Nature in The Old Man and the Sea: From Transcendentalism to Hemingway’s Modernism

Thoreau writes that “This curious world we inhabit…is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.” This seems to be a philosophy that Hemingway’s character, Santiago, would adopt. Throughout the novella, “The Old Man and the Sea”, Santiago is constantly on the same existential plane as nature. He views the sea and nature itself as an equal and arguably as a superior. Whether the origin is out of senility, out of loneliness, or out of genuine brotherhood with nature, Santiago treats nature (more specifically, the sea and the wildlife that it shelters) as an actual entity in which he harbors genuine love for.

Hemingway himself was often intimate with nature; it is no secret that nature has had enormous influence on his prose. Important to note is that, “…of all the Hemingway protagonists, Santiago is closest to nature–feels himself a part of nature; he even believes he has hands and feet and a heart like the big turtles’.” (Hovey). There is a sense of unity amongst Santiago and the natural world. Crucial to the understanding of Santiago is Hovey’s saying that he “feels himself a part of nature”. There are several nods to this unity in the text itself in which Santiago’s behavioral patterns are paralleled with nature’s. The book reads regarding Santiago before his voyage, “His hope and his confidence had never gone. But now they were freshening as when the breeze rises.” (Hemingway 13). Hemingway shows the correlation between the breeze and Santiago’s refreshed confidence because of it. The related connotations between “freshening” and “the breeze” are likely not accidental either. The implication here is that the weather has a direct impact on Santiago’s mood. The refreshing breeze rolls in, thus Santiago’s attitude is refreshed. The reader may see another example of this relationship in yet another quote in which the old man is sleeping the night before he plans to go far out into the ocean: “…the old man was asleep in the chair and the sun was down.” (Hemingway 18). A more subtle example, it is still difficult to ignore that Santiago’s sleeping patterns mirror the cycle of the sun; the same sun which gave Santiago earlier in his life, “[the] skin cancer [that] the sun [brought] from its reflection on the tropic sea [unto] his cheeks.” (Hemingway 10). The sun has left a physical imprint on Santiago’s body. That, however, is not the only physical relationship between him and nature. The book reads, “…[his eyes] were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.” (Hemingway 10). Santiago also walks around barefoot and urinates outside. Even his house is constantly open to the elements, as he leaves all of the openings ajar. When Manolin talks to Santiago, he says, “…you went turtle-ing for years off the Mosquito Coast and your eyes are good.” (Hemingway 14). When all of the other fishermen that went turtle-ing had poor eyesight, the sun spared Santiago’s for no reason that is apparent to the reader. Yet another example of the synchronicity between Santiago and nature is seen regarding, once again, the old man’s sleeping patterns: “Usually when he smelled the land breeze he woke up and dressed to go and wake the boy.” (Hemingway 25). There is a plethora of examples that show Santiago and nature being unified or, at the very least, connected behaviorally and physically.

This gives us some insight too as to why Santiago is such a skilled fisherman. Manolin says, “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.” (Hemingway 23). The reader may be asking himself why is there only Santiago? What separates him from any other fisherman? It is subconsciously implied that no other fisherman could have handled the marlin; so why Santiago? Besides his experience (which several of the other “old fishermen” share), there is no real defining feature that he owns that separates him from anyone else except for the fact that he has a deep affinity with nature. Beegel takes it a step further in saying, “Given the nature of the sea in Hemingway’s novella, this is not a “safe” romance at all but a story about the tragic love of mortal man for capricious goddess.” He suggests even that there is romance between Santiago and the sea. Hediger further enforces this claim in saying, “With such cognizance, Hemingway treats animals neither as pawns in a human competition, nor as beings so entirely foreign that he believes himself outside of the natural economy in which life depends upon other forms of life.” Despite the extent of the relationship, it cannot be denied that there is, in fact, a relationship; and this relationship appears to be the only thing which allows Santiago to reach legendary status as a fisherman.

Even before the reader gets into the real meat of Santiago’s journey with the marlin, the relationship is clear. However, once one does get further along in the novella, it is enforced almost to excessiveness. The duration of his trip with the marlin was almost a sort of communion between him and the other animals of the sea. Santiago is constantly referring to fish as his brothers: “They [dolphins] play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish.” (Hemingway 48). He also says that, “He was very fond of flying fish as they were his principal friends on the ocean. He was sorry for the birds…” (Hemingway 29). Regarding these seabirds, Santiago extends a helping hand: “‘Stay at my house if you like, bird,’ he said. ‘I am sorry I cannot hoist the sail and take you in with the small breeze that is rising. But I am with a friend.’” (Hemingway 55). About his “friend”, the marlin, Santiago has much to say: “Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either of us.” (Hemingway 50) and that “I wish I could feed the fish, he thought. He is my brother.” (Hemingway 59).

Santiago throughout his journey refers to the marlin as his brother and asks how he is feeling. And for this fish that he is slowly killing, he feels vast sympathy and even shame. The ocean or, perhaps more appropriate: la mar (“He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her.”), seems to be his true “home” (Hemingway 29). The floorless shack he lives in with the ajar openings is merely a rally point; a place to rest until he can go back out to the ocean. In his little town, the old man is mostly sad: people pity him, he is (in a general sense) incapable, he is alone but for Manolin, and he is poor. Santiago has spent all of his life in the ocean. It is crucial to note that Santiago spent nearly four days out at sea with nothing for nourishment except what he had eaten the morning of his voyage and a single bottle of water. It can be difficult to truly realize the scope of what an expert Santiago was at sea since the readers only hear remarkably meek complaints; thus, this fact seems to get set to the wayside. But put it into perspective: this old man who is pitied goes out to sea for almost four days, with the majority of the trip spent wrestling with an absolutely massive marlin. He had a bottle of water for nourishment, and, by means of the ocean, he resourcefully and skillfully managed to get enough food to sustain himself. To emphasize once more: all of this was done by the old man while struggling with a marlin whose size met legendary standards. This, among other things, shows the immense skill Santiago has for his trade (he says he was simply doing, “That which [he] was born for [to be a fisherman].”); however, it goes beyond that (Hemingway 40). Santiago’s journey, and more importantly his utter complacency in it, shows his supernatural connection with nature, for if anyone else had been in his place, they surely would have failed.

