The epic journey of “The Old Man and the Sea” describes struggle, discipline and manhood. The main characters relationships exemplify how faith and skill overcome man’s adversity during life on the sea. Santiago’s growing relationship with the boy idealizes his statute as a father figure and develops his integrity and values towards the boy.
Hemmingway shows us how an old fisherman’s will to overcome the sea’s obstacles proves his manhood to himself and the young boy. His skills and knowledge of the sea provide a positive influence for the young boy to become a great fisherman someday.Throughout the constant struggle between Santiago and the fish, he is forced to prove his skills as a fisherman and conduct his discipline to retain his manhood. Santiago’s moral dilemma he faces to converse with the sea regards a large mysterious marlin. From the time the old man hooks the great fish to when he finally captures him; Santiago faces the hardest of adversity that reflects his age and discipline with his stamina to push his own limits. His entire journey amasses conflicts that lead to his own suffering. These unavoidable events leave scars upon scars to his hands and threaten the brink of consciousness for Santiago.
He constantly remembers his discipline in order to keep the fish. He wishes the fish would begin to fight back so he can capture him faster. 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 from. 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 old man’s hopes and aspirations can overcome the adversity of the marlin’s size, along with the conditions of the old, hungry, and exhausted fisherman. Through outright suffering Santiago achieves a goal above his previous manhood by combating pain and mental struggle to capture the fish and then conversely lose it. The combination of his physical hardships and mental frustration help him to realize some traits specific to the Hemmingway Hero as well as becoming a man.
Santiago’s search for a rebirth of his own manhood wasn’t going to ever be justified by himself since he felt responsible.