In the heroic novel “The old man and the sea”, the impact of the image of Santiago on the readers is powerful and impressive. His character and the power of psychology play important role in this simple plot novel. The literature works origin from the life, but it means more than life itself, during the description of Santiago, the author thought highly of the spirit of unyielding man. Meanwhile, it also contains the longing of the perfect future.； Man is not made for defeat. A
man can be destroyed but not defeated. ；Hemingway said .Santiago is endowed with this
optimistic attitude towards life-courage, confidence ,dignity and never giving up. (Both Hemingway and Santiago, the hero in his famous work The Old Man and the Sea are perfectionists.)This essay also deals with the problem of； grace under pressure； and its
revelation to people.(In this novel, two opposites existing side by side depended on each other and were unified, namely, Hemingway created the delightful characters and plots. On the other hand, he created tragic ambience in the whole novel. People could find the plot of tragedy from the old man. At the same time, they could also feel the inspiring strength from him.)
Key words: failure; success; never giving up; confidence; grace under pressure
A. the Author: Earnest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 — July 2, 1961) was an American novelist,
short-story writer, and journalist. He was part of the 1920s expatriate community in Paris, and one of the veterans of World War I later known as "the Lost Generation". He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
Hemingway's distinctive writing style is characterized by economy and understatement, and had a significant influence on the development of twentieth-century fiction writing. His protagonists are typically stoical men who exhibit an ideal described as "grace under pressure".
Many of his works are now considered classics of American literature.
After the publishing of The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, this novel had played a crucial role in the development of Hemingway’s critical reputation. Prior to the appearance of this crisp
and lyrical novel about an old Cuban fisherman’s struggle with a titanic fish, Hemingway had published nothing of distinction during the twelve years since For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940); the early promise of the brilliant short story collection, In Our Time (1925); and his finest novels, The Sun Also Rise (1926); and A Farewell to Arms (1929), seemed distant and unfulfilled; Hemingway’s nonfiction of the 1930s; Death in the Afternoon (1932) and Green Hills of Africa (1935), had been disappointing by comparison, and a “novel” like To Have and Have Not (1937),
two previously published short stories hastily cobbled together, seemed a shocking performance from a craftsman once so exacting; Across the River and into the Trees (1950) had been savaged by the critics, and Hemingway was widely considered to be a has-been. The Old Man and the Sea (1952), however, was hailed as Hemingway’s triumphant return. William Faulkner as Hemingway’s strong competitor was ever said “Time will show that this novel (The Old Man and
the Sea) would be the most brilliant medium-length novel for our time”.
B. The Medium-Length Novel-- The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea recounts an epic battle between an old, experienced fisherman and a giant marlin said to be the largest catch of his life. It opens by explaining that the fisherman, who is named Santiago, has gone 84 days without catching any fish at all. He is apparently so unlucky that his young apprentice, Manolin, has been forbidden by his parents to sail with the old man and been ordered to fish with more successful fishermen. Still dedicated to the old man, however, the boy visits Santiago's shack each night, hauling back his fishing gear, feeding him and discussing American baseball — most notably Santiago's idol, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago tells
Manolin that on the next day, he will venture far out into the Gulf to fish, confident that his unlucky streak is near its end.
Thus on the eighty-fifth day, Santiago sets out alone, taking his skiff far into the Gulf. He sets his lines and, by noon of the first day, a big fish that he is sure is a marlin takes his bait. Unable to pull in the great marlin, Santiago instead finds the fish pulling his skiff. Two days and two nights pass in this manner, during which the old man bears the tension of the line with his body. Though he is wounded by the struggle and in pain, Santiago expresses a compassionate appreciation for his adversary, often referring to him as a brother. He also determines that because of the fish's great dignity, no one will be worthy of eating the marlin.
On the third day of the ordeal, the fish begins to circle the skiff, indicating his tiredness to the old man. Santiago, now completely worn out and almost in delirium, uses all the strength he has left in him to pull the fish onto its side and stab the marlin with a harpoon, thereby ending the long battle between the old man and the tenacious fish.
Santiago straps the marlin to his skiff and heads home, thinking about the high price the fish will bring him at the market and how many people he will feed.
While Santiago continues his journey back to the shore, sharks are attracted to the trail of blood left by the marlin in the water. The first one is a great mako shark, Santiago kills it with his harpoon, losing that weapon in the process. He makes a new harpoon by strapping his knife to the end of an oar to help ward off the next line of sharks; in total, five sharks are slain and many others are driven away. But by night, the sharks have almost devoured the marlin's entire carcass,
leaving a skeleton consisting mostly of its backbone, its tail and its head, the latter still bearing the giant spear. The old man castigates himself for sacrificing the marlin. Finally reaching the shore before dawn on the next day, he struggles on the way to his shack, carrying the heavy mast on his shoulder. Once home, he slumps onto his bed and enters a very deep sleep.
