ERNEST HEMINGWAY A lonely old man, Santiago, packs up his fishing gear, his eighty-fourth day of fishing without catching a single fish. His sole friend, a young man, Manolin, not even an eighth of his age brings him a beer and dinner for the evening. As they chat Santiago announces how the eighty-fifth day is his lucky day, and how he will finally catch a fish. The premise of the story is the purity and goodness and bravery of Santiago, the Cuban Fisherman in Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize winning short novel, The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway also received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his work.
The purpose of this paper is to show some methods of writing that Hemingway used to characterize Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea. Perhaps the most obvious method of writing Hemingway used was symbolism. It is shown in the young boy and Santiago’s dreams of Lions, which symbolize youth. The fish and the shark also have great in that Santiago spent three days trying to catch the fish, only for it to be eaten by the shark. The use of religion in the novel also plays a part in Santiago’s characterization. During the old man’s ordeal the phrases,” I wish the boy was here,” and ” I wish I had the boy,” come across Santiago’s mind often enough to merit special attention.
In each instance he means exactly what he says: the presence of the boy would be a help in a time of crisis. But he is also invoking by means of these phrases the strength and courage of his youth.(Baker,28) In his old age and the time of his suffering Santiago is supported by the memory of his youth and the strength of his youth. Living so, in the past, he is happy. But there is the further realization that ” the child is father to the man.” (Baker, 30) The boy and the lion give him strength. Santiago says,’ I wish the boy were here and that I had some salt.” Then he proves to himself that he has enough of both in their metaphorical meaning to eat raw tuna and renew his waning strength. The boy and the lion help in a very notable way.
For the boy and the lions are related to the fundamental psychological laws of Santiago’s- and indeed of human-nature. This is a constant wave-like operation of bracing and relaxation. The boy braces, the lion relaxes, as in the systolic-diastolic movement of the heart.(Johnson,30) The shark and the great marlin also have significant meanings. ” In every species there are two orders, the great Marlins and the lesser, the great shark and the smaller. There are also two kinds of men- as there have always been in Hemingway- the greater man and the lesser, heroes and ordinary humans.” (Gurko,66) The old mans realization of what he has done in killing the fish, is reflected in his apologies to the fish, and this realization and its implications are emphasized symbolically throughout the novel. (Burhans, 76) Even more significant is the old man’s hero-worship of Joe Dimaggio, the great Yankee outfielder.
Dimaggio, like Santiago, was a champion, a master of his craft. The image of Dimaggio is a constant source of inspiration to Santiago Santiago is also seen as a Christ figure. “Santiago (St. James) was one of the Disciples of Christ; the description of the carrying of the mast from the beach to his shack is clearly meant to remind the reader of Christ under the weight of the cross; he goes to sleep after his ordeal face down “with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up.” And the most telling reference, Hemingway has him say,”Ay,” when hee sees the school of scavenger sharks. “There is no translation for this word and perhaps it si just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands into the wood.”(Rivot, 90) Before Santiago is identified as Christ, he is identified as Cain. Once he has hooked the great fish, all of his generalized sense of humble brotherhood with to her creatures of the sea concentrates upon the marlin.
He refers to the fish as “brother.” Yet, at the same time, he is relentlessly determined to capture the marlin as Cain killed his brother. (Wells, 59) The Christian symbolism is so evident here that it shifts from man to fish- a legitimate symbol for Christ since the beginning of Christianity. (Wells, 57) Santiago is a very old and has not much time left. But he is training Manolin to pick up where he leaves off. The boy has been removed by his parents from the old man’s boat because of his bad luck, but this in no way diminishes the boy’s eagerness to be like Santiago. The master pupil relationship between them suggest that the Heroic impulse is part of a traditional process handed down from one generation to another, that the world is a continuous skein of possibility and affirmation.
(Gurko, 67) “Indeed, Santiago is the clearest representation of the hero because he is the only major character in Hemingway who has not been permanently wounded or disillusioned.(Gurko, 66) The Old Man and the Sea is remarkable for its stress on what man can do and on the world as an arena where the heroic deeds are possible. The concept of the hero whose triumph consists of stretching his own powers to their absolute limits regardless of the physical result gives The Old Man and the Sea a special place among the authors heart.(Devlin,68) Through perfectly realized symbolism Hemingway has beautifully and movingly spun out of an old fisherman’s tale a great trial just such a pragmatic ethic and its basis in an essentially tragic vision of a man: and in reaffirmation of man’s most cherished values and their reaffirmation in terms of our times rests the deepest and the enduring signifigance of The Old Man and the Sea.