Illustration of a marlin in the water

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

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Mark Schorer (essay date 1952)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1943

SOURCE: "With Grace Under Pressure," in Ernest Hemingway: Critiques of Four Major Novels, edited by Carlos Baker, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962, pp. 132-34.

[In the following early review, originally published in The New Republic in 1952, Schorer points out some flaws in The Old Man and the Sea, then goes on to call Hemingway "the greatest craftsman in the American novel in this century" and asserts that the excitement of the novella comes from its parable-like quality, as it tells of the struggle of the artist as he strives to master his subject.]

The only guts that are mentioned in this story are the veritable entrails of fish, but we are nevertheless reminded on every page that Hemingway once defined this favorite word, in its metaphorical use, as "grace under pressure." Grace, in the fullest sense, is the possession of this old man, just as grace was precisely what Colonel Cantwell, in Across the River and Into the Trees, was totally without. But here it is, complete and absolute, the very breath of this old man, so thoroughly his in his essence as in his ambiente, that it can only be there under pressure as at all other times, and indeed, even under the greatest pressure, he hardly alters. Grace, by which one means now not the old stuff [sic] upper lip (this old man's upper lip is not so very stiff) which came to some of the older heroes a little easily sometimes, a quality more nearly a manner of speaking than of being; not that now, but benignity, nothing less, and beautifully, masterfully presented, so that the satisfaction one has in this creation is plain happiness, and then, I suppose, gratitude.

The old man has a Franciscan quality that so prevades [sic] his habit of thought as to support and give the body of dramatic plausibility, even inevitability to the suggestion of Christian martyrdom which comes at the end. Early in the story, when the old man is being helped by the boy, he thanks him for the food he gives him. "He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride." Humility—the assumption, without self-consciousness and therefore without sentimentality—is the old man's strength.

He was very fond of flying fish as they were his principal friends on the ocean. He was sorry for the birds, especially the small delicate dark terns that were always flying and looking and almost never finding, and he thought, "The birds have a harder life than we do except for the robber birds and the heavy strong ones. Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly, dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices are made too delicately for the sea."

And again, now of porpoises, and then of the marlin itself:

"They are good," he said. "They play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish."

Then he began to pity the great fish that he had hooked. He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought. Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely. Perhaps he is too wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by...

(This entire section contains 1943 words.)

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a wild rush. But perhaps he has been hooked many times before and he knows that this is how he should make his fight. He cannot know that it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man. But what a great fish he is. . . . I wonder if he has any plans or if he is just as desperate as I am?

And thus, with a kind of Biblical abstraction that always assumes the independence of all things in their own character from his character, which is likewise independent and separate (in this recognition lie the true sources of brotherhood as of pity), he speaks to a bird, to his fish, and to the parts of his own body, his hands and his head. With a few wavering exceptions, Hemingway sustains the perilous poise of all this with great beauty over pits of possible bathos.

Everywhere the book is being called a classic. In at least one sense, the word cannot be applied, for here and there, where the writing wavers, its pure lucidity is muddied by all that hulking personality which, at his worst, Hemingway has made all too familiar. I do not have in mind the talk about baseball, which has bothered at least one reviewer. "The baseball" is a near obsession with most Caribbean natives, but we do not have to know this to accept the old man's interest as his own rather than as Hemingway's. (After all, DiMaggio's father was a fisherman, as the old man tells us, and the sword of the marlin is "as long as a baseball bat.") But a murky paragraph that has to do with "mysticism about turtles" is a case in point. Or a sentence such as this: "He did not truly feel good because the pain from the cord across his back had almost passed pain and gone into a dullness that he mistrusted"—is it a quibble to suggest that the word "truly" and its location spoil this sentence, jar us out of the mind of the old man whom we are coming to know into the reflection that we've read Hemingway before? Or a brief passage such as this:

After he judged that his right hand had been in the water long enough he took it out and looked at it.

"It is not bad," he said. "And pain does not matter to a man. . . .

"You did not do so badly for something worthless," he said to his left hand. "But there was a moment when I could not find you."

Why was I not born with two good hands? he thought. Perhaps it was my fault in not training that one properly. But God knows he has had enough chances to learn.

He did not do so badly in the night, though, and he has only cramped once. If he cramps again let the line cut him off.

The last sentence tells us with dramatic concreteness what the generalization, "pain does not matter to a man," which is really Hemingway's, does not tell us at all. It should not have been written, precisely because what is written must make us speak that conclusion, it should be our generalization from his evidence.

But the old man seldom lapses into dramatic falseness. In his age, alone at sea, he has taken to speaking aloud, and instead of dialogue between characters by which most fictions [sic] moves, this story moves by little dialogues in the old man himself, the exchange of what is spoken and what is not spoken. This is almost a running drama between that which is only possible and that which is real:

"Fish," he said, "I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends."

Let us hope so, he thought.

The threat of over-generalization is almost always in the spoken words, which, then, are immediately rooted in actuality by the reservations of the unspoken. And of course, Hemingway's incredible gift for writing of the natural life serves the same function. Whether he is describing plankton, jelly fish, the sucking fish that swim in the shadow of the marlin, the gutting of a dolphin that contains two flying fish, or turtles, they are all always there before us, actualities, and the old man is an actuality among them.

The novel is nearly a fable. The best fiction, at its heart, always is, of course, but with his particular diction and syntax, Hemingway's stories approach fable more directly than most, and never so directly as here. It is the quality of his fiction at its very best, the marvelous simplicity of line. ("'Be calm and strong, old man', he said.") There has been another strain in his fiction, to be sure—his personal ambition to become a character in a tall tale, folklore as opposed to fable. That is the weaker man pushing aside the great novelist. The strain glimmers once in this story, when we are told of the old man's feat of strength in his youth: "They had gone one day and one night with their elbows on a chalk line on the table and their forearms straight up and their hands gripped tight." Take it away.

The true quality of fable is first of all in the style, in the degree of abstraction, which is not only in some ways Biblical but is always tending toward the proverbial rhythm. ("The setting of the sun is a difficult time for fish.") Next, it is in the simplicity of the narrative, and in the beautiful proportion (about three-fourths to one-fourth) of its rise and fall. Finally, of course, it is in the moral significance of the narrative, this fine story of an ancient who goes too far out, "beyond the boundaries of permitted aspiration," as Conrad put it ("You violated your luck when you went too far outside," the old man thinks), and encounters his destiny:

His choice had been to stay in the deep dark water far out beyond all snares and traps and treacheries. My choice was to go there to find him beyond all people. Beyond all people in the world. Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either one of us.

In this isolation, he wins a Conradian victory, which means destruction and triumph. We permit his martyrdom because he has earned it. His sigh is "just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood." He stumbles under the weight of his mast when he carries it across his shoulder, up a hill. He sleeps, finally, "with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up." There is more than this, and for those who, like this reviewer, believe that Hemingway's art, when it is art, is absolutely incomparable, and that he is unquestionably the greatest craftsman in the American novel in this century, something that is perhaps even more interesting. For this appears to be not only a moral fable, but a parable, and all the controlled passion in the story, all the taut excitement in the prose come, I believe, from the parable. It is an old man catching a fish, yes; but it is also a great artist in the act of mastering his subject, and, more than that, of actually writing about that struggle. Nothing is more important than his craft, and it is beloved; but because it must be struggled with and mastered, it is also a foe, enemy to all selfindulgence, to all looseness of feeling, all laxness of style, all soft pomposities.