Santiago shows love for many of the sea animals: the birds, the flying fish, the dolphins, the turtles. But the animal, that is the one he felt the deepest connection with, was the marlin. He is non-stop talking to the marlin: whether he is apologizing to it, telling it that it his brother, or merely conversing with it for conversation’s sake. The death of the marlin, however, is when the raw intimacy between the two comes out. Hemingways writes during Santiago and the marlin’s final bout that, “There are three things that are brothers: the fish and my two hands.” (64). This is near the end of the marlin’s life, and, when speculating what will become of the fish’s life, Santiago calculates how much the fish will be worth. Following this he says, “But are they worthy to eat him? No, of course not. There is no one worthy of eating him…” (Hemingway 75). Santiago bestows upon the marlin a sort of honor; and since this fish is his ultimate catch, his final masterpiece, the honor given to the marlin could be a scapegoat for Santiago’s “pride long gone” (Hemingway 93).

Their relationship is by all means a close one, but upon the climax of their struggle, the reader sees something that almost transcends a two-way relationship and becomes a sort of unity. Santiago says, “But you have a right to [kill me]…brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.” (Hemingway 92). This interchangeability and complete indifference to something as significant as death shows an immense sense of unity. To Santiago, it does not matter who kills who since they are one in the same. Continued on the same page, Santiago talks about “…how to suffer like a man. Or a fish, he thought.” (Hemingway 92). On a much more subtle scale, Santiago still shows the interchangeability and synchronicity between him and the fish. He does this by putting the act of suffering as equal between a man and a fish, more specifically himself and the marlin. In this short, seemingly insignificant, sentence (or rather sentence fragment), Santiago shows that their suffering is equal. To suffer like a man or to suffer like a fish are the same for him. Not only does this show his unity with the fish, it shows Santiago as being almost more a part of the animalistic nature rather than the humanistic nature. To further concrete this unity, Hemingway writes about the fish after it had been attacked by sharks: “He did not like to look at the fish anymore since he had been mutilated. When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit.” (103). Santiago felt the blow in his honor vicariously through the fish’s suffering and mutilation, which was in turn parallel to his own. Though he himself was not physically altered by the sharks, it did not matter. In the same sense that it did not matter who killed who, it did not matter who was mutilated. Once the marlin was completely stripped of everything, Santiago says, “…you’ve killed a man.” (Hemingway 119). “Fish” and “man” are interchangeable in this. Santiago himself did not receive a single bite from the sharks; however, he stills says “you’ve killed a man.” A final note is this: though Santiago did not die in a physical sense, he returned to his town days later with several physical ailments. His hands were sliced with fish wire, he was dehydrated, his back was in severe pain, and he was coughing up something that he described as tasting like pennies. The fish, who he was physically and spiritually connected to, died; the final passage of the text describes Santiago dreaming his recurring, paradisiacal, and clearly symbolic dream, that emerges only upon Santiago nearing old age, of the heaven-like and youthful lions playing on the beach.

To Santiago, nature is not a concept; it is an entity. One that is, if not equal and if not superior, one in the same with him. Their behaviors are in sync, their social actions are existentially equal, and Santiago considers himself a part of nature, as opposed to an outsider that believes that he, more or less, exercises control over it. This synchronicity and admiration for nature that is embedded in The Old Man and the Sea is reflective of Hemingway’s contact with nature and transcendental influences. Hemingway, like Thoreau and Emerson and several others, believed that nature was something more than just that; it was something to spend time with, to love, and to treat as a part of yourself. They looked at nature as something that transcends the physical world into the mental and the spiritual.

Works Cited

Beegel, Susan F. “Santiago and the Eternal Feminine: Gendering La Mar in The Old Man and the Sea.” Children’s Literature Review, edited by Jelena Krstovic, vol. 168, Gale, 2012. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 15 Feb. 2017. Originally published in Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice, edited by Lawrence R. Broer and Gloria Holland, The University of Alabama Press, 2002, pp. 131-156.

Hediger, Ryan. “Hunting, fishing, and the cramp of ethics in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Green Hills of Africa, and under Kilimanjaro.” The Hemingway Review, vol. 27, no. 2, 2008, p. 35+. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Hovey, Richard B. “The Old Man and the Sea: A New Hemingway Hero.” Short Story Criticism, edited by Anna Sheets-Nesbitt, vol. 36, Gale, 2000. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 15 Feb. 2017. Originally published in Discourse: A Review of the Liberal Arts, vol. 9, no. 3, Summer 1966, pp. 283-294.

Chasing Fish: Comparing The Ultimate Goals Found in “The Old Man and The Sea” And “Dances with Wolves”

We are all chasing our own fish. We’re all trying desperately to grasp something that is just out of our reach. For Santiago, the main character in Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, he is chasing a literal fish. He exhibits exceptional amounts of patience towards this fish – as one must when pursuing an important goal – spending eighty-four uneventful days at sea in hopes of finally snagging the monster. Santiago sacrifices his physical and mental stability whilst in pursuit of his ultimate goal, and if one looks at the bigger picture, Kicking Bird of Dances with Wolves does the same. But, in order to compare the ultimate goals of the main characters, we must first deduce what Kicking Bird’s “fish” is. What is it that keeps slipping for his clutches?

