The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway’s Fight with Old Age

The Old Man and the Sea is a novella that “should be read easily and simply and seem short,” Hemingway writes in a letter to his friend Charles Scribner, “yet have all the dimensions of the visible world and the world of a man’s spirit” (738).

Out of admiration of Santiago’s 3-day long hand-to-hand combat, his dream of the African lion and his famous “destroyed but not defeated” slogan, “a man’s spirit” is often believed to be represented by Santiago’s courage, strength, dignity, wisdom and endurance, Philip Young praises Santiago’s struggle as “heroic” and his capability of “such decency, dignity” and “heroism” (100, 113). Likewise, Leo Gurko celebrates Old Man’s “stress on what man can do” on the world “where heroic deeds are possible” and Santiago’s struggle as “transcended” (377-82). Gerry Brenner summarizes that Old Man is often seem as a fantasy to “feed our imaginative capacity to wonder, marvel, and be awed” and “satisfies the conventional human wish to perform in larger-than-life ways” (10). But is Santiago really a hero so courageous and confident, even a little fable-like as believed? Is the hidden message of “man’s heart” really one that is so unrealistically heroic and full of strength? Hemingway’s own words might...

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