"I am a strange old man."

"But are you strong enough now for a truly big fish?"

"I think so. And there are many tricks."

Hemingway, who has always known the tricks, is strong enough now to have mastered his greatest subject. "I could not fail myself and die on a fish like this," the old man reflects. They win together, the great character, the big writer.


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The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway

The following entry represents criticism of Hemingway's novella, The Old Man and the Sea. See also, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" Criticism, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" Criticism, and Ernest Hemingway Criticism.

This 26,500-word novella, a simple narrative fable about the struggles of a poor Cuban fisherman in his quest for a giant marlin, earned Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Award of Merit Medal for the Novel in 1953, and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature. Written in spare, journalistic prose with minimal action and only two principle characters, the work is at once a realistic depiction of the events and locale described and a symbolic exploration of the human struggle with the natural world, the human capacity to transcend hardship, and personal triumph won from defeat. Although Hemingway claimed that in the novella he "tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks," the work is rich in imagery suggestive of deeper meanings than appear on the surface. As Hemingway remarked, The Old Man and the Sea is written on the "principle of the iceberg": seven-eighths of it is underwater for every part that shows.

Most critics agree that the novella was written in 1951, although there has been some speculation it was conceived much earlier. This is probably because the story has its roots in a 1936 essay that Hemingway published in Esquire, "A Gulf Stream Letter," which includes a description of an old man fishing alone in a skiff who hooked a great marlin that pulled him far out to sea. The man was picked up two days later with the giant fish, half-eaten by sharks, lashed alongside his boat. Such an event is at the center of the novella. However, it seems clear that while the main action of the story is informed by an earlier occurrence, the novella in style and execution is one of Hemingway's mature works. The focus of the story is a departure from his earlier efforts, as he turns away from the themes of love and war and the artifices of society to explore the inner consciousness of a single man as he fights against natural forces. And many of the concerns and motifs in his earlier writings—including human courage and prowess; the search for dignity amidst the harshness of the world; the stoic hero who lives by his own code of values; the ability to function with "grace under pressure"; and the images of the athlete, animals, and Christ—are given their most perfect, understated expression in this story.

Hemingway originally wrote The Old Man and the Sea as part of a tetralogy of short novels making up what he called "The Sea Book." No such multivolume work was ever published, but the other sections of this effort were eventually included in his posthumous novel, Islands in the Stream (1970). After completing the novella and receiving warm praise from friends, Hemingway agreed to let the story be published in a single issue of LIFE magazine, for which he received $40,000. Upon its release by Charles Scribner's Sons, the work was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, which earned him another $21,000. The book was an immediate bestseller and was received favorably by most reviewers, a welcome relief to Hemingway after the almost universally negative response to his previous novel, Across the River and Into the Trees (1950). For fifteen years after its publication The Old Man and the Sea was seen as a masterwork, confirming Hemingway's literary status and eliciting comparison with Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Few critics since the late 1960s have seen the work in such approving terms, however, and although the novella continues to be read widely, often as a required text for younger students of literature, its reputation as one of the great works of American literature is by no means secure. Like Hemingway himself, the book has virulent detractors and loyal defenders. There are those who condemn the novella's self-conscious simplicity in style, glorification of violence, sexism, crude symbolism, and sentimentality, while others continue to admire its spare beauty, symbolic complexity, and its recognition of the human capacity to endure.

Plot and Major Characters

The action of the novella takes place over four days in September in a small Cuban town, in Cuban waters, and in the Gulf Stream. It opens with an explanation that an old fisherman, Santiago, has not caught a single fish for eighty-four days. At first a young boy, Manolin, had accompanied him, but after the fortieth day of not taking fish, his father had instructed the boy to leave the luckless old man and go with another boat. So Santiago fishes alone in his skiff, returning home each evening empty-handed. In the first exchange between Santiago and Manolin, we learn that despite obeying his father out of duty, the boy still has faith in Santiago, and loves him; the old man taught him how to fish, and they once had good luck together. Manolin knows the old man is poor—he lives in a shack, has no food, fresh bait, or even a cast net, even though he says he does, and he reads yesterday's newspapers. In the evenings the boy brings supper for them to share; Santiago accepts his kindness with graceful humility. Over dinner the two talk about luckier times or about American baseball and the great Joe DiMaggio. At night, Santiago dreams of Africa and the lions on the beach he saw there as a boy; he no longer dreams of his dead wife.

On the eighty-fifth day, before dawn, Santiago rows his small boat far out to sea, setting his lines with the bait Manolin has given him. He sees sea turtles and a large man-of-war bird circling overhead, which shows him where there are dolphins and flying fish; with the bird's help, he finds and catches a tuna, which he plans to use as bait. Around noon, with his line a hundred fathoms down in the purple waters, the old man feels a bite on the line and knows he has hooked a big fish, a marlin. The fish begins to tow the boat northwest, and Santiago holds on waiting for it to grow tired, talking aloud to himself and to the sea creatures—including porpoises and a small warbler threatened by hawks—and wishing the boy were with him. After sunset Santiago feels a tug on his remaining bait and cuts that line, fearing the smaller fish he has hooked might cut off the marlin. The big fish lurches, pulling the man down on his face so he cuts himself below the eye. With his left hand stiff and cramped, Santiago talks to the marlin, vowing he will stay with it until he is dead, but explaining also that he loves and respects the fish and understands its struggle. He says he is not religious, but he will says ten "Our Fathers" and ten "Hail Marys" and make a pilgrimage if he catches the fish. The fish lurches again, cutting Santiago's right hand. Exhausted, Santiago eats the raw tuna to keep up his strength and waits for dawn.

The next morning, the marlin shows itself as it jumps out of the water. It is two feet longer than the skiff with a sword as long as a baseball bat; this was the biggest fish the man has ever seen, well over a thousand pounds. The fish pulls the boat eastward, and Santiago tries to forget his aching old body by remembering the time when he had been called El Campeón because of his prowess as a wrestler. That evening, he catches a dolphin, which he cuts into fillets, and at night he sleeps, dreaming of porpoises and of lions on the beach.

Shortly after sunrise, the marlin begins to circle and Santiago tries to bring the fish closer to the boat. He does so finally, and drives a harpoon into its side and lashes his catch to the bow and stern of the skiff. The enormous fish will make his fortune, he thinks, as never was such a catch brought into Havana harbor. He sets sail toward home. An hour later, he sees a shark, which has smelled the blood of the marlin. The shark attacks the dead fish before Santiago kills it with his harpoon, which is lost in the battle. More sharks come, tearing and devouring the marlin and Santiago kills them also, first using his oar, then his knife, and then the boat's tiller. He steers toward Havana as even more sharks tear at the body of the fish. He regrets now that he has gone too far out and the sharks have beaten him.

It is late at night when Santiago arrives back at the harbor. He beaches his boat, leaving the carcass of the fish still tied to the stern. He unsteps the mast and puts it over his shoulders as he climbs, exhausted, to his shack. He falls down five times before reaching home, and then lies down, face down on his bed with arms out straight and the palms of his hands facing up. Manolin sees him sleeping the next morning, and cries at the sight of his old friend. As the boy goes to bring the old man some coffee, he meets fishermen who have gathered around the skiff, amazed at the giant marlin, which, they tell him measures eighteen feet from nose to tail. When Manolin wakes Santiago, the old man tells him he has been beaten, and the boy understands he means not by the fish, but by the sharks. The boy asks to keep the marlin's spear and tells Santiago to rest so they can go out together and fish again.