Some could argue that Kicking Bird’s metaphorical “fish” is the white man, that he is constantly yearning to understand their customs and way of life. This would explain his inquisitiveness and interest toward Lieutenant Dunbar throughout the book. Though this is sound reasoning, I would argue against it. If Kicking Bird’s “fish” is the white man, then he would have caught it long ago when he adopted Stands With A Fist into his family. Kicking Bird would have been given the opportunity to examine the white customs first hand – however limited they were – from Stands With A Fist when she was younger and not fully assimilated into the Sioux culture yet. Kicking Bird isn’t wanting to only understand the white man’s way of life and customs, but his motives as well. He wants to fully understand why the white man is pioneering through the Sioux Lands, and what it is they are hoping to accomplish by doing so. By analyzing the book and Kicking Bird’s actions throughout, one could come to the conclusion that Kicking Bird’s “fish” is the understanding of the white man’s incentive.

When compared side-by-side, Santiago’s and Kicking Bird’s behavior towards their respective “fish” are nearly identical. Just as Santiago tolerates the marlin’s antics – regardless of how frustrating they may be – Kicking Bird is incredibly patient with the antics of Lieutenant Dunbar. Towards the beginning of Dances With Wolves, Kicking Bird observes a far more patient attitude towards Dunbar than others in the tribe. An example of such behavior appears when the Lieutenant tries to convey the word “buffalo” despite the language barrier. Instead of deeming Dunbar crazy for rolling around in the dirt and trying to leave like Wind In His Hair, Kicking Bird sits quietly and tries to decipher the meaning behind Dunbar’s makeshift skit. Kicking Bird also takes it upon himself to help the other members of the tribe teach Dunbar the Sioux language, a monotonous task that requires an extensive amount of patience. Why would Kicking Bird take on such a tedious task if it is not to gain what he is seeking, if it isn’t to catch his “fish?”

Kicking Bird believes that being civil with Dunbar will help him build up a trust with the Lieutenant, and forging such trust would finally allow Kicking Bird to ask what it is that the white man wants so badly from the Sioux land. Later on in the book, Kicking Bird comes extremely close to broaching the topic with Dunbar. He asks the Lieutenant how many white men will be passing through the Sioux land, and the answer Dunbar gives is a very ominous “like the stars.” Though Kicking Bird’s long-standing question is partially answered with how many white men are coming, he is still unaware of the reason behind the white man’s actions. He is still in pursuit of that aspect of his “fish.”

Both Santiago and Kicking Bird sacrificed much for their “fish.” They both relinquish parts of their lives to pursue their ultimate goals, and some of their actions yield harsh consequences. Santiago nearly dies of dehydration, and is forced to cope with the cuts in his palms and the cramps in his shoulders from fighting with the marlin for three days and three nights. Kicking Bird has to deal with the condemning attitudes of numerous tribe members regarding his acceptance of Dunbar. Both men finally made it to shore, so to speak; Santiago made it back to his home – however empty-handed – and Kicking Bird was no longer ridiculed for his fondness of Dunbar. Although both survived their respective chase, both essentially became the pursuit of their “fish,” and in the end, neither truly caught it.

Santiago: Transcending Heroism

In Ernest Hemingway’s work of literary brilliance, The Old Man and The Sea, Santiago finds himself pitted against a beauty of nature – a beast in the eyes of man. At first glance transcending the task of slaying the marlin is what makes Santiago a hero, but in retrospect there is much more than simply killing the brazen fish that defines Santiago’s true role as a heroic emblem. Through conquering his conflicts against the sea, its inhabitants, and even himself, Santiago proves that “a man can be destroyed but not defeated,” and ultimately cements his place as a unique hero in literature (103).

From the first line of the novella, a beaten tone is introduced and Santiago is pitted against his struggle with defeat. “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish;” instantly the audience is made aware of Santiago’s first of many obstacles (9). Santiago claims to be ridden of any former luck he may have had and the few background characters of the novel help to further express this opinion. His fellow fishermen pity him, and his one side companion is even forced to abandon him because of his infamous bad luck at sea. With all of this riding against him, Santiago displays an interesting sense of confidence and rises for another day on the sea, sailing out even further than the other fishermen. Hemingway distinctly notes that despite these beginning adversities, “his eyes … were cheerful and undefeated” (10). Establishing this sense of pride Santiago has within himself is an important part of the opening portion of the novella as Santiago’s battle is often one of moral nobility rather than man versus nature as one may be originally drawn to think. This alongside the combined deliberateness of each small act performed and the simplicity of Hemingway’s writing technique help to form a character that is easily recognized as a hero.

From here, Santiago isn’t left out at sea long before hooking a fish; it is at this point that the real battle begins. For the mysterious old man, fishing is as much a means of finance as it is a way to prove himself. He sees the sea, – this realm of nature, to be almost entirely one with the realm of morality he struggles with, and he compares the creatures he encounters to all that he has come to know about life. These scenarios, in combination with the sequences of highs and lows that lead up to killing the marlin, help to highlight a lot of the old man’s heroic characteristics.

Santiago often dwells on the sea’s worthiness but he also makes note of nature’s curious fragility. At one point, a small warbler comes to rest on Santiago’s fishing line. In reflecting on the bird’s worn down behavior, the old man accepts that nature is a place of predator vs. prey – a cycle that can’t be broken. Man’s conquest has always been to break through this barrier of natural law, but as fragile beings, the task continuously proves futile. The conflicts overcome along the journey ultimately add up to much more. The sea, a symbol of life itself, is something he both loves and mistrusts; he recognizes the strength of the black waves pounding against him, but he commits himself wholeheartedly to enduring and overcoming their presence. In submitting himself to the inevitable, but nonetheless refusing to give in, Santiago displays a great sense of nobility.

