Essay Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea
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Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea was written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1952. This is a captivating fiction story about a man named Santiago and his adventure when one day, he goes on a fishing journey to catch the big one. However, this adventure quickly becomes one of pain and suffering when things take a turn for the worse.
The Old Man and the Sea takes in place in Havana, Cuba and the fishing waters off the coast of Havana. The Spanish names, Santiago and Manolin, are typical in Cuba. Cuba is mostly Catholic so this accounted for Santiago's devotion to Jesus Christ. The year seems to be around the 1930's and 1940's because Santiago is a big fan of Joe DiMaggio who played during these…show more content…
He tries to reel it in but he can't. Instead the fish is pulling the boat! He struggles and struggles with the fish for hours. After a while fatigue takes it's toll as his hands clamp up, and his back aches from the line tied around it. The fish surfaces and Santiago realizes that it is longer than the boat he is on! An unexpected jerk leaves a gash in his hand only to add to his pain. After a very long while Santiago shortens the line to harpoon it. He latches the fish to the side of the boat and begind to tow it back to shore triumphant. Then a mako shark approaches and takes a large bite out of the marlin. Santiago kills it with a harpoon. Only later did he realize that the sharks blood would attract more sharks. As more sharks approached Santiago fought with all his might to save his fish but there was too many sharks. By the time he got to shore, he had nothing more than a skeleton. Santiago collapses from exhaustion on the shore but is found by Manolin and calls for help. The community marveled at the size of the skeleton that is still attached to the boat. Manolin takes care of the old man and vows to return to him as an apprentice. Santiago finally gets the repect from his community.
Hemingway wrote this novel in the third person. By writing in the third person, the reader was able to know more information than the protagonist, Santiago, knew. Knowing what might happen to the protagonist without him knowing raised
This short work is deceptively simple on the surface but very puzzling deeper down. It narrates basic events in generally short sentences and with a minimum of figurative language; simultaneously, however, it raises many questions without providing enough evidence for conclusive answers.
Santiago combines pride and humility. He performs heroically, conquers the marlin, but then loses it. Therefore, he is not a triumphant hero returning to his admiring people. Tourists even mistake the marlin’s skeleton for that of a shark; furthermore, it is not preserved but instead waits to be washed back out to sea as “garbage.” Nor does the hero have a heroine to comfort him, his beloved wife being long dead. He has no son to carry on, although he treats Manolin lovingly and often wishes that the boy were with him on this mission. The old fisherman is partially a Christ figure: His wounded hands pain him as though they were nailed to a piece of wood; toward the end, he carries his mast like a cross and stumbles under its weight; and, once home again, he sleeps in a cruciform position with arms out and palms up. Yet, Hemingway disavowed any consciously developed symbolic or allegorical import in this work. Furthermore, Santiago often tries to pray but puts off such attempts and regards himself as an unsatisfactory Catholic.
The marlin is another source of puzzlement. Why is its maleness emphasized? Hemingway, notoriously macho, may be suggesting that a female quarry would not be sufficiently challenging to his hero. On the other hand, Santiago calls the sea la mar (the feminine form in Spanish), which Hemingway depicts as a creative, loving, but often cruel mother. He makes much, here and elsewhere, of his heroes’ being “destroyed but not defeated.” Also, his heroes, when they win, must take nothing. Santiago killed the marlin, but he can never sell its meat for the $300 that he hoped to gain. He reveres his prize but despises the sharks and attacks them with commendable if unavailing ferocity. Yet, after all, both marlin and sharks are explicitly said to function precisely as designed.
The subject of free will thus enters. Winds, clouds, water, birds, and fish, all colorfully depicted by Hemingway, are linked parts of the great chain of marine life. What Santiago calls the marlin’s choosing to dive deep is obviously instinctive, as is its subsequent surfacing. Surfacing causes its air sacks to fill and thus prevents its diving soon again, in turn predictably causing it to circle and hence be harpooned and killed. Santiago says both that he was born to fish and that he chooses to fish. To the degree that he has free will, his flaw—determining to go out too far—is a tragic one. Yet, perhaps he was fated to do so. Hence, being a partly naturalistic figure, he is an incomplete hero; the sentimental aura cast about him further diminishes him in the eyes of some critics.
The Old Man and the Sea has autobiographical overtones. Hemingway was an accomplished deep-sea fisherman and provides the reader with many details concerning the art of capturing marlins. (His big-game hunting and attending bullfights are obviously related activities.) It is not farfetched to equate Santiago’s marlin with Hemingway’s decades-long effort to write, to pull from the depths of his being, a vast book about the sea. Santiago’s story was planned as a segment of a four-part novel, of which only it and Islands in the Stream, appearing posthumously in 1970, were completed. In this ambitious aesthetic adventure, the author tried to go too far. It may be added that the sharks ravaging the marlin can be likened to Hemingway’s critics—ever eager, in his almost psychotic view, to pick his writing apart. Just as Santiago calls his enemy his brother, so Hemingway, in capturing on the printed page an artwork of his creation, may be presenting his readers with aspects of his hidden self. This possibility has teased psychoanalytically inclined critics.