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Essay/Term paper: The old man and the sea

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Book Reports

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In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway describes an old

fisherman and the unfortunate trials he faces as his "luck" runs out.

Through the novel, the fisherman, Santiago, replicates Hemingway's ideal man,

a noble hero. Hemingway had a Code of Behavior that he himself followed. He

had morals that were strict and an appreciation for instinct and human

nature. He had a specific way of living life and an understanding of time.

He believed in taking risks and acting upon instinct. He believed that a

person who followed his Code of Behavior was a noble hero. In Hemingway's

Code of Behavior, a noble hero is a master craftsman. This means that he is

not dependent on other people or on technology. It also means that he is a

master at his art and he keeps practicing it in order to better himself. The

second characteristic of a noble hero is that he struggles in order to remain

undefeated. This means that he does anything possible to reach his goal. He

struggles and suffers in order to perfect his art and therefore, himself, "No

matter what kind of suffering and trial he has to go

Kapadia 2

through he has to fulfill his destiny…"(Harada 270). The third

characteristic of Hemingway's noble hero is that he accepts defeat. Once he

is defeated, once he can better himself no more, he should stop trying

because, "He lives in time. And the goal of time is death and

destruction"(Harada 276). He should accept that he is no longer useful and

that he has been defeated. These three characteristics define Hemingway's

ideal man. In The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago exemplifies Hemingway's Code

of Behavior for a noble hero.

In the novel, Santiago is a master craftsman. He is only dependent on

himself. While the other fishermen use motor boats, Santiago uses his skiff.

While the other men have many workers and helpers who hold several lines,

Santiago has three lines all operated by his own hand. He is an expert,

"…the old man goes much farther out than the other fishermen and casts bait

in much deeper water"(Gurko 66). Because he knows the waters and the

movements of the fish, he has a better chance of catching the fish. Although

he is taking a greater risk by going out deeper, he has a better chance of

catching the bigger fish. Another thing that makes Santiago a master

craftsman is his experience. He has been a fisherman all his life.

Therefore he has had much time to master this art. Though many fishermen

might doubt him, he is great. He has skill and he applies it in order to

succeed. He uses his hands and he uses his instincts to master the art of

being a fisherman. Santiago uses himself, his physical and mental strength

to catch the fish, and by doing these things, his difficult task becomes

easier. He is a master craftsman not only through his skill, but also

through his determination.

Kapadia 3

Determination defines the second characteristic that makes Santiago a

noble hero. He is determined and he struggles in order to remain undefeated.

Although he has gone 84 days without catching a fish, he does not give up.

He goes out on his 85th day with the mentality that this is the day when he

will catch a fish. This is what keeps him going. He knows that he still has

the ability and strength to be a good fisherman. He never gives up. After

catching the marlin, he states, "Fish…I'll stay with you until I am

dead"(52). This shows his determination to win the battle and the fish. He

has fought these battles hundreds of times before, he suffered, but he won.

Still this battle is different. He fights in a way he has never fought

before and he suffers. He suffers in catching the fish, killing the fish,

attempting to return home, and fighting off the sharks. But through all this

suffering, he still fights, "… for he alone has to endure the sufferings to

fulfill his destiny"(Harada 270). This is his mentality, he knows what he

must do and so, he does it. He never lets down his guard and he fights with

consistent strength.

A third characteristic that makes Santiago a noble hero is that he

accepts his defeat. The fish is eaten and he has returned home with its

remains. He realizes that he went out too far and that he made a mistake.

He fought a tough battle and in the end, he was defeated. He even admits to

himself that he has been beaten. Although through most of the novel he has

great strength in fighting the fish and he is determined to succeed, in the

end he knows what has happened. Through out his life he has struggled and

suffered and won but this was his final

Kapadia 4

battle. And though he lost, he lost with a fight. He realized now that it

is over for him. He is done fighting and it doesn't matter anymore, "… he

knew he was beaten now finally and without remedy"(119). He knows also, that

it is his fault. He realizes his mistake and that he cannot change what has

already happened. He went out too far and although this caught him the

bigger fish, it also caused him failure. He says it to himself, he was

careless and he was responsible for his own failure. He tried to do more

than he was capable of doing. He has lost, "Only I have no luck

anymore,"(32) he says. There is nothing he can do to change this. He has

been defeated.

"To be a hero means to dare more than other men, to expose oneself to

greater dangers, and therefore more greatly risk the possibilities of defeat

and death"(Gurko 66). Santiago fits this description perfectly. H dares

more than other men do, and he strives for perfection. He exposes himself to

dangers by going out much farther and casting bait in deeper waters. Because

of this, he is able to catch the bigger fish. Yet still, the bigger fish is

more powerful and pulls the skiff even farther out to sea. This makes it an

even bigger risk. Another risk he takes is that he goes all by himself. He

does this in order to fulfill his destiny using only his own resources. The

problem is that he has no aid. And in the case of falling overboard or

getting lost at sea, there will be no one there to help him. He proves to be

a noble hero in the eyes of Hemingway as well. He is a master craftsman in

his enduring strength, skill, and knowledge of fishing, "Santiago

determinedly bends all his strength and accrued experience in his craft to

the task

Kapadia 5

of playing the fish well"(Rovit 86). He knows tricks and occupies himself

with bettering his ability to fish. He struggles and suffers in order to

stay undefeated. He beats all odds and fights all battles with the thought

that he can and will win. And so he does. He goes far out and acts on what

he thinks is right. He does not fear his actions nor does he regret them.

He fights every battle as if it is his last and therefore comes out on top.

Third, he accepts defeat. This is the most honorable characteristic. No

matter how hard he has fought, once it is over, he does not look back wishing

he could have acted differently. He accepts his mistakes and recognizes

that, "He has overstepped the boundary of man's finite and limited

nature"(Harada 275). He went out too far and this is what he gets. In these

ways he is much like Hemingway, a noble hero. His actions and the

consequences of them are easily notable and should not be look down upon. In

the long run, Santiago answered his calling, fought his battles, and when he

was finally defeated by his own pride, he recognized it and accepted it.

This makes Santiago a noble hero. 

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