Adding to his list of heroic characteristics are the strides of charity, determination, and great strength Santiago displays while at sea. In finally taking down the giant fish, Santiago proves himself to be both incredibly strong and resilient for a man of his age. The scene also reveals a unique side to his personality though as well. As he resonates so much personally with the fish, the moment is almost one of delirium for the old man. He questions whether he is truly worthy of killing the fish being as it is a creature of such beauty, endurance, and wisdom, but in recognizing these traits, the fish is majorly a symbol for Santiago himself. Once again, the sea becomes an affirmation point for Santiago. If he is to truly prove himself worthy of these titles, ─the qualities of life which he values most, Santiago must slay the fish despite his love for the creature. In mustering up every ounce of remaining strength and “his long gone pride,” Santiago is able to harpoon the giant of a fish and simultaneously overcome the psychological battle he has been fighting (93). For the reader, overcoming this challenge places Santiago in a position of glory, but, in what may seem to be quite an unfortunate twist of events, the story is far from over. Although Santiago’s great task seems to have been finally overcome, the audience is soon made aware that taking down the marlin is only half of the battle.

Like the rhythm of the crashing waves, a hero’s journey is often one of repetitive toil. Life is a journey composed of a multitude of conflicts, and a hero is often forced to prove himself time and time again. Within a matter of hours, sharks start lurking around the small fishing boat in lure of the man’s precious cargo. Having grown quite attached to the fish, Santiago’s stance of heroism shifts from one of man versus the beast to a position stemming from the core of human nature. Though he is almost entirely ridden of hope, he is driven by what truly makes him a hero, his fearless and courageous respect for life, to keep fighting for his “brother.” Even in these moments of hopeless and inevitable destruction, Santiago still fights till the end.

Sailing in unnoticed on a curtain of darkness, Santiago’s return is rather undetected for such a courageous hero; he is not greeted by the roars of a kingdom or trampled with sovereign affection. In fact, Santiago’s return is only marked with more struggle. In all realms of this scenario, the old man and the wielded along skeleton are a symbol of defeat, but unlike the carcass tied to his side, Santiago still moves on. Though all hope may seem lost, Santiago accepts his place in the balance of nature; in noting this, he ultimately transcends the vicious cycle of continuation. He remains undefeated, recognizing that this journey encompassed was simply another step in his lifelong path. Santiago, though seemingly destroyed, is never defeated.

In a world that is fundamentally static, man is always struggling to triumphantly break through the pattern of repetition, -but the cycle of nature is one that often flows freely against the staccatos of human ambition. In this battle of mind over matter, most men fail to prove victorious. Regardless of the treasures brought back from war or the numbers slain, a hero is truly built based on more than their material culminations. Against life’s seemingly endless barrage of conflicts, a hero’s status is solidified truly in how they respond to the chaos. With acts of compassion, nobility, and strength, Santiago may have been overcome in his conquest to bring home a bountiful reward, but his status as a hero was entirely cemented by this journey. As Santiago would say, “a man can be destroyed but not defeated” (103). A true hero is one who knows that amongst adversity, winning the fight against one’s internal damnation can mean much more than slaying a beast. While he returns seemingly destroyed, the old man never let his inhibitions defeat him. Again he will rise from the newspaper-covered bed and return to the pounding current – forever undefeated.

A Different Outlook on Christian Symbolism in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

