The Old Man and the Sea

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The Sharks Symbol Analysis

The Sharks Symbol Icon
Scavengers and little more than swimming appetites, the sharks are Santiago's fiercest antagonists. Although Santiago manages to kill most of them, they tear apart the marlin's body and leave Santiago devastated. While the marlin is portrayed as both an adversary and a noble companion to Santiago, the sharks are portrayed as purely vicious. The shovel-nosed sharks can also be seen as symbolizing the destructive forces of nature and of the people of Jerusalem, whose petty jealousies and rivalries led to the crucifixion of Jesus. Some have even argued that the sharks symbolize literary critics, whom Hemingway saw as "feasting" on the creations of true artists without actually creating anything themselves.
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The Sharks Symbol Timeline in The Old Man and the Sea

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Sharks appears in The Old Man and the Sea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Day Three
Man and Nature Theme Icon
...and beasts." For a moment, Santiago wishes that he were the marlin. That is, unless sharks were to come. If the sharks come, Santiago thinks, both he and the marlin would... (full context)
Day Four
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
An hour after Santiago killed the marlin, a big Mako shark appears, having caught the scent of the marlin's blood. As the shark bites the dead... (full context)
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
The shark's bite took a 40-pound hunk of flesh from the marlin. More blood now pours from... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
...a sin to kill something you love. He feels no guilt, however, for killing the shark, because he acted in self-defense. It occurs to him that "everything kills everything else in... (full context)
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Man and Nature Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Santiago leans over, strips off a piece of the marlin from where the shark bit it, and eats it. The meat is of the highest quality and would have... (full context)
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Two hours later, two shovel-nosed sharks approach. When he sees them, Santiago makes a noise that the narrator describes as a... (full context)
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Santiago kills the sharks using a knife that he's lashed to an oar, but not before the sharks have... (full context)
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
A lone shovel-nose shark attacks. Santiago kills it with his knife, but loses the knife in the process. Two... (full context)
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
...He again apologizes to the marlin for killing it, and promises to fight off the sharks even if it kills him. Around 10 pm, he sees the glow of the harbor. (full context)
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Around midnight, a pack of sharks attacks the skiff. Santiago uses all his strength to fight them off with his oar... (full context)
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
Man and Nature Theme Icon
Santiago spits blood into the water and tells the sharks to dream that they ate a man. He checks his skiff, and sees that only... (full context)