In the novel The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway creates a story full of adventures and endurance in which an old fisherman, Santiago, is the principal character. This novel contains a specific plot which guides us throughout his journey. Likewise, Hemingway provides a well-detailed setting and characterization description that transmit us all the environmental circumstances and feelings within the story, as well within the characters. The themes used in this novel are related to the love of nature, the nobility in times of suffering, and self-fulfillment.
Hemingway introduces the story by giving Santiago’s situation; he has not caught a fish for 84 days. At the same time, he brings in a young boy named Manolin who keeps a special company and friendship with the old man. The old man is out of luck, but it seems not to bother the boy who treats Santiago like a father. Because Santiago was “salao,” meaning having bad luck, Manolin’s parents forbid the boy fishing with him. Both the old man and the boy were covered with a lot of sadness. It is not the first time Santiago has had bad luck. He tells Manolin that he once went without catching a fish for eighty-seven days, but his luck changed. He feels hopeful that his luck will soon return again. As the story goes on, Hemingway describes the old man’s faith when Santiago plans to go in a new fishing trip; this time without the boy. Santiago decides to go out to the sea, but he goes far away from the other fisherman and from the shore. He was alone in the open sea, and started to fish. The birds awarded him the presence of fish. He finally hooked a heavy fish, so he thought it would be a huge fish because it pulled him further from the shore and from the Havana lights. Both fish and the old man physically struggle in a never ending story. Finally, he notices that it was a beautiful marlin and neither Santiago nor the fish wanted to give up. He felt sorry for the fish and indeed he considered it his brother. After this even battle between the marlin and the old man, the marlin lastly comes out to the surface. As he got ready to come back to the shore, he fought against sharks that were eating his marlin. He thought he had not killed the marlin for nothing; he defended the fish with all his strengths. But the sharks were powerful, and have destroyed his prize marlin. Lastly, he was in the shore, the entire town was quit, and the backbone of a huge marlin was resting beside Santiago’s skiff.
At the end of the story, Hemingway reflects optimism when the boy supports Santiago and gives him the strength to continue fishing. Despite the old man thought the marlin incident was a sorrowful defeat; the boy comforted him and promised him to wait and go fishing after his wounded hands heal.
Hemingway pictures a characterization description of Santiago in many occasions. The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. He has blotches on his cheeks, they ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. Everything about the old man was old except his eyes; they were the same color as the sea. His eyes also were cheerful and undefeated.
Hemingway also describes him like a noble man whose physical existence is almost over. He has a strong connection with nature because in the dark he could feel the morning coming; he was sorry for the birds specially for the small delicate dark terms that were always flying and looking and almost never finding, and he thought, the birds have a harder life that we do except for the robber birds and the heavy strong ones. He was compassionate and sensitive as he felt sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. He is a stubborn and determinant old man as he fought for two days with the huge marlin, and even thought his hands were hurt he said to the fish that he loves and respect him very much, yet he would kill him dead before the day ends.
Santiago lives in very poor conditions. He lives in an old shack made of tough budshields of the royal palm which are cold guano and in it there was a bed, a table, a chair, and a place on the dirt floor to cook with charcoal. On the brown walls of the flattened, overlapping leaves of the sturdy fibered guano there was a picture in color of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and another of the Virgin of Cobre. These were relics of his wife, once there had been a tinted a photograph of his wife on the wall, but he had taken it down of the wall because it made him too lonely to see it and it was on the shelf in the corner under his cleaned shirts.
Hemingway also gives us a description of the boy. Manolin was a sensitive boy who admires the old man. Manolin’s devotion to the old man highlights as a man and as a fisherman. He demonstrates his love for Santiago openly as he makes sure that the old man has food, blankets, and can rest without being bothered. He became a symbolism of faith and purity to Santiago because he always thought about the boy when he struggles at the sea; he often said “I wish the boy was here.” He is a friend who feels nothing but love and devotion for him. Manolin also demonstrates to be a real human being and a person with conflicts who faces difficult decisions as his father forbid him to go fishing with the old man. The boy abandons his duty to his father, swearing that he will sail with the old man despite of the consequences. He stands as a symbol of uncompromised love and fidelity. As the old man's apprentice, he also represents the life that will follow from death. His dedication to learning from the old man ensures that Santiago will live on.
In my opinion, Hemingway creates a theme related to the love of nature, and the nobility in times of suffering. He gives us an idea of never give up, no matter what the circumstances are, we need to keep going and fighting for our beliefs and goals. As Hemingway writes the story, he wants to leave us a message of self-determination. He puts Santiago as an example of eternal survival against the nature, and at the same time, he experiences the fulfillment of the victory after facing the odds of nature.
In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway uses dialogue to make the story real. I like this way of writing because it puts you in the characters situation and makes you feel what they are feeling. I really enjoyed this book and the lines inside it; the setting he uses like the sea, the beach, the old town, made me feel peaceful and relaxed. At the same time, he develops conflict during the story that made me feel curious and anxious about the end. Hemingway’s writing style is very vivid and precise that in some occasions you would picture yourself in Cojimar, and even though, in Santiago’s little skiff. I like this book because made me think about the value of nature, and about the many thoughts and wisdom that the experience of an old man brings.