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Ernest Hemmingway's 'Old Man And The Sea'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1896 words Published: 2nd May 2017

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Pride is something many people misinterpret often. What one person sees as prideful can be of someone else's views. Some believe that pride is something that should be taken lightly, while others may live their life fully on pride. Humility is also a topic often not fully understood. Morale decisions are viewed differently by different people, making it impossible to know the true meaning of being humble. The difference of pride and humility is a thin line for some people, and this is no different in The Old Man and the Sea. Santiago's loss of realization whether his choices are based on pride or humility, occurs throughout the story. Ernest Hemmingway, through symbolism, characterization, and conflict is able to convey the theme of pride during the story.

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In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemmingway uses symbols effectively to create a strong theme of pride throughout the story. The first symbol used is the marlin. The marlin resembles a worthy opponent for Santiago. This affects his pride because of the long fought battle between the two. At first, it is too elusive for Santiago to catch, but his pride is too much to just let it go. Their skirmish lasts for multiple days and eventually he is able to catch the fish. Santiago is proud this challenge tested him to his full potential and eventually led to success, until he ultimately loses it to the sharks. By losing the marlin, Santiago's pride is again affected. "He took all his pain and what was left of his strength and his long gone pride and he put it against the fish's agony […]" (Hemmingway 80). This sentence shows despite winning against the marlin, he feels that killing it was wrong. Santiago is a very humble person and this all is different than what he believes. The battle between the two tested Santiago in ways he would never be tested again. By emotionally testing his pride and humility, Santiago feels he has lost this portion of the battle. Instead of taking the victory for what it is worth against the marlin, he is brought down by the fact that he killed such a marvelous animal, which is against his normal motives. The symbol of the marlin takes a toll on Santiago's pride more than anything else in the story.

Aside from the marlin, the other symbols used to build a theme of pride are the Shovel Nosed Sharks. These sharks lead to the destruction of the marlin and symbolize opponents that Santiago faces, but gains no self victory from. They test Santiago in ways much differently from the marlin, and although Santiago is able to kill a few of them, they eventually emerge victorious by tearing down the marlin. The sharks affect Santiago's pride in a different way than the marlin did. "The Mako shark with his eight rows of teeth is also and "other" self, but a hostile one. That Santiago can recognize his beauty and nobility and kill him with respect," (Brenner 77). This shows the fulsome side of Santiago coming out. While normally being humble during his battles with fish, he is able to finally enjoy killing one. The reason for this is due to self defense. He can enjoy killing the fish, because he knows it was the right thing to do. This opposes his feelings for killing the marlin. Because he did not kill the marlin out of self defense, he feels it was the wrong thing to do. However, the sharks bring out the true fisherman in him. He fights them off strongly and is excited, as well as proud, with the end result. This demonstrates how someone can have two sides in them, a humble and a prideful one.

Furthermore, Hemmingway is able to show the theme of pride through characterization, especially with Santiago. First off, he is quite against killing for pride. He feels this is what ultimately ruined him and the marlin. "'Half fish,' he said. 'Fish that you were. I am sorry that I went too far out. I ruined us both.'" (Hemmingway 93) When the sharks finally take away the marlin from Santiago, he blames it on his pride for killing the marlin in the first place, believing it could have been prevented. This stays true throughout the story. He quite often refers back to killing the marlin with a feeling of regret. If it weren't for him going out so far and trying to catch the fish, he would not have been in the situation against the sharks. Despite Santiago feeling this is the reason of the marlin's demise, pride is the thing that in due course allowed him to survive through the whole journey. This allows him to fight his battle at sea and keep him determined. Defeat was not an option for him. He would rather go out fighting than give up without trying to catch the fish. His pride to succeed takes over at the end. Everything became a tool for survival, and he would not be let down at this point. He feels he had come to far to let it all go to waste, and that if the marlin were to die because of him, he should make it out as a tribute to the marlin. The hardships he endured throughout his days at sea were all because of his pride and will to succeed.