That afternoon, a party of tourists at the bar sees the enormous carcass of the fish, and a woman asks the waiter what it is. He say in Spanish that it is a marlin, then says "shark" to explain what happened to it. The woman and her companion think it is a shark, remarking they didn't know sharks had such handsome tails. In the meantime, up the road, with Manolin watching him, Santiago sleeps and dreams about lions.

Major Themes

Despite the mixed critical reaction to The Old Man and the Sea, there is little disagreement about the central meaning of novella. It has been viewed by most critics on its most basic level as a story of one man's courage and, by extension, of human beings' heroic quest and attendant struggle with nature. However, it has been pointed out, nature, as symbolized in one form by the fish, is not a malignant force but one that is to be respected for its power. Santiago, through his endurance, conquers the fish while recognizing it as a worthy foe, but in the end is defeated by another natural entity, the sharks. Santiago's noble battle can also been seen as an account of humans' search for meaning in a harsh world. As with Hemingway's other heroes, the nature of Santiago's struggle—done with prowess, grace, and pride even in loss—is what ultimately confers meaning to his existence.

Much of the novella's imagery, interwoven into a tight tapestry, reinforces the central idea. The man-of-war bird that chases the flying fish, the lions in the old man's dreams, the great DiMaggio who continues to play despite the pain of injury, and the tired warbler being chased by hawks, all echo Santiago's situation. The intertwining symbols—the marlin's sword is "as long as baseball bat," the sharks' teeth are like human hands, Santiago's hand, holding the fishing line, is "as tight as the gripped claws of an eagle"—also serve to point to another theme, of the interconnectedness of all things in nature. Santiago says that "everything kills everything else," and obversely, as we see in Manolin's and Santiago's relationship and in the man-of-war aiding the fisherman, all things nourish other things and keep them alive.

As many critics have noted, the many biblical allusions underscore the novella's themes of suffering, redemption, hope, faith, love, and endurance. Santiago is at once a sinner who has "gone too far out" and a Christ-like figure who bears the burden of trying to achieve the impossible and is victorious even in defeat. Like Christ, he is a fisherman; he lives on charity; he lacerates his hands during his struggle; he carries his mast across his shoulders like a cross and falls down five times; he sleeps in cruciform position at the end of his ordeal. The boy Manolin keeps his faith in the old man, and is an embodiment of uncorrupted youth and hope, the figure to whom the fisherman finally passes the marlin's spear, a symbol of heroic vitality.

Critical Reception

The publication of Hemingway's sea story in LIFE was met with approval by most reviewers, with the magazine selling over five million copies in two days. The Scribner's edition of The Old Man and the Sea topped bestseller lists for six months after its release. The novelist William Faulkner found the work to be Hemingway's best, venturing even that it was perhaps the best single piece of any of his contemporaries. Other critics echoed these sentiments, admiring its technical accomplishment, lyrical and rhythmic prose, and elegantly direct symbolism. However, the chant of praise was not unanimous, and the noted critics Philip Rahv and John Aldridge called the work minor, faulting its elemental emotion, colorless style, and lack of complexity because it dealt primarily with the physical and not the psychic world of the hero. Despite its detractors, the novella went on to earn Hemingway the 1953 Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize the following year. A film version of the book, starring Spencer Tracy as Santiago, appeared in 1958. From 1952 to 1966, most commentaries on the novella were reverential, and humanistic critics like Philip Young, Leo Gurko, and Clinton S. Burhans admired the book's noble and tragic hero, its veneration for humanity, and notions of fraternal interdependence. Other commentators, including the well-known Hemingway scholar Carlos Baker, welcomed the elegantly presented Christian themes, including Santiago's piety and suffering, his saintly humility, and the idea of redemption from meaningless existence.

After 1966 came a shift in assessment. Young, who had earlier praised the work, withdrew his earlier adulation, objecting to its affected simplicity, and Robert P. Weeks pointed out its lack of realistic detail. By the mid-1970s few articles on the novella appeared in scholarly journals, and those that were published tended to concentrate on uncovering previously undetected biblical, baseball, or other allusions. The 1980s and 1990s saw even less critical interest in the work, with longer studies about Hemingway often dismissing the novella as using crude symbolism and lapsing repeatedly into sentimentality. Despite its fall from grace, the novella continues to enjoy a reputation as Hemingway's most distinctive fictional effort, and one in which can be found many of the ideas that informed both his work and his life.

Principal Works

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Short Fiction

Three Stories & Ten Poems 1923

in our time [revised edition published as In Our Time, 1925] 1924

Men without Women 1927

Winner Take Nothing 1933

Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories (short stories and play) 1938

The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway 1938

The Old Man and the Sea (novella) 1952

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories 1961

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and OtherStories 1963

Hemingway's African Stories: The Stories, Their Sources,Their Critics 1969

The Nick Adams Stories 1972

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway 1987

Other Major Works

The Sun Also Rises (novel) 1926

The Torrents of Spring: A Romantic Novel in Honor of the Passing of a Great Race (novel) 1926

A Farewell to Arms (novel) 1929

Death in the Afternoon (nonfiction) 1932

Green Hills of Africa (nonfiction) 1935

To Have and Have Not (novel) 1937

For Whom the Bell Tolls (novel) 1940

Across the River and Into the Trees (novel) 1950

A Moveable Feast (autobiography) 1964

Islands in the Stream (novel) 1970

The Garden of Eden (novel) 1986

True at First Light: A Fictional Memoir [edited by Patrick Hemingway] (novel) 1999

Robert O. Stephens (essay date 1961-62)

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SOURCE: "Hemingway's Old Man and the Iceberg," in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. VII, No. 4, Winter, 1961-62, pp. 295-304.

[In the following essay, Stephens argues that The Old Man and the Sea is the most perfect expression and "crest of the iceberg" in Hemingway's tragic visionwhich pervades all of his workof man as animal attempting to transcend his animal nature.]

When Ernest Hemingway told George Plimpton of The Paris Review about his iceberg theory of writing, he pointed to The Old Man and the Sea as a prime example of such writing. According to the theory, "I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows."1 The sea novel in respect to style fits the theory, Hemingway pointed out, in that he knew many fishing stories never explicitly incorporated in the tale; knowing them gave him authority for the tale he did write. But Hemingway suggested more strongly the applicability of the iceberg image for understanding theme when he noted, "You can be sure that there is much more than will be read at any first reading. . . ." This comment is especially meaningful when used as a way of viewing a theme in his work that emerges like the crest of an iceberg in this novel.

That theme is the vision of man as animal trying to transcend his animal nature. In The Old Man and the Sea this theme, latent in many early works and of secondary consideration in others, emerges as the true basis of the Hemingway protagonist's tragic view of life. The exact nature of that tragic view is, I think, impossible to determine until the sea novel is seen as its explication. In recognizing the vital role of animal imagery in Hemingway's earlier works, we find that one of the chief beauties of The Old Man and the Sea is the clarity with which earlier animal images take meaning within the context of the sea novel.

