The Old Man and the Sea Critical Evaluation
The Old Man and The Sea is a short novel by Ernest Hemingway. An old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, and a young boy, Manolin, have been going out to sea fishing for forty days, but each day, returned with nothing. Manolin’s parents forced him to leave the old man whom they referred to as the worst form of unlucky, (Hemingway 1) on the fortieth day.
The young boy moved onto a more prosperous boat, where he was able to catch more fish and made more profit than he did with the old man. Santiago went forty more days without a companion and still without catching any fish. Manolin still helps the old man carry his gear after they get back from fishing, so he knows what the old man is going through. The young boy decides to take his profit and help Santiago with bait. On the eighty fifth day out at sea, Santiago finally felt a tug on the line. His luck has finally turned around.
The relationship between the young boy and the old man grows throughout the story. The old man is more of a grandfather figure to the boy. The old man was wishing the boy was there to be able to help him with the fish, and see how he is being towed. Santiago said, I wish I had the boy (Hemingway 21). The young boy did not just leave the old man in the past. He still went and helped him out in the evenings. He carried his gear and even used his own money to buy the old man bait that would be more useful than the bait Santiago was using.
Is the old man stubborn or determined? The old man is stuck in his old ways. He has not updated his equipment nor any of his techniques. The boy tries to help him by getting him better bait, but the old man did not want to take it. He thought it was humiliating to take advice from a younger fisherman. Santiago is a very prideful old fisherman, so when he tries to get help from other people he does not think it will be beneficial to him. He does end up taking the bait that the boy gave him and ended up being able to catch something. A heroic man like Santiago should have pride in his actions, and as Santiago shows us, “”humility was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride””(Hemingway 13) . At the same, though, it is apparently Santiago’s pride which presses him to travel dangerously far out into the sea, “”beyond all people in the world,”” to catch the marlin(Momtazi). Santiago is also a determined man. He does not give up on catching a fish. He went eighty four days before even getting a bite on the line. He came back at night and was ready to go again in the morning. He did not give up on what he wanted. He kept reaching for his goals. He did not let the fish go that had towed him further out to sea, he simply hung in there with it. Not only is he determined to catch the fish, but he is determined to be a good role model to Manolin. He wants to be able to show him what a man can do and what a man endures(Hemingway 4).
Ironic paradox is implied in Hemingway’s and Christian thoughts through the suffering and grace throughout the short story. Santiago represents St. James, which is one of Christ’s disciples and a fisherman of trade. It says when he was holding on to the fish he cut his hand; this shows that he is willing to sacrifice his life for the fish. ..the meaning of the great fish is, the Ichthus. A major aspect of Christian doctrine is the idea that (before the term “”Christian”” existed) it was God who sought man, through the Incarnation( Hamilton). The old man struggles up the hill on the way to his village with his mast across his shoulders resembles Christ’s march towards Calvary. Even the way the old man collapses on his bed face down with his arms straight out and palms up remind me of the way Christ suffering on the cross. He found in the art of fiction what was denied him in life, the paradox being that his greatest art came from transmuting experience into fiction; yet in the physical part of his experience, and perhaps in the psychic as well, lay one major factor that was to contribute substantially to his death. Yet, perhaps after all, he has been like Santiago, only defeated and not destroyed. (Hamilton) Hemingway gives images in the last pages of the novella to connect Santiago to Christ, this demonstrates transcendence by turning loss into gain, defeat into victory, and death into life.
The marlin symbolizes the old man’s perfect opponent. Santiago is lucky to find himself matched against an animal that brings out the best in him. His strength, bravery, love, and respect are brought out in the old man while out in the sea. The sharks symbolize the destructive laws of the universe, the laws can be transcended when equals fight to the death. The old man does not get any glory from battling the marlin or the shark, simply because they are base predators.
In everyday life there will always be struggles and stuffering. Santiago and Manolin face struggles and stuffering day-to-day throughout the story. At the beginning of the story, Manolin was forced to stop fishing with Santiago. The old man and the boy went forty days without catching anything at all, so Manolin’s parents told him that he had to fish on a higher performing boat. Manolin said, It was papa who made me leave. I am just a boy, I must obey him (Hemingway 1). The boy struggles with his parents decision about the fishing situation, but he helps the old man on a daily basis with his fishing gear and other fishing duties that he would normally do when he was fishing with the old man. The boy might be struggling with his parents, but Santiago is struggling with himself. His body isn’t like it was when he was younger. The story tells that it took three days for Santiago to harpoon and kill the marlin. Even when the old man was was exhausted and being towed out to sea, he still held on and fought to lure the greatest catch of his life in. When he finally gets the marlin in, he can not get it in the skiff. The old man felt faint and sick and he could not see well (Hemingway 26). While his body was exhausted and he was more than ready to give up, but he kept pushing himself to get the fish of his dreams. The suffering is not just physical, but emotional too. Santiago suffers because of his age and he doesn’t have the ability to perform like he once did in his younger age. This is where having the boy really helped the old man. If the young boy would have been with the old man he could have helped him in many ways. He could have harpooned the marlin, and could have helped the old man hold onto the fish, instead of him having to do it by himself. Everyone loses strength and muscle as they get older, so having someone who has more strength could have helped the old man get the marlin a little quicker than he did. Both the old man and the young boy went through emotional suffering. The boy wanted to be fishing with the old man, even though his parents wouldn’t allow him. He was happy being with the old man even if they didn’t catch fish like the other fishermen. The old man wishes the boy could be there to see everything that he was experiencing. Santiago was not a huge fan of being alone on the skiff, but to show the other fishermen he could fish just as well as them he kept going out everyday without anyone to be by his side. The relationship between Manolin and Santiago is more of a family relationship. They might not actually be family, but Santiago act like a grandfather figure in Manolins life.
Although the novella written by Hemingway is short in length, it is full of life lessons. It reminds us to never give up. It shows us that to reach a goal, you have to be persistent and you have to work hard. No matter what the obstacle, it can be conquered. It also exemplifies loyalty. Santiago was loyal to his trade, fishing. Although Manolin was forced to fish on another boat, his loyalty to the old man never wavered. He helped him every day, and eventually both prospered. He also gave the old man hope by continuing to be his friend. The fish is my friend too.I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars. Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity. I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers (Hemingway 75). In this quote from the short story the old man learns to respect nature and its beauty. He does not want to kill the marlin, but he knows he must in order to survive. Another life lesson that the old man learned was success is how you define it. He might have failed at being a fisherman, but he succeeded at being a nobleman. He lived by his values. He worked hard and had so much integrity to offer. He set out to earn the success, he didn’t just wait for it to come to him.
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