The Symbolic Meaning of the Killing of the Marlin in Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea"
On a symbolic level, the killing of the giant marlin means attaining one’s goal in life, a goal that may be very distant and the way to which is fraught with many hardship, obstacles, and dangers. The journey towards the goal causes the way farer, much distress and much pain. However, the quest is a noble one, and the seeker after the prize is fired by a mighty purpose. The lacerated hands symbolize the rebuffs that a man suffers in the course of his efforts to attain his ambition, while the prolonged resistance of the marlin shows that gaining a high objective is not an easy task. The old man wins a victory over the marlin by means of “resolution” (will power and persistence) and “tricks” (technique and strategy), and these are the means that any man must adopt in order to attain any high objective.