Old Man and the Sea

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The Journey from Illusion to Disillusion in Hemingway's Old Man and The Sea

In our world today we are constantly bombarded with messages of illusion and falsity, however the states in which people travel through their lives differ. Some people are suspended in a state of illusion for all their lives, only realizing their potential on their deathbed. Others have their illusions stolen from them as a child and are brought up in a world without magic and fanciful ideas. For most, we discover this passage from illusion to disillusion at a time in our lives when we need it most. Quite simply, one cannot lead a happy and productive adult life when one is oblivious to the truths of this world. This does not mean, however, that the perfect life is one free from illusions, hopes and dreams. Ideally through the process of disillusionment one will learn the importance of their dreams and hold on to the ones that make them most productive. In Hemingway's novel, The Old Man and The Sea, the main character Santiago needs this rite of passage to define and seal his destiny, and to truly understand and believe in himself. It is through this journey that he establishes limits and boundaries on the illusions he holds onto ritualistically, and yet opens himself up to the larger possibilities of life at the same time. He goes through very obvious and specific stages in his struggle, in a world of illusion, through the sacrifice and pain of the journey and into disillusionment.

Santiago is a proud man, and the world of illusion which captivates him is the only thing that keeps him going, day after day. Sadly, Santiago does not truly have confidence in himself. He attributes much of his success and failure to luck: "‘Eighty-five is a lucky number,' the old man said. ‘How would you like to see me bring one in that dressed out over a thousand pounds?'"(Hemingway, 13). Santiago is so preoccupied by the idea of luck, and it seems to him that all his experiences are based on powers greater than his own. This seems to parallel Hemingway's, own illusions, as Young explains, "... both [Santiago and Hemingway] were given to remarking ‘I am a strange old man.' And both men were preoccupied with their ‘luck' - a kind of magic which people have in them, or do not." Santiago must believe that he is unlucky, as this illusion allows him to continue fishing, continue failing. These illusions, however, do not allow for progress. Santiago is caught in a situation he does not know how to escape from, always looking for his big catch: "‘My big fish must be somewhere'" (32). Santiago must be convinced that he still has it in him to make the catch that he is waiting for, as Young clarifies: "[Manolin tells Santiago], ‘There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.'...[Santiago] musters his confidence: ‘I may not be as strong as I think... But I know many tricks and I have resolution'. Santiago needs these things, for he is still out for the really big fish." Santiago's confidence in himself lies so much in his luck or lack thereof. It is these illusions of himself that create in him a unwillingness to move on and discover new life. It is only in his dreams, yet another illusion, where he can experience the happiness he wants to feel. Illusions keep Santiago constantly waiting, never acting: "It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready" (30). It is this attitude of waiting for luck which brings Santiago to the fish, and his suffering. His life of illusion has finally led him to the passage, the journey into enlightenment.

The Journey is a necessary part of life, before one can reach full potential. It entails great suffering and pain, but will lead to true happiness. Santiago experiences symptoms of pain, suffering, confusion and deeper thought in his struggle with the fish, and with...
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