Chronologically considered, the Hemingway protagonists each make a part of the discovery of man as a thinking animal that is culminated in the vision of Santiago. Nick Adams of In Our Time makes his separate peace consequent to this discovery. In the stories he has the adolescent's remote knowledge of his own mortality, but this knowledge is brought home to him in the war sketches when he sees the minimal difference between dead men and dead horses on the battlefield. He makes his separate peace as he lies badly wounded and sees his dead friend Rinaldi as a reminder of his own susceptibility to animal death. The delusions that have kept him from this recognition back in Michigan are demonstrated in "Indian Camp." Here Nick sees the animal fates of the Indian woman and her husband, but having been distracted by his father's enthusiasm for reporting the operation to a medical journal, he is able to reassure himself that he will never die.

In The Sun Also Rises the role of animal imagery becomes clearer. Discovery of his own animal fragility prompts Jake Barnes to rise above such knowledge by maintaining his light symbols at night and by witnessing the symbolic triumph over animal existence in the bull ring. Robert Cohn glimpses this esoteric knowledge when he labels Brett Ashley a Circe bringing out the animal in her admirers. Harvey Stone withdraws from society like a wounded cat when he is "daunted" by his animal limitations during his expatriate disillusionment. And Bill Gorton's jocose warning that the road to hell is paved with unbought stuffed dogs takes on ironic significance in the light of this theme: just as Jake Barnes sees the bull hoofs and ears as tokens of animal death symbolically overcome, Bill sees the same in stuffed dogs.

Similar ironic handling of the theme occurs in A Farewell to Arms when Frederic Henry, told of Catherine's pregnancy, observes that "You always feel trapped biologically." He has glimpsed something of this truth earlier when, wounded by the trench mortar bomb, he found that it was all wrong to think you just died. There was terror in being a conscious animal and recognizing death at hand. The irony is compounded during the lovers' Swiss escape from the Italian war. In Italy the "they" antagonists of the lovers were the forces of traditional society, but in Switzerland "they" refers to the forces of nature working particularly against Catherine. Thus, with Catherine's death in the Lausanne hospital Frederic is again confronted with the knowledge that one does not merely die but is lost as well. Appropriately, his biological-spiritual dilemma is symbolized by the dog searching the garbage cans outside the hospital.

The hunters have their private triumphs over animal death in the African stories. In Green Hills of Africa and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" Hemingway is concerned with the connection between hunting animals as a sportsman and hunting values against animal death as a writer. In his conversations with the Austrian Kandisky Hemingway notes the reciprocal importance of hunting and artistic achievement. He does not kill at random but seeks out the animal it means most for him to kill; similarly he does not accept all prose offered but only that which, if he is lucky and serious, helps him transcend physical limitations, that prose which finds "a fourth and fifth dimension." Such a release is the object of Harry's search in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." The hunter-writer lies doomed to animal decay in his camp at the foot of the mountain; the horror and obscenity of that fate are indicated by the image of the foul and stinking hyena lurking around his cot. But Harry rises above his biological decay as he achieves spiritually "the great, high, and unbelievably white . . . square top of Kilimanjaro." The key to his achievement appears in the riddle headnoting the story. Here the leopard, for reasons unexplainable in terms of animal nature, goes beyond ordinary limits in the direction of the summit, which in the Masai tongue is named the "House of God." The struggle to overcome animal instinct appears also in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" when Francis and Robert Wilson forget the social consequences of hunting, whether of losing a wife or losing a hunter's license, and find spiritual elevation in triumphing over the cold, hollow fear of death as an animal. Like Harry of "Kilimanjaro," Francis Macomber dies biologically, but not before he has gained the crucial moment of spiritual elevation and insight.

Harry Morgan of To Have and Have Not, Philip Rawlings of The Fifth Column, and Robert Jordan of For Whom the Bell Tolls all recognize to some extent their biological limitations and try to transcend these limitations by their identification with social movements. After the fight wth the Cuban terrorists on the Queen Conch Harry lies dying inside the boat, listens to the sloshing inside him, and identifies it with the sloshing outside the boat, where the snub-nose fish feast on the clotted blood of the dead men. In his few remaining moments of consciousness Harry recognizes the repulsiveness of such a fate and states the hope that in social organization there is something more for man than there is for man alone. The Fifth Column, primarily a propaganda piece for anti-Fascist resistance, plays down the innate tragedy in the vision of man as animal and emphasizes his survival as a social unit. But in Philip Rawlings' nighttime terrors is the reminder that the horror of animal death still lurks beneath the conscious surface of events. Robert Jordan also possesses this sense of biological chaos, but he too has turned over his hopes, at least conditionally, to an external political discipline. Significantly though, the Fascists and even the unruly Loyalists are presented in animalistic terms of doom—the Heinkel bombers are sharks moving across the ocean sky, to Pilar the smell of fear is the smell of decaying organic matter, and the guerrilla slaughter of Fascists at Pablo's village is comparable to a capea or messy bullfight. In Maria Robert Jordan reaches a compromise with his biological existence. He must die, but his identity as a human will be preserved in the conscious existence of another biological-spiritual being. His faith in the Spanish Republic must be translated into terms of individuals who survive.

The same solution is arrived at by Richard Cantwell of Across the River and into the Trees. Because of his diseased heart he carries with him throughout the last week end in Venice the knowledge of his animal fate. At the site of his first serious wounding—the place where he became convinced of his own mortality—he carries out his ritual exorcism of this knowledge. And at his death he leaves symbols of his identity to his mistress Renata in terms of a portrait and two shotguns—indexes to his lifetime dedication to overcoming his animal fate and rising to a higher level of comprehension: sport and art.

The culminative recognition Santiago makes is the triumph man has over his animal existence by his ability to understand his fate when he cannot avoid it biologically. To transcend his animal fate, he looks to what he has in addition to animal nature and finds that his moral nature opens the way to triumph. In exploiting his moral nature, Santiago finds a resolution as classically ancient as the Adamic myth: to understand the process is to escape the effect of the process.

Santiago's insight is parallel to that described by A. O. Lovejoy as the Paradox of the Fortunate Fall.2 Man rises above his animal state by usurping a godlike attribute: knowledge. Making a choice to gain knowledge, he both gains moral stature and dooms himself to death as the price of his usurpation. But even as he dooms himself to physical deterioration, he opens the way to spiritual enlightenment, which becomes a possibility because of his moral nature. Hemingway's conception of this relationship between man and animal is evident in Death in the Afternoon. Characterizing the matador, he writes that "when a man is still in rebellion against death he has pleasure in taking to himself one of the Godlike attributes: that of giving it. This is one of the most profound feelings in those who enjoy killing."3

The Old Man and the Sea thus becomes the crest of the metaphorical iceberg; the animal theme is brought into the open, and we can see the direction in which the theme has been developing in the earlier works.

If the paradox at the heart of the sea novel is similar to that at the core of the Adamic myth, Hemingway nevertheless presents it in terms commensurate with his protagonists of the twentieth century. In terms the protagonist accepts as valid, the paradox concerns the problem of how to win by losing, or of how to remain champion by being defeated. Critics since the time of "The Undefeated" have seen the protagonists achieve a triumph in defeat through stoic virtues of endurance.4 But what The Old Man and the Sea reveals is that the paradoxical triumph comes about through the protagonist's recognition of his moral nature. This is the idea that gives order to the narrative details of the novel.