Although Santiago mainly works toward the theme of pride, another character that does this is the marlin. The marlin creates the whole battle with Santiago, testing his endurance the whole time. As previously said, Santiago's pride is what defeats the marlin in the end. The marlin, however, is what really effuses his pride in the first place. "But I think the great DiMaggio would be proud of me today." (Hemmingway 75) This is what Santiago thought to himself after finally catching the marlin. Typically, Santiago is quite humble when at sea. Catching a fish does not affect his thoughts or feelings at all, however, the marlin was different. Because the fish was something different than Santiago had ever battled before, his pride had to stand out. This accomplishment was something far too great to not care about. Santiago took a sense of pride and triumph in this accolade. His normally humble self was put aside until he realizes that he had went too far out and the journey home while keeping the marlin in one piece would be quite difficult. Even when battling the sharks, the marlin is what mixes emotions of Santiago. He apologizes to the fish, feeling that it was his fault that it was ruined and eventually lost .The marlin created all of these emotions in Santiago for their long battle and tested each one to their very limits.

Along with symbolism and characterization, Hemmingway uses conflict to further develop the theme of pride with Santiago. One main conflict in the story is Man Vs Nature. The conflict exists between Santiago and the sea. Obviously, the grueling battle they have together tests him physically, but it also affects him mentally and emotionally. Before the fight with the marlin, Santiago has 84 days at sea without catching anything, yet remained happy and optimistic. His humbleness is able to overcome the bad luck he has against the sea. As time progresses and the battle against the marlin approaches, the sea continues to test the old man. "I must hold his pain where it is, he thought. Mine does not matter. I can control mine," (Hemmingway 88). Although Santiago was struggling physically and emotionally, he had too much pride to give up on catching the marlin. The sea is something he was obviously comfortable with normally. This battle with the marlin and ultimately the sea is different than what he has ever dealt with before. The further he went out, the tougher staying focused became. The longer he was out there, the harsher the toll the sea took on his body. This conflict between himself and the sea would eventually hit him harder than anything he had ever, and will face. He goes on to say "You have to last. Don't even speak of it," (Hemmingway 88). Quitting is not an option for him. Eventually this pays off and he does catch the marlin. By staying focused and not letting up, it shows significant pride in Santiago's character. The one thing Santiago did not want to do at this time was lose this fish. He had worked so hard to this point that it was not an option. It may have taken an extremely difficult toll on his body; however, he would not let it bring him down. This conflict tests his pride and will to fight more than any of the other conflicts. He knows that the sea is his life and to fight it in a situation like this really affects him mentally and emotionally. The sea may have been a demanding challenge for him, but his self satisfaction and determination kept him successful, for at least some time.

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This leads to another conflict in the story. Santiago also has a conflict against himself. This Man Vs Self conflict did not affect Santiago physically like the sea, but rather mentally. Again, these self tests all relate back to Santiago's pride. The conflict first begins when the sharks became a major threat to him once the marlin was tied up to his boat. The blood attracted many of them and quickly. After killing a shark, Santiago began having serious self conflict. "You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman," (Hemmingway 105). Immediately he begins to feel wrong about what he did, saying that he killed the fish only for pride. This mental and emotional conflict makes Santiago think about what occurred. His normal ways of fishing have been challenged here, as he was not killing the fish for his normal motives. If he killed the shark as part of his job, he would have not have had any self questioning about the legitimacy of his kill. It is the fact that he killed the fish out of self defense that makes this situation different than anything he has ever been in before. This is typically against his humble ways; however, Santiago begins having second thoughts. "'I killed him in self-defense,' the old man said aloud. 'And I killed him well,'" (Hemmingway 106). Santiago realizes that without killing the shark, he would have probably not survived. Once fully realizing this, he begins to be okay with the fact that he did not kill the fish to sell like normal. His feelings toward himself change drastically once he understands the moment he was in could have been his last minutes alive at sea. Despite having strong physical conflict with the sea and the marlin, this self conflict may have been what tested Santiago's pride the most. He needed to understand his motives without letting reality be distorted by his exhaustion or anger for losing the marlin. Despite killing the fish against his normal ways he remains truly humble at heart and continues to go live with his morals. He has always been against killing fish, but in this case, he knows it was life or death.

Through symbolism, characterization, and conflict, the theme of pride in The Old Man and the Sea is created by Ernest Hemmingway throughout the story. Santiago is a man who constantly battles himself and nature, building his tenacity. The marlin also creates a genuine challenge for him, strengthening his will to live and fight. The sharks, like the marlin, test Santiago physically, emotionally, and mentally as well. All of these things cause him to make decisions that he questions whether they are based on pride or humility. This, like any other question of pride, may be determined solely on whose eyes are viewing the situation.


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