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The Old Man and the Sea

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In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway describes an old

fisherman and the unfortunate trials he faces as his "luck" runs out.

Through the novel, the fisherman, Santiago, replicates Hemingway's ideal man,

a noble hero. Hemingway had a Code of Behavior that he himself followed. He

had morals that were strict and an appreciation for instinct and human

nature. He had a specific way of living life and an understanding of time.

He believed in taking risks and acting upon instinct. He believed that a

person who followed his Code of Behavior was a noble hero. In Hemingway's

Code of Behavior, a noble hero is a master craftsman. This means that he is

not dependent on other people or on technology. It also means that he is a

master at his art and he keeps practicing it in order to better himself. The

second characteristic of a noble hero is that he struggles in order to remain

undefeated. This means that he does anything possible to reach his goal. He

struggles and suffers in order to perfect his art and therefore, himself, "No

matter what kind of suffering and trial he has to go

Kapadia 2

through he has to fulfill his destiny..."(Harada 270). The third

characteristic of Hemingway's noble hero is that he accepts defeat. Once he

is defeated, once he can better himself no more, he should stop trying

because, "He lives in time. And the goal of time is death and

destruction"(Harada 276). He should accept that he is no longer useful and

that he has been defeated. These three characteristics define Hemingway's

ideal man. In The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago exemplifies Hemingway's Code

of Behavior for a noble hero.

In the novel, Santiago is a master craftsman. He is only dependent on

himself. While the other fishermen use motor boats, Santiago uses his skiff.

While the other men have many workers and helpers who hold several lines,

Santiago has three lines all operated by his own hand. He is an expert,

"...the old man goes much farther out than the other fishermen and casts bait

in much deeper water"(Gurko 66). Because he knows the waters and the

movements of the fish, he has a better chance of catching the fish. Although

he is taking a greater risk by going out deeper, he has a better chance of

catching the bigger fish. Another thing that makes Santiago a master

craftsman is his experience. He has been a fisherman all his life.

Therefore he has had much time to master this art. Though many fishermen

might doubt him, he is great. He has skill and he applies it in order to

succeed. He uses his hands and he uses his instincts to master the art of

being a fisherman. Santiago uses himself, his physical and mental strength

to catch the fish, and by doing these things, his difficult task becomes

easier. He is a master craftsman not only through his skill, but also

through his determination.

Kapadia 3

Determination defines the second characteristic that makes Santiago a

noble hero. He is determined and he struggles in order to remain undefeated.

Although he has gone 84 days without catching a fish, he does not give up.

He goes out on his 85th day with the mentality that this is the day when he

will catch a fish. This is what keeps him going. He knows that he still has

the ability and strength to be a good fisherman. He never gives up. After

catching the marlin, he states, "Fish...I'll stay with you until I am

dead"(52). This shows his determination to win the battle and the fish. He

has fought these battles hundreds of times before, he suffered, but he won.

Still this battle is different. He fights in a way he has never fought

before and he suffers. He suffers in catching the fish, killing the fish,

attempting to return home, and fighting off the sharks. But through all this

suffering, he still fights, "... for he alone has to endure the sufferings to

fulfill his destiny"(Harada 270). This is his mentality, he knows what he

must do and so, he does it. He never lets down his guard and he fights with

consistent strength.

A third characteristic that makes Santiago a noble hero is that he

accepts his defeat. The fish is eaten and he has returned home with its

remains. He realizes that he went out too far and that he made a mistake.

He fought a tough battle and in the end, he was defeated. He even admits to

himself that he has been beaten. Although through most of the novel he has

great strength in fighting the fish and he is determined to succeed, in the



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