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The Old Man and the Sea Research Papers

Research papers on Ernest Hemingway's novel The Old Man and the Sea, are custom written by literary experts at Paper Masters. Have our writers explain the complex relationship between Santiago and the sea, or the marlin or his relationship between him and the boy.

Santiago, Hemingway’s hero of The Old Man and the Sea, is not Everyman, yet he does represent man in his most elemental greatness. Santiago is a man with uncomplicated thoughts, a simple life, and simple, life-giving wants. He has love and he has his work—fishing. After the debacle with the sharks is over, Santiago “sailed lightly now and he had no thoughts nor any feelings of any kind”. He loves the boy Manolin and the boy loves him. The boy’s love is a powerful influence on his life. “The boy keeps me alive, he thought” (104). Thus, Santiago’s life has at it essence the love between him and the boy, and his love for the nobility of nature’s creatures. He respects the process of life, and not necessarily the product. He is satisfied that he caught the big fish well, and that it was a good death. Having lost the fish to sharks, he simply does what is necessary to return home. The fish is no longer part of his journey. He let the fish go, figuratively, when he said, “I wish it were a dream and that I had never hooked him. I’m sorry about it, fish. It makes everything wrong” (107).

I The Old Man is an archetypal figure in a way that Romero is not. His battle with the fish is fraught with an utterly transparent symbolism in a way that Romero’s battles with the bulls only hints at. There is something wholly fundamental and primal in The Old Man and the Sea that is not present in the earlier novel and makes it a much more prophetic type of work. The Old Man and the Sea reaches at something that the younger Hemingway did not presume to reach at. It is Hemingway’s attempt to be a Jeremiah or Homer. Attention must be paid to such an attempt. For even if it failed—and this student believes that it did not—it indicates that whatever flaws Hemingway had as a writer and a man, a lack of aspiration and a lack of imagination were not among them.

Santiago is a simple man. He is humble before man and before nature. He is humble before the great fish, yet he knows that they are equals nevertheless. Locked in a life-and-death battle, both Santiago and the fish focus everything on the necessity of winning:

  1. The marlin fights for freedom
  2. Santiago fights for the fish

What the fish lacks in intelligence is made up for by his strength and superior fighting advantage. Unfortunately for the fish, it doesn’t realize how easy it might be to conquer the old man. “Perhaps he is too wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush”. Santiago thinks about and talks to the great fish as it pulls the skiff out to sea. The fish is his brother and his friend. He could not separate himself from the fish because he understands the elemental impulses to survive and to extend one’s greatest efforts in doing that which needs to be done. Santiago is lonely in the boat without the boy, and speaking to the fish and the bird, and the sharks, Santiago is not alone in nature. His humility and his understanding make him no better nor worse than the creatures around him. They are doing what he is doing. Santiago understands he will kill the fish even before he catches it. It is what Santiago does and he does it well. Santiago is willing to stay with the fish until either one of them is dead . In other words, he will not cut the lines if the battle gets too rough. His intentions are to kill the great fish; yet, for Santiago, this means making a good kill. For Santiago the fisherman, killing the fish comes naturally and he does it well; but, for Santiago the humble man, the killing of the fish is like killing a brother. Santiago does not judge himself harshly until the sharks destroy the great fish. Then he apologizes to the fish, and he believes that his pride made him go too far out, and by doing so, he lost any luck he might have had. The sharks ruined the fish, and for that, Santiago grieves.

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