Old Man and the Sea

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“The common man is a potential subject for tragedy, [but] the one thing a tragic protagonist cannot be is common” (Arthur Miller). In the novella “The Old Man and the Sea”, written by Ernest Hemmingway, we are introduced to a character, Santiago, who one could consider to be even lower than the common man. He is a lowly fisherman who has found himself out of luck. With that in mind, how could one ever confuse Santiago with being a tragic hero? A tragic hero is normally of noble status and heart and has a flaw that leads him to a downfall that will test and wound him both mentally and physically. Although Santiago is not of noble birth, he has a noble spirit, and a seemingly harmless flaw that ultimately leads him towards his fate. The main characteristic of a tragic hero is his hamartia, usually an over-inflated ego or a stubborn sense of pride. That being said, Santiago seems to be missing the key trait of a tragic hero, seeing as “…he had attained humility… and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride” (page 14). Furthermore, Hemingway gives the impression that Santiago is at peace with himself- one might even venture to say that Santiago is flawless. It is almost as if he has gone through a catharsis from having seen and experienced his own life’s tragedy; his soul being cleansed thus making him simple, hopeful, and benevolent. However, it is this purity and benevolence that is his tragic flaw. His head is full of thoughts that tell him: “tomorrow is going to be a good day with this current” (page 14) which in turn instills him with a naïve hope that “eighty- five is a lucky number… tomorrow is the eighty- fifth day” (page 16-17). The old man has an unshakable ambition that will not allow him to open his eyes to the reality of his situation: he has not caught a fish in 85 days and is simply surviving off the generosity of a boy. His incessant ignorance brings him the simplest form of bliss. However, it will ultimately be the cause of...
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