Joe has a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
Skill of the Unlucky
When Santiago sets sail in his skiff at the beginning of The Old Man and the Sea, he has gone 84 days without catching a fish. His lack of success brands him as extremely unlucky by the other local fishermen. Despite this, Santiago knows that his skill as a fisherman will eventually break his streak of bad luck, and he sets out to go farther out to sea than the rest of the fisherman in his village will dare to venture. Hemingway illustrates skill through Santiago's struggle to catch an enormous marlin and how he attempts to defend his catch against sharks. Santiago's frequent references to the great Joe DiMaggio also present skill as Santiago compares his struggle to that of the Yankees baseball player's perfection.
It takes Santiago three days to land the marlin. The marlin is the biggest fish that Santiago has ever seen, and his struggle to catch it is indicative of his skill. Santiago has been a fisherman for most of his life. His age, and the fact that he is alone so far out to sea, leave him with nothing to depend on for success except his skill and dedication. From the moment the marlin takes Santiago's bait, the old man knows exactly what to do. He knows when to set his hook, how much tension to keep on the line without letting the fish break it, and that when the fish is tired enough, that he will be able to pull it in. He also knows how the fish will behave through this ordeal: when it will dive and run and how it will begin to circle the boat when it tires out. There is also a period where Santiago is literally doing this single-handed because his left hand is injured and cramps up. Santiago even states:
'If he cramps again let the line cut him off.'
Santiago's skill in fishing is continually compared to his hero, the great DiMaggio. Santiago knows that he is a skilled fisherman, but his humility comes through as he compares his struggle to how the great DiMaggio struggles to be a perfect baseball player. This aspect of skill comes through with Santiago's focus on the player's perfection. Santiago states:
'But I must have confidence and I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel.'
When Santiago successfully kills the marlin with his harpoon, he has to lash the 1,500 pound fish to the side of his skiff so he can get it back to shore. After he does this and sets sail for home, he has only an hour before sharks begin to attack the fish. Tired, alone and in pain, Santiago manages to kill every shark that attacks his catch using make-shift weapons. Unfortunately, the marlin is destroyed before he gets back to shore, but the old man's battle with the sharks is another example of how skill is illustrated in the novella.
The first shark Santiago kills is a Mako. His aim and strike are perfect, and he harpoons the shark at the most precise point on its head to guarantee a kill. In doing so, Santiago is successful in defending his marlin from another attack by that particular shark. Santiago's killing of the Mako is the most exemplary moment of skill in his killing of the sharks. This is also where his skill is compared to the skill of the great DiMaggio. Santiago states:
'I wonder how the great DiMaggio would have liked the way I hit him in the brain?'
Santiago, the old man of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, is labeled as the worst form of unlucky. However, Santiago exhibits his skill as a fisherman by landing the biggest catch of his life despite suffering incredible pain and severe injury to his hands. When sharks attack his catch, Santiago also exhibits significant skill in defending himself from several shark attacks, killing the creatures with make-shift weapons from his skiff. Hemingway also illustrates skill in his novella with Santiago's continual references and comparisons of his skills with that of the perfection of Yankees baseball player Joe DiMaggio.
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