Many people would overlook the sharks when thinking about the symbols in The Old Man and the Sea. The sharks first come to attack the marlin that the old man caught because it was bleeding and they could smell the blood (Hemingway 107).
figured that the sharks would be coming at some point, so he tried to prepare for them. When the sharks first came and started attacking the marlin, Santiago used all of his might to try to kill them. As more and more sharks came up to the boat, the old man started to get tired. He was running out of supplies and ways to kill the sharks. Some of the sharks were harder to kill because of their position near the boat. The old man knew that striking the sharks in on the very tip of the head, close to the eyes, would rupture the skull and they would die (Hemingway 111). Santiago
I believe that the sharks in the story represent struggle and obstacles of life. The old man worked very hard to catch the marlin and when the sharks attacked it, he was devastated. He was mostly devastated because he had worked so hard to catch the marlin in the first place and bring him into the dock. The sharks were just another obstacle in life that the old man had to face. Even though sharks are dangerous and they were very hungry, the old man put all of his effort and all of his strength into killing the sharks. As the great marlin had less and less meat on him, the old man lost a lot of his hope. The sharks were the cause of his great loss of hope. Santiago greatly wished he could make it back to land and the sharks would not continue to follow. Every time a shark attacked, the fish bled more, which attracted more sharks. The old man overcame the sharks though, which also shows how people can overcome obstacles in their life. The sharks were a hidden meaning in the story because even though they were represented as evil, the old man built up an inner strength and defeated them in the end, just like we can do in our lives.
As I stated in my blog about the marlin, the fight with the marlin was a symbol for Santiago's fight for pride in his village. The sharks also serve as a symbol. I believe that they could represent the villagers in Santiago's town. Santiago talked in the beginning of the book about how the villagers thought lowly of him. They believed that he was unlucky, and Santiago started to believe it too. They did not believe he could catch anything anymore. When the sharks came, they threatened to crush Santiago's dream, just like the villagers did. They also threatened the fish's dream of escape. So, the sharks could basically symbolize the people in life who try to bring you down. They are the people you need to fight to overcome, just like Santiago tried to.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Scribner, 1952. Print.