Understanding Hemingway's use of the sea as setting and symbol is necessary for perceiving the operation of the paradox, for the sea is the general instrument of defeat for the hero. As early as 1935 in Green Hills of Africa Hemingway identified the Gulf Stream as a useful symbol of the natural processes, beside which the accomplishments of civilization are like garbage dumped from the scows outside Habana: "and the palm fronds of our victories, the worn light bulbs of our discoveries and the empty condoms of our great loves float with no significance against one single, lasting thing—the stream."5 This framework of the sea stands as the ultimate extension of those earlier frameworks in which Hemingway protagonists struggled against their knowledge of man as animal: the fugitive societies of Frederic Henry, Jake Barnes, Harry Morgan, and Robert Jordan; the esoteric societies of the matadors; and the primitive societies of the hunters. Now Santiago is withdrawn not only from society and civilization but also from the rest of humanity. He faces the sea as an amoral universe, a capricious woman, la mar, who gives favors but also cannot help doing cruel things.6 Within this framework of chaos exist the Portuguese man-of-war ("Agua mala. . . . You whore"), the loggerhead turtles which Santiago loves and which eat the Portuguese men-of-war, and the rapacious sharks which eat the loggerheads as well as eat men (pp. 39, 40, 119). He also sees the incipient tragedy of the small sea bird, standing in analogy to the spirit of man, as it battles the elements of the sea. Watching the bird compete with the dolphins for the flying fish, Santiago notes that the bird has no chance against the bigger and faster fish. And after he has hooked the marlin and a warbler comes to rest on the line, Santiago observes that it will soon learn it is the prey of hawks (pp. 38, 60).

But the sharks are the dramatic instruments of the old man's defeat by the sea. They come not by accident but as natural results of spilling the marlin's blood. It is physical nature against physical nature as Santiago fights them with harpoon, knife, and tiller and the sharks rip the carcass. Only the head, tail, and skeleton of the marlin remain to record the great catch. What might have been a physical triumph has been taken back by natural process. That the marlin represents Santiago's physical nature during the melee is evident in his pain as the fish is mutilated. The loss of the marlin as a physical achievement suggests Santiago's sense of death as physical extinction. Fighting the last shark, he has the taste of copper in his mouth, and as he spits at the shark, he cries, "Eat that, Galanos. And make a dream you've killed a man" (p. 131). He reports the taste later to Manolin as an ominous sign: "In the night I spat something strange and felt something in my chest was broken" (p. 138). In this respect, then, he is in the empathic position of having known death and having come back to explain.

The defeat, however, is only a test of the values Santiago derives in the contest with the marlin. His triumph over the marlin gives him poise and comprehension for enduring the work of the sharks. And his triumph, more importantly, is confirmed upon his return to shore with only the skeleton relic of his victory. What happens on the shore could not have happened had not the defeat by the sharks taken place on the sea.

The paradoxical triumph has two parts: the derivation and recognition of spiritual values, on the one hand, and the confirmation of those values, on the other. The preliminary victory over the marlin begins when Santiago chooses to go beyond the "well" of traditional fishing grounds and on to the outer stream. Thus, early is introduced the theme of choice that runs throughout the conflict at sea. When he snares the great marlin, Santiago notes that it had been the choice of the fish to go far out and that now they are in conflict by choice: "His choice had been to stay in the deep dark water far out beyond all snares and traps and treacheries. My choice was to go there to find him beyond all people. Beyond all people in the world. Now we are joined together and have been since noon" (p. 55).

Attributing choice to the fish thus becomes acceptable when Santiago's identification of his animal nature with the fish becomes evident. At first the marlin is an unknown force; the old man knows only that he has hooked something and wishes to see what it is he is fighting (pp. 50-51). After he has seen the fish and has been awed by his great size, Santiago begins to establish the identification between himself and the beast: "Keep your head clear and know how to suffer like a man. Or a fish, he thought" (pp. 73, 102). And after his triumph over the marlin, when the sharks have begun to strike, he avoids looking at the mutilated beast because "When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit" (p. 113). The connection between marlin and man becomes more evident in the semi-betrayal of Santiago's hand to the physical demands represented by the fish. The hand becomes animalistic as it becomes like a claw: "What kind of hand is that. . . . Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw" (p. 64). He further notes the hand's betrayal as a treachery of one's body: diarrhea humiliates one before others, but the cramp humiliates him when he is alone. The identification becomes a step clearer when he observes, "There are three things that are brothers: the fish and my two hands" (pp. 68, 70). The kinship between hand and the rest of the natural process is established fully when the sharks come. The Mako shark's teeth are "shaped like a man's fingers when they are crisped like claws" (p. 111).

Yet if the hand is part of biological nature, the strength of the hand, like the strength of the marlin, is a measure of the man who overcomes that animal force. The hand finally becomes obedient to the mind of Santiago. That animal force over which the mind triumphs was measured once, for example, in the contest with the negro from Cienfuegos at the tavern in Casablanca (p. 78). Santiago won the contest by his confidence in himself as a man and champion and triumphed over the brute strength of the negro, who lacked the champion's pride.

His identification with the great fish puts Santiago in the classic line of men fighting beasts as symbols of their own internal struggles between human pride and animal instinct—the Cretans, for example, wrestling bulls as a religious rite. He is an extension of the Hemingway matadors as they dominate the instinctive destruction of the bulls in the tragic spectacle of the corrida. Indeed, Santiago is a matador of marlins and experiences the same pride and elation felt by the tauromaquian matadors as they, through skill and intelligence, assert their godlike power of dominating animal instinct and then demonstrating triumph over such instinct by killing it. The contest between man and fish progresses much as does a bullfight with its ordered sequence of action. Santiago is the member of the cuadrilla exploring the hooking habits of the bull as he strives to find what kind of fish he has on the line. He is the picador as he strikes with the line to set the hook safely in the marlin's mouth. As he lashes the two oars across the stern of the boat to increase the drag, he is the banderillero placing the barbs to slow the bull. But as the matador, the dominator of the beast, he shows greatest skill and courage. He must keep an optimum pressure on the line to wear down the marlin without sending the fish out in a rush of strength to break the line; he is the matador balancing self-exposure against domination. Finally he sees the fish swing east with the current, a signal of surrender to the will of the handler. As the fish begins to circle, Santiago puts a strain on the line to shorten the circles and finally maneuvers the marlin alongside for the kill just as the matador positions the bull. And just as the matador drops the muleta for the fatal instant in order to make the sword thrust, Santiago drops the line to drive in the harpoon (pp. 48, 51, 81, 93-95, 103).

All the time he is demonstrating his mastery over the marlin Santiago realizes that he is able to do so because of his human intelligence. He asserts the Adamic pride of intellect over instinct: "He is a great fish and I must convince him. . . . I must never let him learn his strength nor what he could do if he makes his run. If I were him I would put in everything now and go until something broke. But, thank God, they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able" (p. 70). As the fish circles the boat, Santiago realizes that he must "convince" the fish before killing him; and after he has harpooned the marlin, he knows "I am only better than him through trickery . . ." (pp. 96, 110).

But this trickery is a special kind. It includes all the mental processes through which Santiago gains spiritual strength during the long contest. Even though his physical strength is less than that of the fish, his morale makes his strength more effective than his opponent's. His practical wish to have the boy Manolin as a helper, for example, becomes a wish for the strength he, Santiago, had in his more vigorous and confident days. He makes the boy into a memory image of himself.7 His memory of the young lions on the African beaches recalls his own youthful strength. The memory of his victory over the negro from Cienfuegos also reminds him of his claim to be El Campeón. And he derives strength from thinking of that other champion DiMaggio, who also won in spite of the bone spur in his heel (pp. 73, 90, 101, 114).

