“Fish,” he said softly, aloud, “I’ll stay with you until I am dead” (52) In a battle of man against fish, Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man” in The Old Man and The Sea, is determined to be victorious in the face of defeat. Through this simple story an old Cuban man struggles against a formidable adversary, a great fish. The unnamed old man has passed his prime, yet still maintains astounding determination. He lasts four days at sea with no shelter, one small water bottle and years of experience to keep him alive. The old man did not have any other choice but to be in constant contact with the fish; tying the line with the fish could result in the loss of his prey. This struggle is both physically and mentally challenging. Risking his life for the chance of glorious success, the old man is a perfect example of true perseverance. Hemingway uses a simple tale of an old man and his connection with the sea to indicate how man’s resilience and moral strength will lead him to salvation.
In an epic battle there will always be the temptation to give up and submit to an opponent. With determination the old man struggles against the inclination to relax his hold on the tremendous fish, in order to rest. This option seems appealing to a man fighting on absolutely no sleep in more than 24 hours. “How simple it would be if I could make the line fast, he thought. But with one small lurch he could break it. I must cushion the pull of the line with my body and at all times be ready to give line with both hands” (77). This action shows the old man’s fortitude. Although the old man contemplates taking the risk of tying the fish’s line and resting his weary body, he instead holds on to his treasure, so as not to make a heinous mistake: surrendering to his challenger. The old man’s true commitment allows him to overcome his exhaustion and the enticement of falling into a sinful sleep.
On account of the man’s faith to the sea and its creatures he seeks redemption, by staying awake with this fish. Sleep deprived, the old man can only depend on his loyalty to the sea in order to withstand fighting for endless hours, alone, with only the nutrition of a small raw fish. As the old man is nearing his fourth day of brawling he begins to consider whether these horrible hours ahead will be his last. “I could not fail myself on a fish like this,” This man is completely willing to give this fish every last ounce effort that is physically possible. Throughout the entire process he reminds himself not to fail the sea by dying during the clash. In addition to extreme perseverance, strength, and determination, this man has respect for the fish. This fish may not be a blood brother to the old man but the two were united by the sea and because of this he will not leave the fish to die with a hook in its throat. The combination of grit and admiration, as well as the unification of the sea creates a world in which the man’s struggle is of the utmost, nearly religious, importance.
As the old man continues his everlasting crusade, he moves beyond simple determination and into faithful determination, as if he is stuck in a current leading him to salvation. This current grows ever stronger as each muscle of the man’s body strains against this single fish. During this heroic battle the old man stays faithful to the sea and his opponent in his abstention from food, water and sleep. In his boat the old man kneels while speaking respectfully to the sea and all its creatures. As the old man’s muscles nearly buckle against the heavy weight of the fish, he kneels in his rickety boat, as if in a gesture to the sea, “He kneeled against the bow and, for a moment slipped the line over his back” (88). This brief pause in the battle gives the man a new sense of strength to stand up and finish the fight.
During this struggle against his great brother, the old man thinks to himself about his faith to the sea “He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. …the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favors, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them” (29). The Old man loves the sea and understands he must endure this pain to receive the sea’s great benefits. In the end although the old man does not return home with his great treasure, one can argue he does achieve salvation. The old man’s loss of the fish eventually leaves him in total solitude with no adversary.
Faith to the sea and this fish provide him the necessary tools to follow the current to redemption and achieving salvation. In the face of defeat the old man turns to the sea in order to reach his salvation. The temptation of sleep after countless sleepless hours does not overpower this man. The old man dodges death in order to win the battle against his brother the fish. The old man’s devotion to the sea makes it possible for him to reach a spiritual salvation despite his perceived defeat. Against all odds the old man’s devote, determination is the driving force behind his deliverance.
Courtney from Study Moose
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