A Different Outlook on Christian Symbolism in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea The ideas revolving around Christian symbolism in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea have run rampant ever since the novella was first published in 1952 (Wilson 1). Since then, there has been plenty of time for these ideas to assimilate into concrete theories that readers widely accept. As noted in class, these theories are in direct correlation to Santiago’s battle at sea acting as a parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. However, if this is true, then why did Hemingway write a letter to critic Bernard Berenson saying that “there isn’t any symbolism” in The Old Man and the Sea (Plath 67)? In his letter, written the same year that The Old Man and the Sea was published, Hemingway told Berenson “The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit” (“World of Quotations”). If what Hemingway states is true, that all of the symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea is, in fact, “shit,” then all of the Christian symbols that have been discerned are also “shit” (Plath 67). But are we to believe such a line? It would seem that the evidence for Christian symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea is too strong to just disregard. However, by taking another look at Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, one can argue whether Christian symbolism does actually exist in the text. It would seem that if Hemingway had intended for The Old Man and the Sea to be interpreted in a Christian context that his main character would be a man who relies upon his religious faith; yet, Santiago’s personal religious beliefs could only be considered dubious. Though Santiago goes through the motions of praying to both God and saints, his foundation for doing so is clearly hollow (Plath 70). Santiago’s religious practices are done “mechanically” and when he finds himself unable to recall the words of a prayer he “say[s] them so fast that they… come out automatically” (“Old Man” 65). If he can only recite his prayers “automatically” then he must consider them to be only words, a means of hope he does not wish to leave untried (Wittkowski 9). Likewise, his prayers provide him with very little satisfaction, and once he finishes praying he finds himself “suffering exactly as much, and perhaps a little more” (“Old Man” 65). Santiago admits to himself, “I am not religious… I have no understanding of it and I am not sure that I believe in it,” (“Old Man” 64,105). Clearly, these are neither the actions nor the words of a devout man. Hemingway does not give us a man that relies on religion, but a man that relies on America’s favorite pastime—baseball (Plath 71). Baseball is something that Santiago can understand, unlike religion (Plath 71). Santiago does not seek to gain “Christ-like perfection,” rather, he wishes to be “worthy of the great DiMaggio” (Plath 71). Before Santiago leaves for his fishing trip he does not tell Manolin to have faith in God, but to have “faith in the Yankees” (“Old Man” 17). Santiago is a simple fisherman; he does not have the mind to comprehend the intangible; it is much easier for him to grasp what can be seen and felt (Plath 71). For Santiago, baseball has become something of a “replacement” religion (Plath 72). In 1962, Carlos Baker dramatically changed the way critics interpret Christian symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea (Wittkowski 2). Baker accomplished this when he proposed that Santiago achieves a “Christian mentality” when humility and love take the place of Santiago’s pride upon his defeat of the marlin; but this is not so (Wittkowski 2). Pride is such a fundamental part of Santiago’s character that to say his pride disappears, or even dissipates, is akin to blasphemy (Wittkowski 2). Above all else, it is Santiago’s pride that drives him forward in his battle with the marlin and all that he does (Wittkowski 2). Pride is the force that causes Santiago to continue uselessly battling the many sharks after the marlin has been desecrated by the initial Mako shark (“Old Man” 101). Pride is also the force that causes Santiago to haul the mast of his boat up to his shack (“Old Man” 121). He could very easily have rested before doing so or had someone assist him, but he chose do it himself the moment he arrived on land because of his pride. Pride is certainly not in the “mentality” of a Christian, rather, it’s one of the seven deadly sins (Wittkowski 9). In association with this, Baker’s interpretation of Santiago’s pride turning to “humiliation” is inaccurate (Wittkowski 1). “Humiliation” in the Christian sense might also be deemed as “gentleness” (Wittkowski 5). Santiago could be considered “gentle” in his associations with Manolin, the marlin, and the other creatures he deems to be his “brothers” but Santiago does not fit “gentleness” in the sense of Christian tradition (Wittkowski 5). Santiago only loves and shows “gentleness” to select individuals while he detests others, like the jellyfish and sharks (Wittkowski 5). Discerning stark differences between the ordeals of Santiago’s fishing voyage and Christ’s ending moments are a simple matter. To be sure, we might compare Santiago’s ordeal with that of Christ’s crucifixion (Hovey). But there have been many whose suffering has been worse, in both fiction and in life; yet, these occurrences are not always associated with crucifixion (Hovey). True, both Santiago and Christ obtain injury to their hands, but the nail in Jesus’ hand pierced all the way through his palm and Santiago’s fishing line only cut into his skin. As a fisherman, and a fighter, it is completely logical for Santiago to be concerned with injury to his hands (Wittkowski 14). It is also logical for Hemingway, illustrating that fact that “man is not made for defeat,” to have his protagonist be hampered in some way in a vital area (“Old Man” 103). Santiago hauls his mast up the hill to his shack, but a mast is hardly cruciform (Hovey). Santiago only falls down once when carrying his mast, all other times he merely sits down to rest (Hovey). Christ was noted to have fallen many more times than Santiago when he climbed to Calvary (Hovey). In accordance with this, Santiago’s worst suffering happens before he carries his mast up the hill, while Christ’s is sure to be after he bears his cross (Hovey). It doesn’t appear to be disputable that the final position we see Santiago in, sleeping “face down… with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up” symbolizes Christ’s position mounted on the cross (“Old Man” 122). However, it would make perfect, logical sense to want to spread your limbs out straight after being cramped up in a small rugged boat for three whole days (“Old Man” 86). Likewise, it is disconcerting that Santiago lies “face down” if Hemingway was truly trying to imitate the pose of Christ’s crucifixion (Hovey). If we are going to make this jump in interpretation then it would make just as much sense, maybe even more so, to say that Santiago’s position is an imitation of a fighter who assumes the “face down” position in order to protect himself, “conceal his pain,” while having every intention to “gather strength, get up and continue to fight” (Wittkowski 15). Of course, there is one line in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea which can be interpreted in no other way but in a Christian context: “’Ay,’ he said aloud… perhaps it is a noise a man might make… feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood,” (“Old Man” 107). However, it seems silly to interpret the entire novella in a Christian context solely because of this sentence. The Holy Bible is the greatest piece of literature the world has ever known. It is so well known, that multiple authors, in every century, have made allusions to it in their works because the majority of civilization has some knowledge of it. This makes any reference to the bible a useful metaphor. Perhaps that is all this sentence contains, a metaphor, and not the basis of the entire interpretation of the novella. Hemingway states, “all the symbolism that people say is shit” (Plath 67). It doesn’t seem logical for Hemingway to say that symbolism in his novella, The Old Man and the Sea, is “shit” if it isn’t factual (Plath 67). For certain, Christian symbolism in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea raises a number of interesting theories concerning the message which Hemingway wishes to unveil. However, while it is possible to argue for the existence of Christian symbolism in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, it is equally easy to argue against it. Word Count: 1,505Works CitedHemingway, Ernest. Letter to Bernard Berenson. 13 Sept. 1952. The Columbia World of Quotations. Ed. Robert Andrews, Mary Biggs, and Michael Seidel. N.p.: Columbia UP, 2006. 2006. 23 Mar. 2008 . Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. 1952. New York: Scribner, 2003.Hovey, Richard B. “The Old Man and the Sea: A New Hemingway Hero.” Discourse: A Review of the Liberal Arts IX.3 (Summer 1966). 2006. 25 Mar. 2008 . Plath, James. “Santiago at the Plate: Baseball in The Old Man and the Sea.” Hemingway Review 16.1 Fall 1996): 65-82. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. 14 Mar. 2008 . Wilson, G. R., Jr. “Incarnation and Redemption in The Old Man and the Sea.” Studies in Short Fiction 14.4 (Fall 1977): 369-373. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. 14 Mar. 2008 . Wittkowski, Wolfgang. “Crucified in the Ring: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.” Hemingway Review 3.1 (Fall 1983): 2-17. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. 21 Mar. 2008 .

