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.
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.