What topics and main points having to do with existentialism (or allegory) and Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea are possible for a research paper?I searched the internet so many times and I...

What topics and main points having to do with existentialism (or allegory) and Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea are possible for a research paper?

I searched the internet so many times and I found important topics which can be a title of the research like " Existentialism in the novel" or "the allegory of the novel" and other things. So if any Master or Teacher can give me some hints I will be so glad and it'll be useful for me too ..

I am preparing a research on the novel "The old man and the sea" and I don't know how to start or actully what point which I will talk about.

I need your help.

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auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I might concentrate on the allegorical nature of this novella.  My students always ask why they have to read a really loooong story about an old man trying to catch a fish.  Of course, it's actually a pretty short read (a novella) and it's not just a story about catching a fish.  This is a picture of perseverance and triumph in the face of adversity.  Everything was against Santiago as he was trying to catch this fish--including his own body and mind.  Despite that, he was able to persevere and accomplish his simple but strenuous goal.  The fact that he has nothing much to show for it is not a disappointment as much as a reminder that sometimes it's the struggle, the battle, which matters most. 

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Existentialism is extremely complex due to the variations of each individual proponent, however, some common threads flow through all approaches to existentialism. These common threads might comprise the main points of a research paper on existentialism in The Old Man and the Sea.

Existentialism describes humankind's search for rationality: rational decisions, rational chain of ordered events, rational outcomes. It was bred of a reaction against the European philosophies of Kant and Hegel and others that advocated analytical, objective, rational sciences, including the science of philosophy. The idea of the analytical school of thought was that knowledge was objective, true, attainable and measurable. For this reason, there was an emphasis on groups, which could offer the largest observations, measurements and analysis.

Existentialists propounded the precedence of the individual over the group; of individual existence over the essence of what comprised existence. Some of the main points about existentialism that derive from this foundational basis are that individuals are not only each unique, but individuals are each isolated with isolated experiences in a world that is the manifestation of a hostile universe that is indifferent to life and being.

This results in the existential dilemma stating that humankind's search for logic and its tendency toward desiring immortality are futile and thus unfulfillable. Meaning in life is dashed against this futility. The existential last resort in the face of futility is to ascribe the creation of meaning to each individual: Individuals are unfettered by a higher order; by a logical universe; by objective, knowable truth; by a benign or benevolent universe, so each individual is free to, indeed must, create his own meaning in life. Human existence is reduced to the absurd: meaningless meaning that means what each makes it mean in a universe that means nothing.

Yet, to hold on to whatever meaning can be attained rather than to give up and face the wall in despair, is the optimistic option of existentialism (How does this apply to The Old Man and the Sea?) The other choice is to submit to nothingness and absurdity and, amidst a universe that is a pretender of order (people get up and go to work, have children, feed them, etc), flounder in a universe with no place for being.

Suggested topics might be: (1) The role of the shark in the portrayal of existential philosophies apparent in Santiago's life in the Old man and the Sea. (2) Comparison between Santiago and the Greek Mythological Character Sisyphus (Albert Camus wrote an essay about Sisyphus).

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