Hemingway’s Fight with Old Age

The Old Man and the Sea is a novella that “should be read easily and simply and seem short,” Hemingway writes in a letter to his friend Charles Scribner, “yet have all the dimensions of the visible world and the world of a man’s spirit” (738).Out of admiration of Santiago’s 3-day long hand-to-hand combat, his dream of the African lion and his famous “destroyed but not defeated” slogan, “a man’s spirit” is often believed to be represented by Santiago’s courage, strength, dignity, wisdom and endurance, Philip Young praises Santiago’s struggle as “heroic” and his capability of “such decency, dignity” and “heroism” (100, 113). Likewise, Leo Gurko celebrates Old Man’s “stress on what man can do” on the world “where heroic deeds are possible” and Santiago’s struggle as “transcended” (377-82). Gerry Brenner summarizes that Old Man is often seem as a fantasy to “feed our imaginative capacity to wonder, marvel, and be awed” and “satisfies the conventional human wish to perform in larger-than-life ways” (10). But is Santiago really a hero so courageous and confident, even a little fable-like as believed? Is the hidden message of “man’s heart” really one that is so unrealistically heroic and full of strength? Hemingway’s own words might suggest another story: “I tried to make a real man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks” (74). If it is meant to be “real,” then there might be a need to re-examine Santiago—a heroic figure too often taken for granted to surpass the ordinary. A close reading of Hemingway’s fiction reveals that Santiago stands not as a hero but as an old man desperately struggling with age, like any other ordinary old man. Santiago’s experience at sea foregrounds old age as his real adversary. The calm and seemingly confident appearance and violent fight with the fish and sharks, is a self-deception and self-defense. The strong extrinsic actions served, contrary to what they are intended to cover, as lens through which we can see the fragile and troubled inside. This finding not only discloses the fierce and desperate inner fight under Santiago’s calm and confidence appearance but may also serve as a way to see the sadness part “of man’s spirit” thus enriching the character and making him more human. In fact, the indication of Santiago’s lost confidence is shown at the very first paragraph of Old Man: “The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat” (5). The flour sacks patched sail is a symbol of a man. As the next paragraph describes, Santiago is with “deep-creased scars” and “none” of which “[are] fresh” (6). When the old and worn sail is seen as “the flag of permanent defeat”, it might be better understood as a sign of his defeat. In the same way, the shadow old age casts on Santiago’s mind is one that really haunts: it announces not a simple defeat but a “permanent” one—one that every old man receive as a final sentence—that the youth, together with the confidence of youth, is gone forever, however much it is wanted or even begged to stay. It’s a “permanent defeat.”It might not be a problem to accept the fact that Santiago is old, but it might take some effort to learn that Santiago’s seeming confidence is a disguise, for the message that Santiago is confident and strong is well established in the readers’ mind by Hemingway’s carefully designed description. This effort can be seen throughout the novella, the beginning in particular. From the very beginning readers are constantly reminded of Santiago’s “cheerful,” “undefeated” and “confident” eyes (6, 8) and that “[h]is hope and his confidence had never gone” (8). These descriptions trap the readers in the belief that Santiago is still full of strength, confidence and power. A closer reading, however, neutralizes all the claims that are intentionally dissembled. Below are two dialogues between Santiago and Manolo: “But are you strong enough now for a truly big fish?” “I think so….” (9) “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.”“Thank you. You make me happy. I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong.” “There is no such fish if you are still as strong as you say.”“I may not be as strong as I think.”(16, emphasis added) When his strength and confidence become the topic, Santiago gives a weak and powerless “I think so,” other than a definite and positive answer. In the second dialogue, he cautiously tries to find excuses for his possible failure—this happens even before he goes out to sea and encounters any fish—a very clear exposure of his lack of confidence. The reason why he does not answer “no, I can’t any more” might be twofold: he does not want to let Manolo down and fail to live up to his expectation; more importantly, he himself refuses to admit that he has lost his confidence. The inner struggle, which starts long before any physical combat with the fish and sharks, is the real battle field. It is not a potential encounter with a “fish” “so big” that make his confident waving; it is old age itself that leads him to doubt, however reluctant he is to admit and accept it. This point can be better demonstrated by looking into another of Hemingway’s short stories, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”:“You have youth, confidence, and a job,” the older waiter said. “You have everything.”“And what do you lack?”“Everything but work.”“You have everything I have.”“No. I have never had confidence and I am not young.” (105)This dialogue between two waiters—one old, the other young—reveals directly that the reason of an old man’s waving confidence is the passing of “youth”; in other words, “not young,” no longer young becomes the old man’s real problem, and it is devastating. The old waiter is as powerlessness as Santiago; the only difference might be, while the old waiter gives up the struggle and acknowledges the sad truth, Santiago is still trying to denying this—though he does it with wisdom, calmness and dignity.The struggle Santiago has of knowing his waning confidence and refusing to acknowledge it happens time and again during his fight with the big fish. Santiago’s monologues of encouragement to himself show his struggle: “…I can last. You have to last. Don’t even speak of it” (65); “I am not good for many more turns. Yes you are, he told himself. You’re good for ever” (68). These words, rather than being the demonstration of his strength and confidence, actually reveal his weakness. His repeatedly self-deception of forcing himself to think positive and believe he is able and good reveals the inner battle he has against his weakness and tiredness. Though Santiago tries hard to deny he is old and tired and is cautious of his words, there are still slips of the tongue. After the long exhausting struggle with the fish, he says, “I am a tired old man.” He must have realized the potential danger of recognizing that he is “tired” and “old”—however true it is—so he immediately adds, “but I have killed this fish” (70). He surely minds his words a lot, even in his monologue, and his sigh of being “tired” and “old” is too quickly covered up. But once he forgets to cover it and speak up his heart (maybe subconsciously): “I wonder if he[the big fish] has any plans or if he is just as desperate as I am?” (35). Desperate might be the word for his struggle with old age. Careful as he is with his words, he cannot control his dreams, when the rational constraints become loose and true feelings prevail. His constant dreaming of the young lions on African beaches reveals, on the contrary to the belief that it shows his confidence and strength, it in fact reveals his longing and nostalgia for youth, confidence and strength. His dreams of young lions and daydreaming of the powerful Joe DiMaggio can both be concluded in one sentence Hemingway notes at Santiago’s recall of his arm-wrestling episode: “he remembered, to give himself more confidence, the time” he “played the hand game” (50). His dreams of lions, daydreaming of strong baseball player and recalls of his own strong youth all serve as his way to get “more confidence”, the things he does not possess now. Were Santiago still as young and strong as the lions, Joe DiMaggio and his own potent days, he would not need to remind himself of those strong things to “give himself more confidence,” the very act of trying to give himself more confidence actually shows he lacks it. Too often, it is taken for granted that Santiago’s fight is glorious and dignified and that Santiago is strong, confident and with great perseverance. However, the failure to see Santiago’s troubled inside and his desperate combat with age make him a hero unreal and less human-like. A re-examination of his inner world might serve to a fuller and richer appreciation of this household figure and make old Santiago more real and closer to life.