A group of fishermen gather the next day around the boat where the fish's skeleton is still attached. One of the fishermen measures it to be eighteen feet from nose to tail. Tourists at the nearby café mistakenly take it for a shark. Manolin, worried during the old man's endeavor, cries upon finding him safe asleep. The boy brings him newspapers and coffee. When the old man wakes, they promise to fish together once again. Upon his return to sleep, Santiago dreams of lions on the African beach.
2.The Social Background of This Work
The Old Man and the Sea is a novella by Ernest Hemingway, written in Cuba in 1951 and published in 1952. It was the last major work of fiction to be produced by Hemingway and published in his lifetime. One of his most famous works, it centers upon Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. It is noteworthy in twentieth century fiction, reaffirming Hemingway's worldwide literary prominence as well as being a significant factor in his selection for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
II?The Three Layers of Pressure
The success of The old man and the sea lies most in its perfect display-- the grace under pressure?which is a very important quality of Santiago? The quality is composed of two
dements?pressure and grace? Pressure is the premise, only under pressure can one’s graceful
At the beginning of the novel, Santiago had gone eighty-four days without catching a fish and had become the laughingstock of his small village?This is an affront to a masterful fisherman,
and it forms the first layer of pressure(As the story begins, a young boy, Manolin, stayed with the
old man, but after the fortieth luckless day, the boys father told his son to go in another boat, leaving the skiff of which the sail was patched with four sacks and furled like the flag of permanent defeat. When the boy left the old man and fished with another, they caught three good fishes in the first week. The boy s good luck formed obvious contrast with the old man g ill luck?If this happened to another boy, it was coincidental, but it happened to the boy who had got nothing with the old man for forty days and exactly when he left the old man for one week?This
made other fishermen believed that the old man was really unlucky enough! This is the second layer of pressure(W hen the old man hooked the biggest marlin never seen in the Gulf Stream, he was alone, without the benefit of modem technology?He endured a long and grueling struggle
with the marlin and felt lonely and helpless?This is the third layer of pressure?
A?Santiago grace under the three layers of pressure
1?Grace Under the First Layer of Pressure
As the novel begins, we find Santiago definitely and finally failed, however, he kept self-composed and had confidence in his dignity?So even having got nothing in the first 84 days,
he continued to go out to fish?
Santiago commitment to sailing out further than any fisherman had before testified his confidence to the depth?It also showed his confidence to change his bad luck, because he clearly knew what he was born for?Yes, he was born for the conquering of the sea. Everything about him
was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated? We all know that eyes are the windows of one’s soul?It means the old man's heart or
soul is inconvincible?In order to protect his dignity, he finally summarized the famous motto“Man
is not made for defeat?A man can be destroyed but not defeated”?
This is obviously the declaration to the difficulties and adversities?How spirited and valiant
the pledge! It encourages human to fight for dignity?
2?Grace Under the Second Layer of Pressure
The old man was in his adversity and the boy had got good fishes after he left the old man? Santiago didn’t feel jealous but happy for him?When talking with the boy who was not
willing to leave, the old man said?“I know you did not leave me because you doubted? and he felt it was quite norma1?though he would be lonely without the boy? W hen the boy asked if he could
offer the old man a beer on the terrace and then took the stuff home, the old man said,“why not”
these details show that Santiago was reasonable, sensible, kind with open mind?
The old man’s grace lies in his gender feeling?1et and take a look at how the old man woke
the boy?he took hold of one foot gently and held it until the boy woke up?W hen the boy was still
sleepy, the old man put his arm across his shoulders and said “I am sorry”?Just like Lu Xun said,
heartlessness doesn’t make the hero, pity for children makes more the man?
With confident attitude towards life, the old man took things philosophically? In fact he
hoped the boy could come back to him and he needed the boy, but when the boy wanted to be back, the old man refused because it was the boy’s parents who made him leave and he could not
make the boy awkward and unlucky with him?
3?Grace Under the Third Layer of Pressure
When fighting with the marlin, he was driven through the two opposite forces between certainty and uncertainty?Sometimes Santiago felt lonely and helpless, but he conquered all of them ultimately, which was best presented in his long monologue and recall about wrestling contest?such as “I wish I had the boy to help me and to see this”,“I wish the boy were here”
and “I wish I had the boy"?
His mention of the boy several times proved that he wanted to overwhelm loneliness and enhanced courage and force to fight?