Also part of this "trickery" is the secret ritual characteristic of the Hemingway hero. Here the ritual is the prayer for control of luck. It too is a form of self-explanation for the old man. When, earlier, he tells Manolin that he had rather have skill than luck, he hopes that conditions will remain within his power to control. But finally he recognizes, as do the other Hemingway perceivers of nada, that chaotic natural process will be too much for him. He resorts to the rituals to bring some smal lorder, however arbitrary, into the chaos. Thus, when he can do nothing more to fashion the world his own way, Santiago calls on God to make the marlin strike hard at the bait, to make the fish jump, and to remove the cramp from his hand (pp. 46, 59, 66). The Our Fathers and Hail Marys only formalize this ritual tendency. That these rituals belong to the periodof enlightenment is confirmed by their absence during the onslaught of the sharks. The rituals, like the memory images, are part of the moral illumination that gives Santiago power to transcend the physical degradation.

Thought, then, is the difference between man and beast. At first Santiago attempts only to endure, not think. But he realizes that he must think in order to do nothing false while working the marlin. His talking to himself then becomes a vocal sign of his thought process: "It encouraged him to talk because his back had stiffened in the night and it truly hurt now" (pp. 43, 61).

As his thoughts form, the old man begins to understand his relationship with the fish. True, the fish is an extension of his own bodily instincts, but his killing the fish is an act of proud contempt for his physical limitations. His thinking collides with the paradox of biological and intellectual forces within the same being. He recognizes the consequences of intellect as he muses over the marlin he has just killed: "You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and sell for food. . . . You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman" (p. 116). The value of the preliminary contest with the marlin is that in the contest he has learned the implications of his moral nature. He has achieved understanding that survives biological destruction: "A man can be destroyed but not defeated" (p. 114). The basis of his undefeatability is his pride, which both subjects him to defeat because of his choice—"You violated your luck when you went too far outside"—and sends him out to attempt the impossible, to attempt more than he could achieve within the "well" (p. 128). His capacity for attempting too much is both self-defeating and ennobling. His pride is a mark of the godlike quality that transcends animal fate.

The confirmation of this insight occurs in the Christ motif, which, appearing thinly at first in the novel and gradually becoming dominant, suggests the growing illumination of the protagonist.8 Santiago's drinking of the shark liver oil, in light of the sharks' role as messengers of death, takes on eucharistic overtones (p. 41). When he sees the two galano sharks streaking toward the marlin, the old man cries, "Ay," which is "just such a noise as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood" (p. 118). Going up the hill after his return to shore, he carries the mast across his shoulders like a cross and stumbles on his way to the summit of the hill (pp. 133-134). On top the hill, lying in his shack, he sleeps face down "with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up," in the position of a man crucified (p. 134). Like the Jew noted by the Roman soldier of "Today is Friday," Santiago was "pretty good in there today." He asserts by his example that there are human qualities for which death is not final. He completes the paradox that to win spiritually, one must lose biologically; to survive animal fate, one must suffer it.

All this is not to say that in his earlier works Hemingway perceives or accepts this paradoxical position. Rather, he makes irregular steps in this direction. In the earliest stories he demonstrates a consciousness of the biological trap. But in the books of the twenties and forties he seems to be looking for an escape from the trap by way of social values, whether of fugitive societies of expatriates or of the Spanish gypsy type. He seems most directly on the track of the moral discovery in The Old Man and the Sea when he is investigating the implications of bullfighting and hunting in the books of the thirties. The attempts of Harry of "Kilimanjaro" to find spiritual values in the face of biological decay most nearly approach the insight of Santiago.

But even in the sea novel Hemingway does not abandon social perpetuation of the protagonist's discovery. Just as Robert Jordan entrusts his moment of truth to Maria, and Richard Cantwell his to Renata, Santiago is to make his insight available to Manolin. Appropriately, the knowledge is perpetuated in terms of action rather than words, for it is in action that the knowledge is derived. Thus Manolin says at last, "But we will fish together now for I have much to learn," and, "You must get well fast for there is much that I can learn and you can teach me everything" (pp. 138-139).

In Hemingway's tragic vision of man as animal, therefore, The Old Man and the Sea serves as the crest of the iceberg in several ways. But primarily it serves to explain that vision in open, if symbolic, terms.


1 "The Art of Fiction XXI, Ernest Hemingway," The Paris Review, XVIII (Spring 1958), 84.

2 See, for example, his chapter "Milton and the Paradox of the Fortunate Fall" in Essays in the History of Ideas (Baltimore, 1948), pp. 277-295.

3Death in the Afternoon (New York, 1932), p. 233.

4 Examples of this view occur in the following: Edmund Wilson, "The Sportsman's Tragedy," New Republic, LIII (Dec. 14, 1927), 102-103; Alfred Kazin, "The Indignant Flesh," New Yorker, XXVI (Sept. 9, 1950), 113 ff.; Benjamin R. Redman, "Gallantry in the Face of Death," Saturday Review, XXXVI (June 6, 1953), 18.

5Green Hills of Africa (New York, 1935), pp. 148-150.

6The Old Man and the Sea (New York, 1952), pp. 32-33. All subsequent references to this book will be to this edition and will appear parenthesized within the text.

7 For a full development of this point see Carlos Baker, Hemingway: The Writer as Artist (Princeton, 1956), p. 305.

8 See Baker, pp. 289n, 297, for the Christian symbolism and allusions on this point.

Robert P. Weeks (essay date 1962)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3040

SOURCE: "Fakery in The Old Man and the Sea," in College English, Vol. 24, No. 3, December, 1962, pp. 188-92.

[In the following essay, Weeks enumerates the errors in descriptive detail in The Old Man and the Sea, pointing out that the realism characteristic of Hemingway's "better work" is absent in the novella and taking this as an indication that Hemingway's "view of the world has gone soft"]

From the vignettes and stories of his first book, In Our Time, to his last, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway repeatedly made skillful use of animals to epitomize the subjective state or the situation of his characters. Nick Adams' trout holding itself steady against the cold current of the Big Two-Hearted River, Francis Macomber's gut-shot lion standing off death in the tall grass, the huge, filthy vultures keeping a deathwatch on Harry on the plains at the foot of Kilimanjaro—objectively and precisely epitomize the crisis confronting the protagonist in each of these stories.

Yet these animals, and the others Hemingway uses to perform the same function, are nonetheless marvelously real. They possess in abundance what James called solidity of specification: they move, sound, and look like real animals.

The difference, however, in the effectiveness with which Hemingway employs this characteristic device in his best work and in The Old Man and the Sea is illuminating. The work of fiction in which Hemingway devoted the most attention to natural objects, The Old Man and the Sea, is pieced out with an extraordinary quantity of fakery, extraordinary because one would expect to find no inexactness, no romanticizing of natural objects in a writer who loathed W. H. Hudson, could not read Thoreau, deplored Melville's rhetoric in Moby Dick, and who was himself criticized by other writers, notably Faulkner, for his devotion to the facts and his unwillingness to "invent."

Santiago, the only human being in the story, is himself depicted as a natural phenomenon, a strange old man whose heart beats like a turtle's, whose "feet and hands are like theirs," whose eyes are "the same color as the sea" and with which he could once "see quite well in the dark. Not in the absolute dark. But almost as a cat sees." But even these natural affinities do not prepare us for what this strange old man can do. As he sits in his skiff with more than six hundred feet of heavy line—the thickness of a pencil—slanting steeply down into the darkness of the stream, Santiago feels a fish nibble at the bait.

