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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway presents a fisherman called Santiago as an ideal man. It is because he is independent in his actions, showing determination and willingness to pursue life chances. The highly notable attribute of the old fisherman is his unquenchable spirit to achieve what he wants (Hemingway, 1995). Despite the difficulties and pain, his spirit remains steadfast and undefeated. In the Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway epitomizes Santiago as the main character and hero embodying human endurance, courage, faith, and honor.
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Santiago’s Courage and Honor
Santiago’s courage embodies him as a man of great honor. Santiago is one man in the story who under no circumstances gives in to reproaches or fear. In the novel, Hemingway expresses that courage is grace that is under pressure (Hemingway, 1995). This definition of courage perfectly represents the bravery harbored by Santiago. He does not complain about the bad luck he experiences in his daily engagements.
Additionally, Santiago does not point fingers at betrayers while achieving his goals. For instance, he does not blame the sharks that steal the big catch that he single-handedly struggled to get. Santiago also refrains from lamenting about the Marlin that dared his strength in the sea (Bloom, 2008). Instead, he focuses on getting a large catch as he used to get previously. His courage and honor are seen when he fights to protect the Marlin against the revenging sharks (Gurko, 1955). Santiago battles the dangerous sharks killing many with the rudimentary weapons he has in his vicinity. The crude armament he uses to fight back the angry and hungry sharks includes a knife, oar, and harpoon. During the fight, he wishes he had strong armaments like large stones, which he believes could have helped him subdue the dangerous animals.
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Nonetheless, his courage slightly declines, making him partially accept defeat; he says, ‘I never knew how easy it is when you’re beaten’ (Hemingway, 1995). However, he is neither wholly beaten nor is he fully accepting defeat. He gathers the courage left to sail through to the shore with Marlin’s skeleton encouraging himself that he lives to fight for another day. Santiago’s fierce combat against the dangerous sharks takes great courage and honor.
Santiago’s Faith and Endurance
Despite eighty-four days of bad luck, hunger, and pain, Santiago holds to faith and endurance, which later brings him pride when he catches a large Marlin. He develops a strong faith that makes him go deep into the sea, where he believes he will get a good catch. He endures the turbulences in the deep sea and the strength of the large Marlin. Santiago compares himself to Jose DiMaggio, a hero who overcame agony after a long struggle. Santiago has faith and believes that since DiMaggio bore his bone spur after an extended period of enduring challenges, he can also bear the discomforts of life to achieve his goals (Gurko, 1955). His faith makes him endure the weight and strength of the huge fish he catches in the deep sea. Santiago believes in his strength, thus overpowering the Marlin that could pull him and his bought boat. His faith and endurance finally make him kill and tie the Marlin to his boat, thus restoring the previous pride he lost due to several unsuccessful catches.
Additionally, Santiago keeps faith in meeting his life goals even if his hands remain unwilling to open after a long battle against the sharks. His hands could only respond to pain due to the bruises he got from the fight. Since he still had faith that he would overcome the sharks, he claimed that his hands betrayed his will. He even thought that the hands had their minds. Moreover, Santiago’s faith and endurance are espoused in his dream of long-gone days when he hand-wrestled golden lions on the African beach. Through his dream, he had faith that he could still regain his strength, which would help him get a better catch and protect it from the sharks. In his weak state, he compares himself with the sea turtle that keeps its heart beating even after dying. Such indicates Santiago’s great faith and enduring character, showing that he would never give up in life, even at his weakest point, before getting the catch he desired. The eyes of the old man remained alive even though something was broken inside him towards the end of the story. His body may have remained weak and vulnerable, but his faith and spirit were eternal, invisible, and enduring (Hemingway, 1995). While every person had lost hope in their endeavors, Manolin and Santiago had faith in each other and planned the best ways to fish together to redeem greatness (Hemingway, 1995).
The play ends by foreshadowing the renewal of Santiago’s dreams about the lions he subdued in his youth. Such shows his strong faith even at his weakest point in life. He kept his faith and endurance alive to accomplish his dreams. Even though he was in a squalid state after fighting against the shark to rescue his catch, he remained proud, claiming that he would have some fish to consume at home, even when he knew he had none (Bloom, 2008). His faith made him prefer remaining hungry rather than experiencing the shame of easily losing the Marlin to the sharks. The positive attitude Santiago developed toward achieving his dreams of life indicates how he kept his faith and endurance alive.
Santiago’s endurance, courage, honor, and faith exemplify him as a hero that every individual can emulate. His battles were never with old age, poverty, sharks, or marlins but a struggle to achieve what he wanted. The big catch was his focus despite the foes and difficulties he met in life. Hemingway developed the character Santiago to show people experiences that can help them overcome life battles. He shows the readers that refusing to fight results in defeat. Developing strong faith and fighting with courage enables an individual to endure the turbulence of the battle, even at one’s weakest point. Like Santiago, one gains victory and honor even if they don’t necessarily win.
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- Bloom, H. (Ed.). (2008). Ernest Hemingway’s the Old Man and the Sea. Infobase Publishing.
- Gurko, L. (1955). The Heroic Impulse in “The Old Man and the Sea.” The English Journal, 44(7), 377-382.
- Gurko, L. (1955). The Old Man and the Sea. College English, 17(1), 11-15.
- Hemingway, E. (1995). The Old Man and the Sea. 1952. New York: Scribner.