Santiago recalled the arm-wrestling episode to give him more confidence?The recall would
allow him to forget a connection with the marlin that went beyond the literal link of the line?his
bodily aches attested to the fact that he is well matched?that the fish is a worthy opponent?As a
young man, Santiago enjoyed single-minded competitive contests, as an old man he continued to enjoy them?
B. To Sum Up
The old man conveys us that we human beings should keep graceful even under fierce pressure, should face the failures bravely, and keep the spirit of unyielding integrity?These are the
qualities with which we should be equipped, just as the motto of the old man“Man is not made for
defeat?A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
III?The Tragic Ambience about Santiago
In this novel, two opposites existing side by side depended on each other and were unified, namely, Hemingway created the delightful characters and plots. On the other hand, he created tragic ambience in the whole novel. People could find the plot of tragedy from the old man. At the
same time, they could also feel the inspiring strength from him;
A?The Tragic Ambience in the Old Man’s Daily Life
Hemingway used terse language to describe a real story, vivid images and wonderful plot. The story still contained a lot of tragic things although the old man had succeeded in spirit at last and his spirit was inspiring and valuable to people. The old man and the big fish were two separate individuals which were closely related. Their fate could not be separated from each other. They had tragic destiny because of the affection to each other from their existence. They were both tragic characters in the whole story and made people feel sentimental in that circumstances. Additionally, Hemingway created this ambience unconsciously because his life was filled with tragedies. So it showed one aspect of the author's life and could not be separated from it.
"The tail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat"(Hemingway, 4). The style of the tail described by Hemingway reflected that Santiago was in straitened circumstances. He lived in a shack that "was made of the tough bud shields of the royal palm in which there was just a bed, a table, one chair, and a place on the dirt floor to cook with charcoal"(Hemingway, 10). The shack was so small that his mast was nearly as long as it. This living condition made people feel miserable. The old man's wife had died several years ago which could be inferred from the story. The shack looked more forlorn and the old man felt lonelier because he lived in it alone. Once there was a photograph of his wife on the wall. He did not want to look at it because it made him feel lonely so that he had to put it away to avoid sorrow. He could not depend on any one even though he did not hook a fish for eighty four days in such a loveless circumstance. He had no money to buy food and could not afford the cost to eat in the restaurant as other people did. Fortunately, Manolin, the young boy Santiago taught to fish from the age of five, still took care of the old man after he left. This kind of life was so pathetic that no one, who had heard his present condition, could feel at ease for him.
As Santiago, alone in his boat, rowed out to the sea, he saw twice a bird. The second time he saw it, he uttered some words to let the bird stay with him so that it could be his friend on the sea to accompany him. This showed that he was lonely in his boat and how eager he was to have a companion even if it was just a bird. However, he did not keep the bird staying with him. It flew away when the line jerked and the old man had not even seen it go. In addition, it was a principle for the fishermen that people should not speak any word except when it was necessary. The old man broke this principle by speaking aloud several times unconsciously to the bird, the marlin, the sharks and himself .This was also tragic ambience during the period when he was on the sea. B. The Old Man’s Tragic Ending.
The first tragic result that he received was to be sneered by the other fishermen in the Terrace after his eighty four days of failure in hooking fish. These young people were not warm to him. He was just a joke in their eyes. How about the older fishermen? Hemingway said in this novel like this:" Others, of the older fishermen, looked at him and were sad. But they did not show it and they spoke politely about the current and the depths they had drifted their lines at and the steady good weather and of what they had seen (Hemingway, 3)”. Though the older fishermen felt sad for him, what they did was not to comfort and encourage him, but to avoid talking about it. Maybe they did not want to show their fear about this truth. Maybe they feared facing the same situation one day. In a word, there was no one sympathizing with him except the boy.
The second tragic result he got was that he had not taken the whole fish back. The old man was pulled by the big marlin for three days and nights. He killed it at last because of his insistence.
This was a perfect result. But this was not the final result. He was fermenting his own tragedy when he killed it. This tragedy took place when the groups of sharks came to attack the big fish. He had not taken the whole fish back home but just a head, a tail and the whole spine although he used all his strength to fight against the sharks and drove them away. Going far out for three days and nights, dealing with the big marlin for three days and nights, fighting against the groups of sharks on his way home, the old man got nothing at last. Was not it a tragedy?
C. The Tragic Ambience Connected with the Author's Life
Hemingway had participated in World War?and World War?which changed his opinion of
the society. He felt that the world was filled with violence and illusive things. So he created Santiago to express this feeling and let Santiago have a tragic fate. He had also participated in the Spanish Civil War and the World War?, by taking part in the D-day invasion of France. He was
awarded Bronze Medal for WWII. He settled near Havana, Cuba, where he wrote "The Old Man and the Sea" (1953), for which he received a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature.