He felt no strain nor weight and he held the line lightly. Then it came again. This time it was a tentative pull, not solid or heavy, and he knew exactly what it was. One hundred fathoms down a marlin was eating the sardines that covered the point and the shank of the hook where the hand-forged hook projected from the head of the small tuna.

This is not fishing skill; it's clairvoyance. The signals that can be transmitted over a pencil-thick line dangling more than six hundred feet into the ocean are relatively gross. Moreover, as Hemingway himself points out in his essay "Marlin Off Cuba," in American Big Game Fishing, published in an elegant limited edition of 906 copies by the Derrydale Press in 1935, one cannot tell whether the fish taking his bait is a marlin or a broadbill for they "take the bait in much the same manner, first, perhaps picking off a few of the sardines with which the point of the hook is covered, then seizing the whole fish used as bait between their jaws to crush it a moment before swallowing it."

This hint that Hemingway may be padding his characterization of Santiago by means of fakery is abundantly confirmed by the action that follows. His combat with the fish is an ordeal that would do in even a vigorous young man. He is at sea nearly four full days, almost all of that time without sleep and during much of it hanging onto a 1,500-pound fish that steadily tows him and his boat for miles, most of it against the current of the Gulf Stream. At noon on the third day, the giant fish circles the boat and the old man harpoons it, lashes it to the boat, and sets sail for home. Almost at once the sharks attack the fish, and the old man attacks the sharks. He battles them for more than twelve hours, quitting only when he runs out of weapons. Then, competently—and evidently without sleeping—he sails his little skiff for his home port, arriving shortly before dawn.

The extent to which this is an incredible performance is made clear when we turn to Hemingway himself for some notion of how an actual old Cuban fisherman behaved under similar circumstances. In "On the Blue Water," an essay that appeared in Esquire in 1936, Hemingway wrote:

Another time an old man fishing alone in a skiff out of Cabanas hooked a giant marlin that, on the heavy sashcord handline, pulled the skiff far out to sea. Two days later the old man was picked up by fishermen sixty miles to the eastward, the head and forward part of the marlin lashed alongside. . . . He was crying in the boat when the fishermen picked him up, half crazy from his loss, and the sharks were still circling the boat.

It is hardly surprising that Santiago's clairvoyancy also enables him to be an uncanny meteorologist. While he is being towed by his fish, he looks at the sky, then soliloquizes: "If there is a hurricane you always see signs of it in the sky for days ahead, if you are at sea. They do not see it ashore because they do not know what to look for." Scientists on land, sea, and in the air equipped with delicate pressure-sensing devices and radar cannot duplicate the powers that Hemingway off-handedly—and unconvincingly—gives to Santiago. According to the Chief District Meteorologist of the United States Weather Bureau in Miami, Florida, Gordon E. Dunn, "It is usually impossible to see signs of a tropical storm for more than two days in advance and on occasion it is difficult to tell for sure that there is a tropical storm in the vicinity for even a day in advance."

But it is when Santiago's fish makes its first appearance that the fakery truly begins to flow. For example, the old man perceives at once that it is a male. Hemingway heroes almost always measure themselves against male animals, whether they are kudu, lions, bear, bulls, or fish. The tragedy enacted in the bull ring becomes a farce if you replace the bull with a cow. The hunter, the torero, the fisherman prove that they have cojones by engaging another creature that has them beyond dispute. Santiago's marlin is both huge and possessed of incredible endurance. He tows man and boat for nearly three days.

But the marlin presents problems. Its cojones are internal. "The sexes are not recognizable in these animals except by internal dissection," according to Gilbert Voss, an icthyologist with the University of Miami Marine Laboratory. Confronted by this dilemma—by the need to pit his hero against a male fish on the one hand, but a fish whose sex he won't be able to determine by dissection before the sharks devour all the evidence, on the other—Hemingway resorts to the fakery of having Santiago identify him at once as a male. In an effort, perhaps, to make this bit of fakery more believable, Hemingway has Santiago recall an experience with marlin in which he was able to distinguish the male from the female.

He remembered the time he had hooked one of a pair of marlin. The male fish always let the female fish feed first and the hooked fish, the female, made a wild, panicstricken, despairing fight that soon exhausted her, and all the time the male had stayed with her, crossing the line and circling with her on the surface. He had stayed so close that the old man was afraid he would cut the line with his tail which was sharp as a scythe. . . . When the old man had gaffed her and clubbed her, . . . and then, . . . hoisted her aboard, the male fish had stayed by the side of the boat. Then while the old man was clearing the lines and preparing the harpoon, the male fish jumped high into the air beside the boat to see where the female was and then went down deep . . . He was beautiful, the old man remembered, and he had stayed.

Santiago's story of the devoted male marlin actually creates more problems than it solves. It is a preposterous piece of natural history, combining sentimentality and inexact observation. The Associate Curator of Fishes of the American Museum of Natural History, who was also a friend of Hemingway's, Francesca LaMonte, noticed an interesting parallel between Santiago's story and one Hemingway recounts in his marlin essay in American Big Game Fishing:

Another time . . . my wife caught a 74-pound white marlin which was followed by three other marlin all through the fight. These three refused bait but stayed with the female fish until she was gaffed and brought aboard. Then they went down.

Miss LaMonte comments on this story that "You will note that the sex of the other fishes is not stated." Hemingway has Santiago incredibly enough identify the uncaught fish as males but in his essay he is more realistic.

Santiago and his fish are yoked by Hemingway's method of using the animal to epitomize some aspect of the man. The result, as Carlos Baker admiringly puts it, is "gallantry against gallantry." It is in fact more nearly fakery against fakery: a make-believe super-fish duelling a make-believe superfisherman.

It must be conceded that leaving aside these two formidable adversaries, there are brilliant flashes of Hemingway realism in The Old Man and the Sea. The sharks, for example, are depicted with remarkable vividness as they rush the dead marlin and savagely tear it apart. The shovel-nosed sharks with their "wide, flattened, shovel-pointed heads . . . and their slitted yellow cat-like eyes" are made "good and true enough" so that they are convincing as sharks and as embodiments of pure evil.

With the mako shark, however, Hemingway has not wholly resisted the impulse to fake. He has claimed for the mako that he can swim "as fast as the fastest fish in the sea" and equipped him with eight rows of teeth "shaped like a man's fingers when they are crisped like claws. They were nearly as long as . . . fingers . . . and they had razorsharp cutting edges on both sides." E. M. Schroeder, of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, an authority on the sharks of the Atlantic, and other shark experts seriously doubt that the mako is as fast as the fastest fish. And they find support from Hemingway who in an article in Game Fish of the World says that the mako can "run faster than most," and in another article mentions the tuna and wahoo as "the fastest fish in the sea."

To describe the mako as having eight rows of teeth, as Hemingway does, is a great deal like saying that a five-year-old child has forty or so teeth. Only two rows of the shark's teeth are functional; the others are replacements which become functional as the forward teeth are lost or destroyed. Also, according to Professor Voss, only the main teeth in the mid part of the shark's jaw are as long, slender, and sharp as Hemingway describes all the teeth as being. Just as Santiago and his fish are given extraordinary powers they could not in fact possess, the biggest and most dangerous of the sharks, the mako, is made more menacing than he actually is.


