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Literary Essay - the Old Man a

Oct 08, 1999 569 Words
Literary Essay
The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway ties together a story about a fisherman trying to catch a fish and a deeper story about a man attempting to prove to society that he is not useless. This novella is an example of Man’s struggle to maintain dignity in the face of adversity. The old fisherman (Santiago) could have easily given up against the giant 18 foot marlin, but he could not stand going home one more day being looked at as an aging failure by his friend and the other fishermen in the village.

Ernest Hemingway relates this novella to himself and his life. Throughout this story, the old man cannot accept the fact that he is getting old and that he is slowly losing his strength. Hemingway in reality was having the same problems. He was getting old, and things he once did, he no longer could do. Just as Hemingway could not accept that fact, neither could his character, Santiago. Santiago was having some inner conflict while trying to catch the marlin. On several occasions, Santiago would try to talk himself out of his pain; "I must hold his pain where it is, he thought. Mine does not matter. I can control mine. But his pain will drive him mad." This pain Santiago was enduring was part of his struggle to maintain some dignity. Most importantly, Santiago (and Hemingway) could not give up.

When Santiago finally catches the Marlin, he is proud of himself. He is looking forward to showing the boy and the other fishermen that he is still strong. When the sharks attack the fish, it is the same as the Sharks attacking his dignity. This is mostly why an elderly man, armed only with crude weapons would fight many Sharks. As the Sharks tear apart the marlin bit by bit, it is as they are tearing apart his dignity bit by bit. That is why Santiago could not stand to look at the grisly remains of the marlin. Everything he worked for, everything he gambled his life for, everything he endured pain for was going down to deep depths in the sea in the mouths of the sharks he so furiously killed.

To Hemingway, the dignity of a man should be so important to that man, that he is willing to die for it. Most likely that is the reason Santiago went deep into that sea, following the Marlin, tearing the skin off his hands as he held on to that line. This is also why Santiago risked his life catching a marlin that could easily turn his boat over. Finally, Santiago found the courage to fight off sharks to protect his dignity. If a man will not risk his life for his dignity, then what is in that life to live for?

The Old Man and the Sea deciphers man’s constant battle with maintaining the right to keep his head up high. The old man, caught the Marlin after days of hard work. He was willing to die to protect his catch. When he returned, he had not lost because he came back with what he set out for: a marlin. He had done everything a person possibly could have. That earned him the respect from the others and the dignity for himself that he so badly wanted.

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