Christian Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea

“But man is not made for defeat…A man can be defeated but not destroyed”. These eternal lines from Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea reflect the strong Christian motif of hope and resurrection that is present as a strong undertone in the novel. The usage of Christian symbolism elevates the text to the level of an allegory, almost parable on the indomitable will of man that manages to remain undefeated, even in the midst of earthly losses. Therefore, God exists in the novel not in the form of Immanent Will, neither benevolent nor malevolent but it is the struggle of man in the fashion of Christ’s passion that commands the utmost significance and not the outcome of that quest.

The Christian symbolism that pervades throughout the text is directed prominently at Santiago to delineate him as a modern day Christ who keeps up with his faith towards his struggle. In fact, Hemingway writes that the old man gets on suffering from headache and blood spits while struggling with the marlin which is highly reminiscent of Christ’s pain during crucifixion. In fact, His passion finds a direct reference when the novelist says, “Ay…feeling the rail go through his hand and into the wood…” This sentiment is recreated when Santiago reaches his bed with his “arms out straight” and “palms of his hands up”. All these reflect a Christ-like endurance on the part of the old man and his transcendence to the knowledge of life and existence on the sea of “being”.

Even the fish forms a very legitimate symbol of Christ which bears the philosophy of the sacrifice-sacrificed phenomenon, leading to the acceptance of Trinity. Joseph Waldman observes, “the phenomenon closely parallels the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the mass, wherein a fusion of the priest-man with Christ takes place…” The repeated use of the numbers three and seven and forty, like the old man goes without a catch for eighty seven days reminds the readers of such key numbers in the New Testament, revealing the Passion of Christ in such duration of time.

The reference to forty days finds a parallel in the Christian liturgical calendar where the intervening period between Ash Wednesday to the Ascension Thursday if forty four days. This actually points out to the extreme struggle that Santiago has to undergo, almost as in the Pentecost, but he finally emerges as the undefeated. The time span of the “salao” phase of eighty seven days followed by three weeks of fruitfulness (upon catching the Marlin) for Santiago suggests the liturgical mystery of Incarnation as it commemorates Christ’s claim as the son of God. Similarly, in Hemingway’s parable, Santiago claims himself as the hero incarnate – “I may not be as strong as I think…But I know many tricks and I have resolution”.

It seems distinctly that Manolin’s faith in Santiago is founded on the three weeks of miracle, which he refers to as the “great record” just as Christ’s life on earth, as portrayed in the Gospels. The old man responds to this praise of Manolin by saying, “It could not happen twice”, underlying the uniqueness of his incarnation. The importance of all this is to be found in the theological concept that only through the Incarnation of Christ can his sacrifice have redemptive value for mankind. In Hemingway’s parable, the “great record” is juxtaposed with the three days of struggle of Santiago on the sea, followed by his spiritual triumph that lends more meaning to his earlier redemptive virtues.

The period of the three day struggle leading to the apparent defeat of Santiago has been compared by many critics to the Mystery of Redemption, especially when the old man carries the mast like the Crucifix – “Then he shouldered the mast and started to climb”. Even the reference that his left hand had always been a “traitor” recalls the fact that Judas sat left to Christ during The Last Supper. Finally though, Santiago receives a triumph amidst apparent defeat like Christ, as he triumphs over the dentuso without diminishing his individual heroism. Like Christ himself, Santiago returns to his disciple Manolin to describe his heroic deed. He not only returns to safety physically but also brings back a plethora of resources on human endurance which results in his mental and spiritual upliftment.

As Christ returned with His earthly ministry on the Ascension Day, Santiago’s sojourn is completed by his message of redemption. Joseph Campbell described Christ as the “hero with a thousand faces” and Santiago goes through the same pattern of discovery when he realizes, “I went out too far”, and meets a trial like the dragon battle and the Crucifixion and returns from the Promised Land like St. James of Galilee. The hero endures the test like St. James who floated on the sea for many days, as his return was hailed from the Holy Lord, and Santiago concludes his epic battle with his intrinsic recognition of the natural world- “I have killed the fish that is my brother”.

Thus, Santiago comes across as the hero, who achieves meaning of his Incarnation by full commitment to his world and his relationship with the world’s creatures. Even Manolin is recognized as the diminutive of St. Matthew who acts as Christ’s redeemer. In fact, St. Matthew had to “leave his father” in order to follow the spiritual faith of Christ, much like Manolin who went against his own biological parents to accompany Santiago in his fishing expeditions and also bring him food and other necessities much to their objection. In conclusion, Santiago, with his disciple’s commitment if finally able to become one with Nature and as Wilson notes, it is a triumph that brings about a redemptive message for all.

Pride: A Virtue or a Curse?

Though pride can have a negative connotation and is often thought of as a synonym for being full of one’s self, it can also be an honest and healthy feeling of genuine satisfaction with one’s own achievements. In other instances, pride can also keep an individual grounded and can give them a sense of worthiness, even if the circumstances surrounding them are less than favorable. In order to avoid living a life full of constant self-doubt and unhappiness, it is necessary for a person to have some measure of pride in their lives. However, once an individual has become so blinded by pride that it has started to negatively affect their choices and those around them, the pride that was once a positive value turns into arrogance. Pride can be seen in many characters throughout literature, including Odysseus from The Odyssey by Homer, and Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Though both exhibit the value, the epic hero Odysseus’ pride is portrayed as arrogance, while Santiago shows his pride in a humble manner more fitting for a code hero. Pride can mean different things to different people, and it can be seen in Odysseus and Santiago, who both possess pride but show it in a different way.

