Is Santiago's struggle internal or external and why?

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vkpteach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Old Man and the Sea, Santiago’s struggle is external in that he battles the elements, the fish and the shark, but those external struggles can be seen as a counterpoint to his personal struggles. He is a man past his prime, a man who lives happily in his dreams of baseball, the beaches and the lions. He struggles to make a living in a profession he once dominated. He struggles to hold body and soul together, while younger fishermen with fancier boats and better equipment do better with less strife.

Santiago’s personal struggles are, in many ways, beyond his control, and not of his choosing. When he goes out to sea every day, he elects to face the challenges of the sea, and its creatures. When he hooks the marlin, he feels that the fish is his brother – his equal. This is a fair and honorable struggle, not one that demeans and humiliates him like his personal challenges as an aging fisherman. His battle with the fish invigorates him. In it he can manifest his strength, his intelligence, his mercy. Even the fight he wages against the sharks is waged against a foe whose goals are apparent and understandable to him. They, like him, want to eat, to win, to live. Santiago feels defeated but not humiliated. He accepts some of the responsibility – for having gone too far out, for example.

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The Old Man and the Sea

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