Essays On The Old Man And The Sea

The book The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, is about an old man, Santiago, and his genuine fondness of the sea. Every day he travels out to sea to go fishing which is his occupation. For the past eighty-four days the old man has not caught a single fish. On the eighty-fifth day he sails out to sea as usual, and this is the day that changes Santiago’s life forever. He hooks an unusually immense marlin, and they have an agonizing battle for several days. Hemingway often compares Santiago with the younger fisherman and describes various particular parts about the beautiful sea. This allows the reader to learn that Santiago especially loves the sea and is unlike the other fisherman. While Santiago is going out to sea on the first morning, Hemingway includes numerous details about the setting.
Some of the details are to inform the reader that the old man really enjoys and values the ocean. One way which Hemingway shows this is that Santiago refers to the sea as “la mar,” a kind and beautiful yet sometimes cruel feminine creature. Younger fishermen refer to the sea as “el mar,” which is masculine. Changing this to be masculine means that they do not feel that the sea has any beauty or significance other than for money. Another way that the author tells that the old man appreciates the ocean is in one of his descriptions in the book. “Most people are heartless about turtles because a turtle’s heart will beat for hours after it has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, I have such a heart too and my feet and hands are like theirs.” Since Santiago has spent so many years of his life at sea he sees the beauty of the sea and the beauty of its creatures. This is also noted in another quotation from the book, “The iridescent bubbles were beautiful. But they were the falsest thing in the sea and the old man loved to see the big sea turtles eating them.” Santiago finds pleasure about everything in the sea, even after going a disappointing eighty-four days without a fish. All of these are examples of how much the old man appreciates the sea.

Other details Hemingway uses are to show Santiago’s loneliness. He creates an image that the ocean is practically the old man’s home. While out at sea, Santiago often wishes that he would have brought the young boy, Manolin, along. Manolin is the only person who loves and adores Santiago, and he looks up to him as a father figure. Although, it might have been best if Manolin went along to assist Santiago on these arduous few days of battling the marlin. Therefore, Santiago is all alone, but he finds that the sea makes him content and at home. The old man has fished for all of his life, which shows that he has appreciation for the sea. The next statement shows his loneliness yet passion for the sea, “He watched his lines to see them go straight down out of sight into the water and he was happy to see so much plankton because it meant fish. The strange light the sun made in the water, now that the sun was higher, meant good weather and so did the shape of the clouds.” Since Santiago is alone, he finds comfort in all the creatures of the sea.

Hemingway’s descriptions allow the reader to feel and imagine everything Santiago goes through. The author gives the reader a feeling that danger is nearby when he writes, “The sea was very dark and the light made prisms in the water.” By foreshadowing, the reader realizes that a dangerous event is soon to occur. There are also various additional quotations in the book telling of Santiago’s predicaments. This includes one about the sun which hurt his eyes very much in the mornings. All of these descriptions allow the reader to feel precisely what the old man felt. In turn, the reader begins to pity him, and it enhances the book considerably.

Hemingway’s descriptions add significant details to the book, The Old Man and the Sea. They show that Santiago treasures the sea, his solitude, and add to the reader’s appreciation for the book. In addition, they add feeling, make the book more realistic, and improve the overall quality of this tragic yet triumphant story.

Filed Under: Literature, The Old Man and the Sea

Sandra Effinger
Block A1
11/09/1999

In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway presents the fisherman Santiago as the ideal man--independent in his action, eager to follow his calling, and willing to take chances in life. The old man's most notable attribute, however, appears to be his unquenchable spirit: no matter how his body is beaten, his spirit remains undefeated, undefeatable, through all trials.
Even in his squalid existence, the old man is proud, saying that he will have fish to eat at home, even though he knows he hasn't any. He prefers hunger to shame. Also, Santiago faces risk by choosing to go "too far out." Ignoring the hardships involved in his duel with the great fish, Santiago catches the marlin, thus justifying his pride and reliance upon himself. His attitude toward this great fish shows the true extent of his honor, for he takes pride in the strength and endurance of his opponent, calling it his brother. To die battling such a powerful fish would not be dishonorable. In a strange way, Santiago loves the fish even as his kills it. The carcass of the fish is devoured by sharks, much as Santiago's body is torn; but the skeleton, along with the old man's inner spirit, remain unconquered.
As Hemingway once wrote, "Courage is grace under pressure," and this definition suits Santiago's courage perfectly. Santiago never gives in to fear or recriminations. He does not whine about his bad luck, nor does he blame the hand which temporarily betrays him, the marlin who challenges his strength, or the sharks who steal his catch. Instead, he does the best he can, without complaint or boasting. He honors the marlin for its dignity and tries to protect it against the sharks who would ravage it. To Santiago, it takes little courage to strike the sharks with his harpoon, with his oar, with his knife. He wishes only that he had brought a stone so he could keep fighting. For one brief moment, Santiago accepts defeat, saying, "I never knew how easy it is when you're beaten." But, of course, Santiago is not beaten. He has the courage left to return home, to drag himself to his hut, to face Manolin, and to accept the loss of his greatest catch. This, too, takes courage.
If DiMaggio can endure his bone spur, if the great fish can bear to pull the weight of his boat, then a simple old man can at least endure the discomforts of his existence. To Santiago, his hands, unwilling to open, responsive only to pain, have minds of their own and are traitors to his will. Even when his ordeal at sea is over, the old man, by himself, must carry home the mast of his ship, a symbol of his burden and suffering. He may be old, but he still has the endurance of El Campeon.
He dreams of days long gone by--of hand-wrestling and of golden lions on the beach of Africa. He tries to be like Joe DiMaggio who overcame pain (a bone spur) and believes the baseball player would be proud of him. Santiago has faith that he can be like the sea turtle whose heart keeps beating even in death, and so the old man will never give up. At the end "something is broken inside," but the old man's eyes remain alive. The body may be weak, temporary,vulnerable; the spirit is enduring, invincible, eternal. Although he prays and promises to say hundreds of Hail Mary's, Santiago's faith is in himself, not in God. When anyone else would give up, Santiago and Manolin have faith in each other and make plans to fish together. The very last line foreshadows the old man's renewal in his dreams about the lions of his youth.
Our battles are not with marlins, with sharks, with poverty, or even with old age; yet we all struggle against some foe at some time in our lives. Hemingway has created a character whose experience can help us in our own battles. Santiago shows us that defeat lies only in refusing the battle, not in losing the fight.

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