before the mast on a square-rigged ship and that
ship ran to Africa

and I have seen lions on the beaches in the evening."3(page 17)
Hemingway uses the

lions on the beach as a metaphor, because most lions would never be
found on a beach.

The only lions that would ever be found on a beach are the lions who
are equivalent to

the humans who are participants. The lions on the beach are going where
most lions

would never dare go. These lions are testing their boundaries, seeing
just how far they

can go, just like participants. This line also hints at Hemingway's
belief that age

impairs, but does not extinguish one's ability to be participants in
their own lives.

Santiago realizes that all of his glories were in his youth, and
strongly relates the power

that the lions in his dreams have to his youth.

 He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great
 occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of
strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the
lions on the beach. The played like young cats in the dusk and he loved
them as he loved the boy. He never dreamed about the boy.4(page 19)

Santiago is slowly losing his ability to be an effective participant in
his life because of the

limitations that are associated with aging. Hemingway also experiences

that he has never known and which brings him into a depression.
Santiago is beginning

to believe that he is not a participant in his life so he doesn't
depress himself by

dreaming of anything other than the lions, who are participants. In his
dreams, Santiago is

living vicariously through the lions. The lions represent all that
Hemingway ever was,

and what he wishes he still could be. The tourists in the novel are
metaphors for what

Hemingway isn't.

 The tourists are metaphors for the people Hemingway believes
 live their lives as

passive observers. The tourists appear only briefly but the statement
that Hemingway

makes through them is profound.

 That afternoon there was a party of tourist at the Terrace and
looking down in the water among the empty beer cans and dead barracudas
a woman saw a great long white spine with a huge tail at the end that
lifted and swung with the tide while the east wind blew a heavy steady
sea outside the entrance to the harbor. 'What's that?' she asked a
waiter and pointed to the long backbone of the great fish that was just
now garbage waiting to go out with the tide. 'Tiburon,' the waiter
said, 'Eshark.' He was meaning to explain what dare grapple happened.
'I didn't know sharks had such handsome tails.' 'I didn't either,' her
male companion said.5(page 109)

These two tourists who speak are hardly differentiated from the group
to which they

belong. They are all metaphors for individuals who are spectators of
the human scene

rather than participants in its activity. They see, but they see
without fully

comprehending. They are only faintly curious, only passingly
interested, only

superficially observing, they have not been initiated into the
mysteries that Santiago understands. These tourists live their lives as
tourists, skimming the surface of life, without resolution or clarity.
Their life reflects that of all people who live their lives ashore, who
dare not grapple with the mysteries of the ocean, or of life. This is
the type of life that Hemingway always tried to avoid, to the point of
his taking his own life. Hemingway uses metaphors to reflect his
opinions of life and the people that he has met in life. The metaphor
of the sea symbolizes all of life and the roles that people must choose
to have in life. The lions are a metaphor for the people Hemingway

respects and the type of person Hemingway is. The tourists are a
metaphor for the

individuals who choose to live their life as onlookers but never
participants. Through

Hemingway's use of penetrating metaphors in his novels, readers gain an

of Hemingway's life and or their own. Through his novels Hemingway

every member of society to admit that most people are observers and
through his novels

dares them to head out to sea and catch their marlin.


Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. Triad Grafton. London. 1976

*All subsequent entries are from this source*


1Ernest Hemingway. The Old Man and the Sea. Triad Grafton. London. 1976

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