6 June 2007
The Representation of Individuality in The Old Man and the Sea
As David Banach once explained in a lecture based on the Existentialist’s view, “The modern conception of man is characterized, more than anything else, by individualism. Existentialism can be seen as a rigorous attempt to work out of the implications of this individualism” (Taylor 52). The Existentialist conceptions of freedom and value arise from their view of the individual. Sartre’s existentialism explains “existence is self-making-in-a-situation” (Fackenheim 130) which outlines that one’s identity is not shaped by culture or by nature, but to “exist” is exactly what forms such an identity. Since we are all ultimately alone, like isolated islands of subjectivity in an objective world, we have absolute freedom over our internal nature, and the source of out value can only be internal. Santiago’s pride in the novel The Old Man and the Sea is what enables him to endure, and it is perhaps endurance that matters most in Hemingway’s conception of the world- a world in which death and destruction, as part of the natural order of things, are unavoidable. But through Santiago’s conquering of his inner struggles, he is able to decide his beliefs and values to construct his future; which enables him to achieve his most true and complete self. Ernest Hemingway portrays his character’s journey as not of one man and his struggle, but of Man and his struggle. The theory of existentialism is developed in the novel through the focus of the mood, the character’s inner and physical struggles, and through the inner them that is presented though the connection between the mood and the character’s respect and dignity with nature.
Dominate impression is portrayed throughout the many philosophical moments of Santiago has while pursuing the Marlin highlighted by his struggles and reflections. He proves his worthiness by combating with the fish, but then contemplates his and the fish’s actions through praise. He exemplifies hypocrisy in moral consciousness to create a sense of individuality in a world where he is alienated from a dimension of his being: who he is in an objective sense can only be revealed through others. The compassion is evidently not just emotionalism. It is based upon a genuine sense of brotherhood, in which begins to be seen clearly as soon as the old man begins his voyage. Throughout his journey, he must pursue and the fish must evade his pursuer. Santiago will kill the marlin, but that does not diminish his love or his respect for it. “Fish,” he said, “I love out and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before the day ends” (Hemingway, 62). This compassion reinforces the principle of the theory that we have no predetermined nature or essence that controls what is valuable to us. For all of Santiago’s life, fishing has been what is most valuable to him and expresses this through his belief that everything in the universe, from an existential prospective, “the world includes other people, and as a consequence I am not merely the revealer of the world but something revealed in the projects of those others” (Sartre 250). A small bird came toward the skiff from the north. He was a warbler and flying very low over the water. The old man could see that he was very tired […] Stay at my house of you like, bird,’ he said. ‘I am sorry I cannot hoist the said and take you in with the small breeze that is rising. But I am with a friend (Hemingway, 54-55).
Here, Santiago accepts the small bird as part of the universe, viewing its struggle for survival as being no less significant than his own. Man, bird and fish are alike in having to take their
chances. Therefore, there is no scorn for the bird in its fragility, nor is there unfeeling indifference. Santiago and the bird are part of the brotherhood of all creation, and the fisherman accepts that bond with naturalness,...