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“Old Man and the Sea” Analysis

Updated April 25, 2022
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“Old Man and the Sea” Analysis essay

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Ernest Hemingway(1899-1961), was an American novelist, journalist and short-story writer. He authored many popular books such as For Whom the Bell Tolls(1940), The Sun Also Rises(1926), The Snows of Kilimanjaro(1936). However, the book that made him famous worldwide is The Old Man and the Sea(1952), which he wrote during his stay in Cuba and got a Pulitzer award. On the first impression, Hemingway’s novel “Old Man and the Sea” seems like another fisherman’s tale where eyes are on the prize. However, diving deeper into the story shows the author’s presentation of his perfect man in shoes of Santiago, the old Cuban fisher. Despite life deteriorating him, Santiago’s quenchless spirit stood unbeaten with his head held high. Hemingway in Santiago portrays a man who anthropomorphizes best human qualities: faith, honour and endurance.

Description of Santiago’s physical appearance shows how life on the boat has taken its toll on his looks. “The old man was thin and with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck.”(Hemingway 9) His exposure to the sun also got him a form of skin cancer, described in following sentences: “The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords.”(Hemingway 10) Yet, there was one thing about him that the sun didn’t damage. ‘Everything about him was old except his eyes, and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.”(Hemingway 10) Any problem is easier to handle if it’s split in two. Cuban adolescent boy Manolin was Santiago’s only human friend. Young Manolin looked up to Santiago as a teacher and life mentor. Their relationship, although primarily being teacher-student, is also a true friendship. Manolin would help him around the boat, get him the coffee; they even had dinners together when they would talk about baseball. Moreover, their moral values go further than pure materialism. Manolin’s father and other fishers put money first; if the fisherman doesn’t catch fish, he has no money, whereas Manolin value him as the wise and noble person he is. The boy is although very young, very caring for the Santiago, ”You’ll not fish without eating while I’m alive.”(Hemingway 27)

In the boy, Santiago saw the younger picture of himself, possessing the same qualities he has. Hemingway described their friendship very simple, “the old man and had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him.'(Hemingway 21) When faced with fear or dire circumstances, faith prevails to reach the goals one aspires to achieve. After eighty-four days without catching fish, Santiago has got the name “salao” in his village, which in fisherman’s context means the worst form of unluckiness. Because of his hapless streak, his young apprentice Manolin wasn’t allowed to sail with him on his fishing adventures. Although alone, Santiago has never lost faith. Several times in the novel, the fisherman prays and promises to say hundreds of Hail Marys and Our Fathers; however, his faith is not in God, but himself. In times where everyone would give up, Santiago would keep fishing. Nonetheless, he gathers his confidence from his idol, baseball legend “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio. Yankees’ icon inspires Santiago to go forward and overcome adversities. There was a story about Joe DiMaggio who conquered the pain when he had a heel spur and continued to play. In many occasions, Santiago compares himself to baseball legend: they both had fathers who were fishermen, they would both put in the last atom of their effort despite the physical pain and most importantly they both try their best to do their job no matter the challenges are. Joe DiMaggio symbolizes persistence and competitiveness of Santiago and his motivation to get up every morning to fish, even when he comes back empty-handed. Santiago’s honour remains unquenchable, no matter the pain. Even in the toughest moments of his life, Santiago remains proud. At some point, he was saying that he will eat his catch at home, knowing he caught nothing that day; preferring hunger rather than chagrin. In his battle with marlin, fisherman respects fish for its strength and tenacity.

However, he believes he can outlast the fish because he is smarter; he says, “If I were him I would put in everything now and go until something broke. But, thank God, they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able.”(Hemingway 52). Santiago acknowledges the physical strength of marlin; nonetheless, he knows that the fish doesn’t possess the intelligence to overwhelm him. Furthermore, during the adventure of catching the big marlin, Santiago forms the bond with his “dance partner”. The author depicts the marlin as a strong, determined and righteous being. Hemingway, furthermore, uses Santiago’s respect to fish to form an opinion that fish is beyond humans’ virtue, endurance and power. Finally, Santiago sees the marlin as a worthy opponent to him, which he would be okay dying to if needed. To man, pain must not be the breaking point; it is an obstacle he has to endure through. Hemingway presented the Santiago not only as a physically durable person but as a mentally strong human being. Following his unlucky streak without caught fish, many would give up. But not Santiago; he tries again and again because he finds fishing his purpose the thing he can’t live without. Additionally, his young assistant Manolin reminds him that his streak doesn’t happen the first time and that it will pass, saying, “But remember how you went eighty-seven days without fish and then we caught big ones every day for three weeks.”(Hemingway 21)

On the other hand, Hemingway has shown the lack of will and endurance within characters presented as Manolin’s parents. After 40 days without fish, the boy’s dad moved him to another fishing boat since Santiago’s was “unlucky” and that he will have more success on the other boat. Despite the fact he was moved out, the boy continued helping the old man around fishing whenever he could. Spiritual endurance of Santiago wasn’t the only thing put to the test. Throughout his battle with the marlin, the fisherman had fishing line held against his back, causing the irritation and pain. Among the continuous discomfort, Santiago has suffered several injuries, the most noticeable one being his left hand cramped, making it look like a claw, “I hate a cramp, he thought. It is a treachery of one’s own body. It is humiliating before others to have a diarrhoea from ptomaine poisoning or to vomit from it. But a cramp, he thought of it as a calambre, humiliates oneself especially when one is alone.”(Hemingway 51) In his final battle with marlin, the old fisherman is pushed to his boundaries, to the point he was worried about would he make it out alive. But, he survives the battle and kills the fish, accomplishing the goal he set himself up, even though the sharks took the fish from him moments after.

To summarize, Hemingway was successful in presenting the protagonist of his novel Old Man and the Sea, Santiago, as a personification of honour, faith and endurance. Although facing the adversity alone, the fisherman was persistent and never gave up on his goal. Santiago’s battle with the marlin presents our everyday struggles and problems: college and financial aids, poverty, fitness, addictions, bullying and many more. The author wants everyone to find their inner Santiago, to face all the obstacles and beat them, or at least try to beat them; because there is no shame in losing the battle, but in avoiding the one.

“Old Man and the Sea” Analysis essay

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“Old Man and the Sea” Analysis. (2022, Apr 25). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/old-man-and-the-sea-analysis/

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