photo by Christin
“‘The fish is my friend too,’ he said aloud.
‘I have never seen or heard of such a fish.
But I must kill him. I’m glad we do not
have to kill the stars.'”
– Santiago, the old man
from Ernest Hemingway’s novel,
The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man follows the North Star that hovers eternally above the
sword at the top of the tower wall at Wizard Academy. (It really does.)
When he arrives at the tower, he is 14 feet below the waterline.
In essence, he is walking from one sea into another as though he is
crossing a small island. The ‘underwater’ door leads into the art gallery,
On our campus, water – or the idea of water, as is represented by the sea from which Santiago is dragging the skeleton of his marlin – symbolizes the unconscious mind. According to Carl Jung, life is a journey on water: we live mostly above the waterline, in the sunshine, air and scenery of the conscious mind. Below the waterline is a wordless universe where we feel weightless and time stands still. It’s truly a different world down there. And there be monsters in the deep.
In Jungian depth psychology, our relationship to the unconscious mind is identical to our relationship to water: we need it by the cupful to survive, but if we stay under too long we’ll drown, (a psychotic break.) But brief plunges into the world of the unconscious are refreshing: paintings and music, poetry and dance, sculpture and theater and all the other symbolic arts are like frolics in the sea on a hot summer day.
So here is my question: In Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, Santiago pulls up a magnificent fish from the deep and
1. wrestles with it for 3 days and 3 nights, during which time he
2. wins the fish,
3. lashes it to the side of his boat because it’s too big to pull inside and
4. then sharks eat it up before he can get back to shore.
So what does the marlin represent, what do the sharks represent, and why do people react so strongly to this story that Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for it? (Technically, the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded for a body of work, but most commentators agree that it was The Old Man and the Sea that won it for Hemingway.)
I’m not saying I know the answer, but The Old Man and the Sea speaks to something universal within us. What do you think that is? And what do each of those characters symbolize? If you want to share your answers, send them to Daniel@WizardAcademy.org and he’ll pass them on to me.