John F. Kennedy once said, “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.” This quote notably resembles the protagonist, Santiago, in Ernest Hemingway’s, The Old Man and the Sea. Santiago is very much tied to the ocean. Fishing is his life and means of survival. After a long period of bad luck and fishless fishing trips, Santiago lost his assistant and best friend, Manolin. To redeem himself, Santiago sails farther out to sea than the other fishermen are willing and hooks the mother load of marlin. The only obstacle standing between Santiago and the admiration of the fishermen who mock him is the fish itself. The marlin and Santiago are equally determined to defeat the other, thus an all-out battle of wit and strength takes place between the two. This novella ties together the story of a fisherman trying to reel in the catch of his life and the inner struggle of a man attempting to prove to society that he is still as capable in his old age as he was in his youth. Presented within Hemingway’s story is the theme that there can be triumph in spite of loss.
The Old Man and the Sea led to numerous awards for Hemingway, including the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The story’s protagonist is Santiago who has gone eighty four days without catching a fish. For the first forty, his assistant, Manolin, aided the old man. After the boy’s parents conclude that Santiago is the worst kind of unlucky, Manolin is forced to leave Santiago and work on a boat that catches fish. With some bait from the boy, Santiago sets out on a quest to regain his former social status among the village. He decides to sail farther out in sea than the other fishermen in hopes that his glorifying catch is waiting for him. Sure enough, a marlin bigger than the old man’s skiff takes Santiago’s bait. The book from this point on is Santiago’s struggle to reel the fish in. More often than not, Santiago sympathizes the marlin. He knows that no one is worthy of eating the flesh of a creature as proud and dignified as his brother at the other end of the line, but the old man still feels that he must kill the fish. This is made apparent when Hemingway writes, “Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. How many people will he feed, he thought. But are they worthy to eat him? No, of course not. There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behaviour and his great dignity,” (Hemingway, 5). For two days and two nights the old man and the marlin wrestled each other. Through torn hands and sleep deprivation, Santiago finally gets his opportunity to end the battle. With a harpoon to the heart, the old man conclusively defeated the marlin. On his way back to shore, he starts realizing the mistake he had made by sailing out too far in the sea. Little by little, his prized catch is destroyed by sharks. He chides himself for being rash and apologizes to the marlin for wasting its life. Santiago realizes that a man can be destroyed but not defeated through the fish, who had lost the battle yet maintained its nobility. If one takes anything away from this novella, it should be that through loss, one can still achieve greatness.
The major theme conveyed in Hemingway’s novella, The Old Man and the Sea is that fulfillment can be attained despite misfortune. Bad luck stalked the old man since the first paragraph. His livelihood was his ability to catch fish and he had not even done that in 84 days. Before this recent stint of adversity, there was a period of 87 days where the old man was, again, unable to catch any fish. Due to his affliction, his assistant’s parents deemed Santiago, “salao” which is as unlucky as one can get. This is explained when Hemingway writes, “But after forty days without a fish, the boy's parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally...
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