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Defeat and Guilt in The Old Man And The Sea Essay


The Old Man and the Sea

The novel The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is a heroic tale of the old mans struggle with the greatest catch in his life. During the long journey of eighty-four-days of failure and the time he struggles to catch the marlin, Santiago is clearly compelled by two internal conflicts. He is clearly developed as an ideal man and a noble hero through the conflicts: man versus defeat and man versus guilt.

Beginning from the first paragraph of the novel, Santiago is characterized as an incompetent old man struggling with defeat, unable to catch a single fish for eighty-four days. Other fishermen mock and deride him for not being a successful fisherman. Even his close young friend, Manolin, has to leave Santiago because his parents do not let Manolin to stay with Santiago, whom they think is incompetent. Santiago, however, knows that he still has the ability and strength to be a good fisherman. With his pride and confidence, Santiago refuses his defeat at every turn; he tries to sail beyond the other fishermen to catch the biggest fish. When he catches the marlin, he tries his best to catch it through physical and mental struggles. Fish Ill stay with you until I am dead (52) Santiago proves his strong determination through the fights with the marlin and the sharks.

Also, Santiagos pride enables him to achieve his most true and complete self. It also enables him to endure and bring out the best out of him. The magnificent and glorious marlin symbolizes the ideal opponent and displays qualities of pride, honor, and bravery which Santiago desires to obtain in order to recover the defeat and humiliation. Man is not made for defeat man can be destroyed but not defeated (45).

Another internal conflict in this novel is the one between Santiago and himself: man versus guilt. Santiago fulfills his desire of achievement by catching the marlin, but at the same time feels sympathy and compassion towards it. As Santiago sails back to his village after catching marlin, he tries to make sense of the destruction he has done. 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. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more? (60) He feels deeply guilty and apologetic toward the fish and attempts to explain to himself his reasons for killing fish. He also admits that his desire to catch the marlin came from the same quality that led to its eventual destruction: his pride. He then justifies his behavior by claiming that his killing of the marlin was necessitated by his love and respect towards it. Santiago proves to be a noble hero through the internal conflicts between the defeat and guilt inside him. He struggles and suffers in order to stay undefeated and reach a goal of glory by catching the marlin. He, however, at the same time feels guilt about his killing of the marlin and feels sympathy towards it.

The Old Man and the Sea, as a whole, clearly conveys a significant theme; the honor of the struggle through which Santiago shows constant effort, endurance, and strength that he could prove himself. Realizing his defeat, but not giving up, Santiago truly is a hero who achieves his goal by catching his ideal opponent, marlin. Santiagos achievement shows the glory and honor which he was able to obtain after long time of suffering and perseverance

Another theme that this novel conveys is the strong determination stemmed from pride. Even though Santiago is mocked and derided by other fishermen, he still has great pride and confidence in himself. His pride plays a key role in stimulating him to have firm determination, but he also realizes that his pride is his flaw. After Santiago kills the marlin, he feels guilty and apologizes to it. Throughout the novel, the pride becomes the source of Santiagos greatest and best strength. Santiago is also motivated by his pride to recover his defeat to reach success.

This novel tells that the honor does not come from success, but from the pride and determination. Santiagos glory, likewise, does not solely comes from his struggles and fight, but also from his determination and pride.

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