War wounds, two plane crashes, three broken marriages, and several other affairs distressed Hemingway. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and insomnia in his later years. His mental condition was exacerbated by chronic alcoholism, diabetes and liver failure. After an unsuccessful treatment with electro-convulsive therapy, he suffered severe amnesia, and his condition worsened. The loss of memory obstructed his writing and daily life. He committed suicide in 1961(Dong Hengzhuan, 56).
Hemingway experienced a lot and received a lot. He made contributions to the society. But he also suffered a lot in the end. So we can see his life was really a tragedy. It was natural that his works were permeated tragic ambience. This was the reflection of his toughness in the novel.
IV. The Delightful Facet about Santiago
A. The Delightful Facet from Santiago
The old man was optimistic. He still talked about the baseball with Manolin and went to the Terrace to drink and chat though he was in a bad situation at that time. He used the lie to deal with the poor life. He still met the first sunshine every morning and went to fish on the sea no matter what the result was. He did not live on fishing, but fishing had already become part of his life and part of his memory. This was a true man, living, being tolerant to everything-- derision, solitude and even the leaving of the boy.
The old man was confident. His rich experience and skill of fishing acquired day by day made him confident. He believed that he would hook a big fish. He even wished to meet a group of fish which had lost their way. He left the sea shore and began his heroic voyage on the eighty fifth day.
The old man was patient. The fish which stayed in the 600 foot under the sea was clever. The fish under the quiet surface was competing with the patience against the old man and struggling against the old man as if this was the last moment of the peaceful world. The old man was enduring the danger bought by the fish. Moreover, he was enduring hunger, exhaustion, fatigue, hurt and loneliness. He was overcoming the fish. Moreover, he was overcoming himself. “Fish”, he said softly, aloud, “I'll stay with you until I am dead.”(Hemingway, 37) Life, at this time, was not a wager, but contending.
B. The Inspiring Ending of Santiago
Human nature is valiant. But man has a limited extension of this nature. The old man
challenged this limitation again and again, the limitation expanded again and again, and the bigger challenge was put in front of human again and again. In this sense, Santiago had already become a hero whom we should honor no matter whether he had succeeded or not because what he had brought to people was the noblest confidence. He knew that the fish would leave its blood in the water after it was killed, and the blood would lead a lot of sharks. But he still insisted on doing that in order to uphold his dignity, the human's dignity. Maybe this was the real meaning that humans were living for.
The old man was a real hero." ' He was eighteen feet from nose to tail', the fisherman who was measuring him called (Hemingway, 94) ". The old man was a failure in the aspect of material, but he succeeded in the aspect of his spirit, his confidence, his dignity and his courage trying his best to fight against the fate. Living according to his own code of behavior, accepting the natural order and cycle of life, struggling and enduring and redeeming his individual existence through his life’s work, and passing on to the next generation everything of value that he has gained, Santiago
became a standard figure.
C. The Success in Spirit Connected with the Author’s Life
Hemingway was rejected for regular military service in World War I because of poor eyesight in his left eye, so he drove a Red Cross ambulance in Italy, distributing chocolate to Italian troops. While recuperating from serious wounds in a Red Cross hospital in Milan, Hemingway fell in love with Nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, who later rejected him as he was too young.
As a foreign correspondent in Paris, Hemingway began to raise funds for the Loyalist cause in Spain. In 1937, he went to Spain as a war correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War. When World War II began, he volunteered to serve as a spotter for the U.S. Navy, outfitting his own fishing boat, the Pillar, to hunt for German submarines off the Cuban coast.(Dong Hengzhuan, 59) His life was meaningful and his experience had given him a lot of help with his works. However, after these experiences, there were 237 pieces of the bullet that had been ever left in his body. The hurt of the illness and the exhaustion of creativity for literature made him suffer a lot. His condition was the same as the old man. So he put the success in spirit forward to comfort himself which was also a good way to deal with his present situation.
As the proverb goes: “Every coin has two sides”. Hemingway arranged this novel according
to the Theory of Marxism Philosophy. Firstly, the tragic facet and the delightful facet depended on each other. Each side’s existence was the premise of the other’s existence and development. Secondly, the tragic facet and the delightful facet were linked together. They existed in the story in the form of individuals but they had inner relationship with each other and were unified together by the whole plot in logic.
Hemingway said； Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.；
Santiago is endowed with this optimistic attitude towards life-courage ,confidence ,dignity and never giving up. Santiago is the power of psychology play important role in this simple plot novel. The literature works origin from the life, but it means more than life itself, during the description of Santiago, the author thought highly of the spirit of unyielding man. Meanwhile, it also contains the longing of the perfect future.
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