Joe has a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
A Different Breed
The Most Interesting Man in the World has little on Santiago, the protagonist of Ernest Hemingway's novella The Old Man and the Sea. Santiago is not some geriatric struggling to best other people his age in shuffleboard. Despite his appearance and age, Santiago has the stamina of a thoroughbred race horse and the courage to match. He is humble, yet deserves recognition for his feat of landing a 1500-pound fish after killing off numerous sharks armed only with a knife and a club.
The most compelling aspect of Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea is his determination. Despite his age and the fact that he has gone almost three months without catching a fish, Santiago continues to go out on the water by himself and do what he's done his entire life. Even when he is dizzy and severely injured, Santiago continues to summon the strength to bring in the largest catch of his life. And after he has successfully brought in a marlin so big that his small boat can barely handle its size, Santiago spends the rest of the day and night fighting off sharks with whatever weapon he can manage. To say that Santiago is determined is almost an understatement.
Much of how Santiago summons his determination is seen through his internal dialogue. For example, the following line shows just how Santiago encourages himself to continue. ''I am not good for many more turns. Yes you are, he told himself. You're good for ever.'' Through Santiago's relentless encouragement of himself, Hemingway presents a major theme in the novella, which Santiago also shows to the reader through his dialogue. Santiago states, ''A man can be destroyed but not defeated.''
With his actions, Santiago makes this statement true. If a man can be destroyed but not defeated then he must be destroyed because he never gives up. A man can only be defeated if he quits. Even though it would be easier for him to pack it up and go take a nap, Santiago continues to push forward. And he doesn't do this to impress anyone. Santiago is alone in the middle of the ocean with nobody around. He pushes forward solely for the sake of his own character, because he is not a quitter.
Looks Aren't Everything
Certainly, Santiago's determination is important to understand, but since he is the primary character in The Old Man and the Sea, it might be beneficial to the reader to have a physical description of the determined fisherman as well. Hemingway writes, ''Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.''
Hemingway goes a little further with his description and sears the image of the hero of his novella into the reader's mind, especially with a line that gives tremendous insight into Santiago through his physical appearance: ''The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks.''
Like Santiago's actions, his physical description also speaks to his character. The reader can see that this man has led a life without much comfort and privilege through the description of his wrinkles and skin cancer, yet his eyes show he is still happy to get up each day and head back out onto the ocean.
During Santiago's struggle with the fish, his continual open dialogue and thoughts give the reader a more defined understanding of the nature of his character. Santiago's simple but astute philosophical perspective on his life helps to establish another endearing quality in Santiago; his humility. After he has killed the first shark that attacked the marlin, Santiago thinks about the situation he's in, and the situation he's going to face. He says, ''Fishing kills me exactly as it keeps me alive.''
Much of Santiago's dialogue has reminded him of his ability to accomplish the task at hand, which he does alone and probably better than other men half his age could have done. This glimpse of Santiago's perspective show that despite the success he has achieved through his determination, his humility is the fuel behind that determination.
Santiago's determination is one of the most compelling qualities of his character outside of his physical description. His shear devotion to the task at hand exemplify the novella's theme that a man can be destroyed but not defeated. Santiago's physical description also speaks to his determination and helps to establish the nature of his character. Above all, though, Santiago's humility illuminates the nobility of his character and fuels his determination.
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