Due to his role as an epic hero, a high station seen to be somewhere between the gods and ordinary people, paired with his great accomplishments in the past, Odysseus from the Odyssey felt a great sense of pride in who he was. This can be seen when he says, “Cyclops, / if ever mortal man inquire / how you were put to shame and blinded, tell him / Odysseus, raider of cities, took your eye: / Laertes’ son, whose home’s on Ithaca!” (Homer 36). At this point in the text, Odysseus and is crew of men have just escaped from the island of the Cyclops, and they were all safely on the ship, ready to continue their journey. In order to escape from the island, Odysseus had blinded the Cyclops, who was still on land and unable to harm them. However, as seen in the quote, Odysseus shouted his name back to the Cyclops, giving in to his need of being credited for all of his actions. Since he knew the Cyclops was within earshot, Odysseus could not pass up this chance to ensure that he was not being forgotten by a world that had moved on since his great actions in battle many years ago. This shows Odysseus’ prideful arrogance, as he made a deliberate choice with the pure intent of exerting his believed superiority over his beaten enemy by rubbing in the fact that he had been the one to blind him. Though his past actions were great and worthy of recognition, the attention that he had gotten for it fueled Odysseus’ desperate need to not be forgotten, which further proves that he was very self-centered and arrogant. This led to him shouting his name back to the Cyclops, which proved to be a poor choice as the Cyclops was then able to tell his father, the sea god Poseidon, exactly who had blinded him. As a result of his unnecessary decision that was made purely with his own interests in mind, Odysseus lost his entire crew throughout the course of the journey to the wrath of the gods. Odysseus’ pride, which could also be seen as arrogance, led to a desperate need within in him for others to know his name and associate all of his great deeds with it, and resulted in him making poor decisions that harmed other people.

The main character of The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago, was an old man who had built up a deep sense of pride throughout his life. He also exhibited the qualities of a code hero, as he dealt with some unavoidable losses in an honorable way while still maintaining his pride. As demonstrated in the text, “‘Thank you,’ the old man said. He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no true loss of pride” (Hemingway 13-14). At this point in the text, it was the evening before the old man set out on his mission to finally catch the great fish he had been dreaming about for so long, despite not having caught anything for weeks. The quote implies that at one point in his life, when he was still in his prime, Santiago might have been more arrogant due to his extraordinary fishing skills. Now, however, he has come to the realization that he is a humble person, but he did not dwell in misery over what had made that happen – whether it was old age or the lack of fish he was bringing in. It becomes even clearer to the reader over the course of Santiago’s very personal journey attempting to catch the great fish that he has not fallen into desperation. Though it was a hopeless attempt from the beginning, Santiago, a true code hero, suffered through it all with dignity and grace. This shows his pride, something that was not caused by the praise and admiration of others, but rather by his own dignity that he carried within himself, regardless of what happened or what other people thought of him. As seen by his thoughts in the text, Santiago was able to admit that humility was not something to be ashamed of, and he acknowledged that it could exist alongside pride. This allowed him to follow his ambitions of catching the great fish while also being able to accept inevitable failure without losing his sense of self worth. Santiago demonstrates pride at its greatest, since it existed within the old man as a deep understanding beyond shallow arrogance.

Both The Odyssey and The Old Man and the Sea show the value of pride through their main characters Odysseus and Santiago, respectively. The two characters share similar stories – heroes who were past the prime of their lives and quickly being forgotten by the world. As the years went on, Odysseus’ actions in battle were starting to fade into the distant memories of people, and he was no longer as physically capable or attractive as he had been. Similarly, Santiago was an old fisherman who was largely ignored by his peers, as he was no longer bringing in any catches. Both texts demonstrate the way that pride continues to play an important part of people’s lives, even when the reason they may have initially gained their pride is long gone. During their prime, Odysseus and Santiago had been the best at what they did, leading to a deep sense of pride that was rooted within them and stayed with both of them even when things started to head downhill. However, the two work’s portrayal of pride differs when it comes to the attitudes that their characters exhibit regarding their pride. Odysseus displayed his pride in an arrogant manner, which could be seen in the ways that he exerted his dominance over other people. Due to his belief that he was superior to others, Odysseus often withheld important information from his men, taunted his enemies, and made poor decisions that he justified with his status. His arrogance could also be seen in his strong desire to remain well known, which was demonstrated when he called back to the Cyclops. Santiago, on the other hand, displayed his pride in a more noble way. He did not allow himself to live the rest of his life blinded by arrogance and driven by the desperate need to remain respected despite being well past his glory days, as Odysseus did. Instead, Santiago acquired a deeper understanding of pride as he gained humility with old age and came to the realization that the two could coexist. His determination to catch the great fish showed that he was still in pursuit of his dreams and had not lost sense of his inner pride and worthiness, despite what others thought of him. Santiago’s struggle of catching the fish and his ordeal fighting the sharks also showed that while he did not believe in giving up, he was not afraid or ashamed of failure, a great understanding of life that can only be obtained through humility. Despite humility and pride seemingly being opposites, Santiago took pride in his understanding that humility is not a weakness, whereas Odysseus’ arrogance blinded him to such truths. The Odyssey and The Old Man and the Sea depict the idea of pride through characters with similar stories yet different outlooks on life.

Pride is an extremely important quality to possess, despite its ability to be harmful if one becomes too prideful. Pride can be gained in different ways, such as through the praise of others or through a personal understanding of self worth, and it can also be shown in different ways. Examples of pride can be seen in many aspects of real life, as well as in famous literature. The epic hero Odysseus from The Odyssey is excessively prideful and shows the value through his arrogance, which leads to negative consequences. The more reserved code hero Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea demonstrates pride as an honorable sense of dignity that he shows regardless of the situation. Both The Odyssey by Homer and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway portray pride through the lives of the heroes featured in the works.