The old man and the sea

“Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemmingway

  Ernest Hemmingway’s novel “The Old Man and the Sea” is a wonderful story set in the Gulf Stream in the Caribbean.  The story tells of and old man, Santiago, who failed as a fisherman to catch fish for eighty-four days, yet, still believes despite his bad fortune he will succeed. As in many great works, the story illustrates many themes. I believe Hemmingway would have preferred calling the themes struggles. The struggles that stood out in my mind were those between men, between man and nature and man versus himself and Hemmingway as no other knows of struggles, especially with fish as he fished in the same waters and sought the same fish as in the book. In each of these struggles two basic human qualities rise above all – respect and faith.


The struggle of man versus man is best shown the way the other fishermen, the café owner and his protégé Manolin think about Santiago. The two former are in one camp while the latter is clearly in another. The other fishermen and the café owner believe Santiago has come into such a run of bad luck he will never come out of it. In fact, even Manolin’s parents believe he is a ‘salao’, one who has the worst form of bad luck. Manolin’s parents ordered their son to go work on another boat due to Santiago’s persistent bad luck, which showed their lack of faith and respect in the old man. On the other hand, Manolin remained a friend to Santiago and in his own way loved the old man. Manolin did not care what the others thought of Santiago. Through the time he spent with Santiago, the talks between them and the care he took of the old man, Manolin expressed his respect for Santiago and his faith the old man’s bad luck would turn around.


The struggle between man and nature is the one that most interested me because it showed the integrity of the old man and his love of the sea. The other fishermen saw fishing as their way of earning their keep as a struggle with an enemy that has to be plundered by force. Their view of fish was essentially in terms of the value of the fish per pound when they sold their fish to the ice truck. Alternatively, Santiago loved and respected the sea and all the beings that lived in it. He even did not hold any malice for the fishermen who lived from the sea – even when they laughed at him. When he worked on the turtle boats he felt sorry for the creatures. He understood the sea and he loved its natural beauty and Hemmingway prose pulls the reader to this beauty thereby cajoling the reader towards the respect of the sea which, indeed, is Santiago’s faith or even.


Lastly, the struggle between man and himself has probably never been brought to bear in such a way as the thoughts that went through the mind of Santiago while he was trying to bring his fish in, especially, through the doubts he had during the ordeal. The doubt he had of whether he or the fish will win in the end exemplified his respect for his adversary, because he did not see the fish as an enemy. He saw the fish as an adversary who could also win and go free. The doubts of whether he could catch the fish by himself without the help of Manolin and the loneliness of not having the boy with him. The doubt of whether the boat would hold out or, more importantly, whether he could hold out against such a ‘big fish’. This was exemplified with a beautiful line, “Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me too?” The doubt of whether he could endure the pain, the cramps, the stiffness in his body, the sun and its heat. The intensity by which Hemmingway conveys the struggle to the reader is wonderful. Nonetheless, he continued with the fish with the faith in his success despite his doubts and with full respect of his adversary.


Hemmingway’s use of eloquent prose is warm and loving to the plight of the old man. While there are few conversations there are beautiful descriptions of the sea and its inhabitants during his fight to catch his fish.


In conclusion, one can say the best of stories are based on struggles. In “Old Man and the Sea” a struggle takes place between man and his adversary. At the most basic level your interest is drawn to whether Santiago will catch his fish. As the story develops, the way Santiago deals with his adversary through his respect for the other and his faith in himself is what makes this book such a truly rewarding book to read.



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