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Defeat in The Old Man and the Sea Essay

“As human beings, our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” To achieve a goal in life, man must persevere through all pain and suffering and continue to search for the light at the end of the dark tunnel. The journey of The Old Man and the Sea describes struggle and the will to discipline oneself to achieve an aspiration. An old fisherman, Santiago, is faced with exactly that; he has a dream of ending an eighty-four day streak without catching a fish and has to use all of his will power to overcome the sea’s obstacles. Because Santiago successfully catches the great marlin by fighting through physical fatigue, Hemmingway, in The Old Man and the Sea, proves “a man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

In the prolonged struggle between the fish and the old man his conscience questioned his justifications for battling such a great creature. Always in the back of his mind was the young boy who he valued for friendship and companionship. These ideals helped Santiago remember his discipline for fishing and his integrity for his own manhood. The pain and suffering the old man must endure to overcome the sea’s adversity help to justify Santiago’s rebirth of manhood. His legendary journey provides mental and physical altercations Santiago must survive in order to prove to himself that he is still a man capable of catching fish. Society labels Santiago as an unlucky fisherman for not catching any fish for 85 days, and yet ignore his skills as a wise, witty fisherman. “It is better to be lucky.

But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”(32) Santiago coordinates good luck with offerings from the sea. He also said, in order to catch the big fish I must go out far enough where the great one will be distracting death for his own adversity with the open sea. He almost distains fate into his situation with the fish by taking all the pain and suffering his body endures to complete his desires. “He did not truly feel good because the pain from the cord across his back had almost passed pain and into dullness that he mistrusted.”(74) Once both the fish and Santiago had reached the breaking point of conflict the story seemed to slow down in time to exemplify the adverse conditions that both characters were suffering

For eighty-four days, the old man, Santiago, has not caught any fish. Because of this, the old man’s fishing partner and pupil, Manolin, whom the old man loved like his own son and taught since he was five, has not been permitted to fish with him but has been forced by his parents to fish in a more productive boat. On the eighty-fifth day Santiago sets out to the deep recesses of the sea, certain that this would be the day when he would catch his big fish. He eventually does catch a marlin, but the struggle has only begun. For two days Santiago holds the line that is attached to the fish, and he suffers though tremendous obstacles to kill the great marlin. After harpooning the fish, he straps the marlin against the skiff and heads for home, doubting if the victory was real.

The obstacles, however, were not yet over. The blood drawn from the fish brought the scent into the water, and it was not long until a mako shark began to take its bite out of the marlin. In protection of his fish, Santiago hit the shark with the harpoon. With the mako dead, shovel-nosed sharks came to the fish to get their chance to devour it. Bravely, Santiago fights with all the weapons he has, thus causing him great physical pain, and an injury to his chest. Despite his courageous fight, it is to no avail for when he arrives at his town only the carcass is left

The old man proves himself worthy of personal suffering with the cuts and scars on his hands and back along with all of the pulling and slipping the cords had upon his fragile body. Hemmingway shows in a big way how an out of proportioned conflict with an old fisherman and an 18 foot long marlin helps to magnify the significance of Santiago searching for his rebirth to manhood. With constant abstraction describing the fish and the sea in relation to brotherhood create interesting questions for Santiago to ponder. His rationalization for his fishing is that he was born to do it. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” (103) Hemmingway proves that this fish represents all of Santiago’s built up tension to total the size of a gigantic marlin that is perceived as devastating but not unconquerable.

The cause of a man’s destruction is in his own hands. The free will given to
man enables him choose his own path to follow. The twist and turns of the life can change man’s perception of himself, leading him only to self-destruct through his own actions. By losing, the man is not defeated; he has fallen to the ground. Is this his end, his defeat? No. Because, man is given a light that lifts up spirits in a time of need picking them up off the cold, hard earth to try once more. No matter, the depths of destruction in which a man may find himself, the light never goes out. Despite being broken down to what feels to be his destruction, the light allows him to rebuild, never being entirely defeated.

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