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The Old Man and the Sea Essay

October 6th, 2009

Ernest Hemingway has managed to create a unique character using close to no action and dialogue all described in just fifty pages. The audience is able to recognize Santiago’s understanding and relationship with the world, his attitude towards life as well as some of his more concrete problems. It appears that in the novel “The Old Man and the Sea” the author needed to show a certain personality type encapsulated in one character on his fishing trip. It is visible that with all the pleasant characteristics the fisherman has, he is still holding on to his life tightly though immense amounts of problems. In addition to that, a rather vivid physical description was given to Santiago.

The old man in the book was not outstanding in his appearance. Like many more Cuban fishermen, as I would imagine, he was thin and wrinkly. The text states this fact clearly in the phrase ,” The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles on his back and neck. Santiago was also covered with “blotches of benevolent skin cancer” likely because of the burning sun in the area. The Cuban fisherman’s eyes were the “same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated”. The old man’s appearance hints about some of the personal qualities he might have, for example a good attitude to life.

Throughout the book though the frequently shown trait of the old man was his great faith and determination. He had not once shown despair appropriate for the situation. When the sharks were attacking, he had not helplessly given the fish away, but fought the attackers with his bare hands. At the beginning of the novel, the man said, “Have faith in the Jankees my son. Think of the great diMaggio”.

Santiago had great respect for everyone and everything he interacted with regardless of whether they were his friends or his prey. He mentions that everyone should treat the sea not as an enemy but as “something that withheld or gave great favours”, he also treated the boy and the fish with respect. The fisherman was presented independent. He did not ask any younger fishermen to come with him, and neither did he go fishing with others at all. What Santiago believes is, “I try not to borrow. First you borrow then you beg” . This individual is faithful, independent, and respectful, but he is old and lonely.

His only companion, a boy named Manolin, is forbidden by his parents to fish with the old man. Santiago has no close friends. His older fellow fishermen feel sorry for his bad luck with fishing, and the younger ones just make fun of him. He is poor as most other fishermen, but wishes to bring a big fish in to feed everyone. There is not much social interaction at all in his life. All of his actions are centered around the sole purpose of keeping himself alive to catch more fish.

The old man from the novel represents the combination of lonelyness and strength of character that the author possibly intended to describe. It was exceptionally summarized and emphasized in Santiago life as it was displayed. Regardless of the fact that he has so many good qualities and such traits as faith and determination, this does not guarantee him a happy old age. In a short novel like “The Old Man and the Sea”, Hemingway illustrated this point and proved it.


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