The Old Man's Struggles
Through times of struggle, humans resort to memories and ideas to help them through the conflict. This is particularly true when it comes to the hardships of fishing. Santiago is at battle for many days with a large marlin where he becomes triumphant, although temporarily, he was not defeated. He uses memories of the boy and baseball to keep his mind of the pain that he was in to fulfill his duty as a fisherman. Using characterization, point of view and symbolism, youthful strength, courage, and love of nature is strongly demonstrated in Ernest Hemingway's novella The Old Man and the Sea.
Santiago's strength and endurance was given to him by the boy before he left both physically with the food and bait, and mentally with the help he gave him. To Santiago the boy was much more than a child. He became a symbol of strength for the old man while he was fishing.
Santiago repeated over and over "I wish the boy were here and that I had some salt," (Hemingway 56). This shows that the boy would aid him in a time of crisis. As Carlos Baker says, the presence of the boy would help through conflict showing the boy's strength and courage of his youth (29). The old man feels alone and weak without the presence of the boy with him because throughout the whole book, the only people that the old man even speaks to is the boy. Many other people in the town make fun of him for being horribly unlucky and old (Hemingway 48). Although everybody believes that he is very unlucky, the boy never gives up on him (Hemingway 125). They have a mutual relationship between eachother. The man teaches the boy how to fish, and the boy gives the man food and aid (Handy 209). "The love of Manolo for Santiago is that of a disciple for a master in the arts of fishing," says literary critic, Carlos Baker (29). The boy loves the old man like a father. "Santiago says 'The boy keeps me alive...I must not deceive myself too much,' quotes Carlos Baker" (29). The boy reminds Santiago of his own childhood making him happy and inspired to keep fighting. He remembers a story of him being the best arm wrestler in his town and it gives him endurance (Baker 28). Even in Santiago's most painful situations, the boy is always optimistic showing his courage and love for the old man (Hemingway 125). When the old man got back from the fishing trip where he was hurt badly and felt that he was beaten by the fish, the boy responded with "He didn't beat you. Not the fish," (Hemingway 124). The boy helps the man heal back to perfect health at the end of the book even when the man has been hurt badly. The boy says "Lie down, old man, and I will bring you your clean shirt. And something to eat," (Hemingway 125). Youthful strength proves how Santiago was able to fight the marlin and win to achieve a greater morality.
Nature was another source for strength for the old man while he fought the marlin. He uses the sea to take his mind off the pain that he experiences in his body. In the beginning of the novel he was depicted as old, but cheerful. "Everything about him was old except for his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated, (Handy 208). The old man uses nature to calm himself down when his mind wonders off from hunger and pain (Hemingway 109).
Only people who love the sea call it La Mar in the novel and throughout, even when Santiago loses to the fish, he refers to the sea as La Mar. He also calls the fish his brother at sea showing his love for nature and the environment. He says "I love you [fish] and respect you [fish] very much," showing his respect for nature although he is hurting the fish and fighting for both of their lives. The old man is fighting not to pass out from exhaustion and hunger and the marlin is fighting not to get caught and eaten by the old man (Hemingway 54). Nature, like fishing, was one of Santiago's great loves and he utilizes it for courage and strength.
Santiago uses a "destroyed, but never defeated" mentality to fight through conflict that occurs between him and the marlin. William J. Handy quotes the narrater "To be defeated in fishing is not a defeated man," (208). In the novella, the old man believes that he is defeated, but as soon as he talks to the boy, he realizes that he was not defeated and will go fishing again. The boy helps him recover from his experience. When Santiago left, everybody made fun of him and laughed at him for being the worst form of unlucky and going 84 days at sea without catching a fish, but when he gets back, it seems that everybody cares. People started to ask the boy how the man was doing and seeming to care. A search team was even sent out at sea to find the man. This demonstrated that although he was beat up by the fish and came back with many cuts and bruises, he came back to people who loved him from this experience (Hemingway 125). Mario Vargas Llosa says that "He rises above his condition and 'rubs shoulders with mythological heroes and gods...,'" (5). The old man shows the fish what man can withstand (Baker 4). The old man achieved a greater "moral greatness" from fighting with the fish (William J. Handy). Carlos Baker believes that "...through great hardship and effort - keeps him from dying of hunger," (4). The old man says "But man is not made for defeat... A man can be destroyed, but never defeated," (Hemingway 103). Although Santiago came back to his home all bloodied and beat up, he never gave up on fishing or the boy.
People resort to different techniques during struggles in life to prevent themselves from quitting. Santiago uses nature, youth and courage to keep himself from dying. Santiago was but an old man, but mentally he was stronger than anybody.