The last novel that Ernest Hemingway published before committing suicide was “The Old Man and the Sea.” It gives us a hint about the author’s ideas and thoughts before he died.
Definition of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”
The novel depicts the story of an old man who tries to catch a big marlin. However, the story is more than just a man and a fish. Actually, there are two main themes in a story: religion, connecting individuals to a cyclical life’s nature, and dignity in determination.
The novel was written ten years before the death of the author in Cuba. Despite the fact that Hemingway was not a Cuban, but he was a big fan of Cuba. Also, he loved fishing. Therefore, these two things inspired him to write a novel.
“Life Magazine” was a place for the novel to be published in 1951. It became a bestseller and got great praise from critics. Moreover, Hemingway was proud of himself for this novel. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize.
Also, Hemingway was honored and praised for his creative ability to use a few words to describe complicated things. He used a minimalist style, concentrating more on context and avoiding lengthy descriptions.
Detailed Characters’ Analysis
Santiago and Manolin
Santiago is the main character of the novel. He is a Cuban fisherman. He has not been lucky for 84 days at sea. He is looked down upon by much luckier and younger fishermen. Santiago is poor.
However, there is a young boy, Manolin, making him not feel alone. He believes in Santiago despite the fact that his family does not appreciate it. Manolin brings Santiago fresh food and bait, though he is working for more successful fishermen. Manolin still belives in Santiago and spends time with him. Santiago enjoys communicating with this boy and accepts his gifts humbly.
Santiago enjoys talking about baseball with Manolin. He admires the baseballer, Joe DiMaggio, just like Manolin admires him. Manolin claims that Santiago is the best of the best fishermen, making Santiago touched by this.
In a dream, he sees lions that are playing on the African beach. (He saw such a picture as a child.) Note that it is very significant.
Santiago vs. the Marlin
The next day Santiago hopes to catch a big fish. He takes his skiff out. He hooks an enormous marlin. The fish is so giant that it is pulling his boat along. Santiago is determined to wear the marlin. He begins a battle with a fish. It lasts for two days and two nights.
During this period, Santiago feels the pain of wounded hands that were cut by the fishing line. Also, his backaches. He maintains his hold on the fish, not willing to let it go. Santiago hopes Manolin will help him with fish. Fortunately, Santiago wins the battle. However, it is even more challenging to get this fish back to the shore.
The Sharks and Santiago’s Return
The marlin is so huge that Santiago cannot load the carcass to the boat. He straps it to the boat side. The fish is bloody, so the sharks can feel where it is. He keeps on stabbing the sharks that come closer. As long as every shark takes away a huge piece, Santiago loses a big part of the marlin.
Finally, the only thing that remains from a fish is the 18-foot skeleton. However, Santiago is even grateful for being alive in the aftermath. He is too exhausted and weak to deal with the skeleton. Нe leaves it by the boat. He goes to the shack and falls asleep. In the morning, all the people are impressed with the size of the fish. However, Manolin is happy that Santiago is alive.
When Santiago talks to Manolin, he falls asleep and sees the same dream he has seen before fishing. In that dream, the lions were playing on the beach. this dream means that Santiago misses for the past and easy times.
Note that Hemingway wrote this novel during a complicated time of his life. He suffered from depression and alcoholism, was married four times, with no literary work published for ten years before “The Old Man and the Sea.”
So, we can compare Santiago with Hemingway. For instance, Ernest loved hunting in the African safari so that we may compare it to Santiago’s dream of lions in Africa.
What is the significance of the lions on the beach for the old man?
The novel includes many symbols. The sea represents life; the marlin symbolizes the challenge. Santiago is an artist who uses his abilities and talent every day. Lions signify harmony, nobility, strength, and youth.
The old man feels having more connection with lions than with people. These animals remind the days of Santiago’s youth.
The battle with sharks in the sea proves that he is still skilled and strong enough like he was many years ago. The lions are hunters and predators that are as strong as the old man. When Santiago is dreaming of lions, he feels comfort since they connect his present and past. In the dreams of the old man, the lions are playing like cats. They are representing possibilities and youth. When Santiago imagines them, he is as happy as he is with his friend Manolin. He loves being with this young boy and loves his company. The lions are inspiring Santiago to fulfill his ambitions. Even despite the fact that the only thing that remained from a big marlin is a skeleton, Santiago still is proud of himself that he was strong and skilled enough to catch such a fish. So he feels strong, courageous, and inspired.
The main theme of the book is built up by the symbols. It tells us that life is a battlefield for everyone. Hemingway emphasizes the thought that it is not a reward, which is important but the courage to fight. The significant metaphor that stands for strength and courage are lions. Therefore, the book remains so great for many years. Even though Santiago failed to bring the fish home, he is considered to be courageous because he reached his goal. So he proves that he is a real fisherman, which is the biggest reward for him.
Heroism is the main theme of the story. Santiago manages to cope with isolation, pain, and hunger. Santiago would rather blame himself but not the sharks snatching the marlin. He also fights against the defeat as a fisherman who has not caught a fish for 84 days. He feels pain and is exhausted but still keeps on struggling with the marlin. Also, he fights against the sharks. When the situation is getting more and more complicated, Santiago recollects the memories and prays to God. He releases his potential when he catches the marlin. All in all, fish is not the most important thing in the novel. Finally, Santiago can be called a true hero, which the most important thing.
Moreover, Santiago can be compared to Christ. He is as humble and brave as the Son of God. He is wounded but still keeps on carrying the burden. So we may compare the scene of catching a marlin with crucifixion. Like Christ, Santiago is a real hero with a noble calling and mission. Finally, the story of Christ and Santiago is a story of the triumph of life over death.
It is important to note that Santiago might be compared to any person who wants to be alive. No man can escape death, even though he or she tries. The marlin also symbolizes this fact. According to Santiago, being defeated is worse than being destroyed. The victory over circumstances is exactly the thing that defines a man.
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