Why are these inaccuracies of any consequence? No one thinks less of Keats's sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" because in it Keats confused "stout Cortez" with Balboa as the discoverer of the Pacific; nor have the numerous anachronisms in Shakespeare's plays diminished his reputation or our enjoyment of his plays. Don't we read imaginative literature with an entirely different attitude toward fact from the one with which we consult an encyclopedia? The answer must be yes, but a qualified yes. We do not read either Keats or Shakespeare with the same expectations or assumptions as those we have when we read Hemingway. Hemingway is above all a realist; his aim had always been to communicate the facts exactly; and his reputation rests squarely on his success in doing so. As we read a Hemingway story or novel, his preoccupation with factual detail is immediately apparent. It is nowhere more apparent than in his heroes' respect for accuracy and a firm grip on the facts. Frederic Henry speaks for Hemingway, too, in what is probably the best known passage in A Farewell to Arms when he says: "Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the number of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates." In short, the facts. And, likewise, those characters whom Hemingway places in contrast to his heroes are most readily distinguished not by their lack of honor, their insensitivity, or their political allegiances but by their sloppy handling of the facts. There is no clearer example of this than the tourist couple at the end of The Old Man and the Sea who look down into the water from the Terrace, see the skeleton of Santiago's great marlin, and ignorantly mistake it for a shark.

And Hemingway saw himself as a realist, too. His task in The Old Man and the Sea, as he saw it, was to give us a real old man, a real fish, and a real sea that would, if he had made them truly and well, mean many things. This is a reasonable definition of the goal of any realistic writer and provides us with a useful gauge of Hemingway's achievement. However, many critics have turned Hemingway's gauge upside down and upon discovering that the story of the old Cuban fisherman's ordeal can mean many things have praised it without troubling themselves to discover if the old man, the fish, and the sea are indeed "real," if they are indeed made "good and true."1

The realism of Hemingway's first published stories is not an arbitrarily selected technique: it is an inevitable part of his world view. Confronted by the violence and meaninglessness of the world he saw as a boy in upper Michigan, as an 18-year-old police reporter on the Kansas City Star, and as a young man on the Italian front in World War I, in the Greco-Turkish War, and in the cities of Europe in the 1920's, he cultivated a bare, stoical, tight-lipped style that was an ideal instrument for exploring that God-abandoned world. The bullfighters, expatriates, soldiers, boxers, and guerillas were rendered vividly but truly and objectively. And their stance, if they were among the initiated, was much like the style that depicted them, one of tense control, like Nick Adams' trout holding itself steady against the current of the Big Two-Hearted River.

But the style has gone soft in The Old Man and the Sea because the view of the world has gone soft. Santiago's universe is not the chaotic universe in which Nick Adams, Frederic Henry, Jake Barnes, and Robert Jordan encountered meaningless violence and evil. It is more nearly a cozy universe in which fish have nobility and loyalty and other virtues no one since St. Francis of Assisi—and least of all Ernest Hemingway—would have suspected them of. It is a universe so chummy that the hero calls various birds his brothers. The sharks introduce a semblance of evil into this warm universe, but it tends to be a stagey, melodramatic evil almost too villainous to be believable. The same is true of the big Portuguese man-of-war trailing its poisonous tentacles as it sails by Santiago's skiff fully six months before an animal this size would normally appear in Cuban waters.

The soft, fuzzy tone of The Old Man and the Sea reaches its nadir in that scene shortly after sunset when the incredible old man, still being towed by his incredible fish, looks into the heavens and sees the first star of this universe shining out. Hemingway comments: "He did not know the name of Rigel but he saw it and knew soon they would all be out and he would have all his distant friends." This cosmic camaraderie is patently false and forced. This is not the violent, chaotic world that young Hemingway discovered and explored with a style whittled from a walnut stick. In that world the stars were cold and remote—as stars really are. In the world of The Old Man and the Sea, they are "friends" whom the author in a patronizing intrusion identifies for us—incorrectly. Rigel does not appear in Cuban skies at sunset in September but some five hours after Santiago sees it. It is, perhaps, a trifling error, which, even if we happen to be aware of it, does not surprise us in a novel in which so much else is inexactly observed or tricked out in an effort to extort more feeling than a reasonable person would find there.

The honest, disciplined quest for "the way it was" finally ran down. The Old Man and the Sea stands as an end point of that quest. Yet it is not without greatness. To call it an inferior Hemingway novel still leaves it standing well above most other novels of our time. But some of its greatness is that of a monument serving to remind us of earlier glories.


1 Much has been written about Hemingway's technique as a realist: his extraordinary skill in communicating the feel of experience. But with one exception, no one has extensively tested the reality of his fiction in terms of its correspondence to verifiable fact. The exception is Arturo Barea's "Not Spain but Hemingway," Horizon [England], III (May 1941) 350-361. [Reprinted: Carlos Baker, Hemingway and His Critics, New York, 1961.]

Further Reading

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Baker, Carlos. Hemingway: The Writer as Artist, 4th edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972. 438 p.

Definitive, biographical study of Hemingway's works that includes discussions of The Old Man and the Sea.


Adair, William. "Eighty-Five as a Lucky Number: A Note on The Old Man and the Sea" Notes on Contemporary Literature 8, No. 1 (1978): 9.

Claims that when the numbers eight and five are added, subtracted, or multiplied, the result is always a significant number.

Backman, Melvin. "The Matador and the Crucified." In ErnestHemingway: Critiques of Four Novels, pp. 135-143. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962.

Examines two major motifs in Hemingway's work—the matador, who releases force, and the crucified, who accepts pain—that are perfectly blended in The Old Manand the Sea.

Baskett, Sam S. "The Great Santiago: Opium, Vocation, and Dream in The Old Man and the Sea." Fitzgerald/HemingwayAnnual (1976): 230-42.

Examination of baseball allusions in The Old Man andthe Sea.

Bennett, Fordyce Richard. "Manolin's Father." Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual (1979): 417-19.

Contrasts Manolin's father with Santiago, arguing that the boy's father represents the Mundane while Santiago represents the Heroic.

Brenner, Gerry. The Old Man and the Sea: Story of a Common Man. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1991, 120 p.

Detailed study of the work, offering details on its literary and historical context and critical reception, providing a detailed reading, and pointing students to further critical sources.

Cooperman, Stanley. Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea: A Critical Commentary. With Murray H. Cohen. New York: Barrister Publishing Co., 1966, 72 p.

Study guide with bibliography.

Davison, Richard A. "Carelessness and the Cincinnati Reds in The Old Man and the Sea." Notes on ContemporaryLiterature 1, No. 1 (1971): 11-13.

Notes Hemingway's error in placing the Cincinnati Reds in the American League.

Elliott, Gary D. "The Hemingway Hero's Quest for Faith." McNeese Review 24 (1977): 18-27.

Sees Santiago's religious faith as his reason for living.

Halverson, John. "Christian Resonance in The Old Man andthe Sea." English Language Notes 2 (1964): 50-4.

Maintains that Santiago's example is "profoundly Christian" and that the novella embodies religious values.

Handy, William J. "A New Dimension for a Hero: Santiago of The Old Man and the Sea." In Six Contemporary Novels: Six Introductory Essays in Modern Fiction, edited by WilliamO. S. Sutherland, pp. 58-75. Austin: University of Texas, 1962.

Views Santiago as a successful hero in the "internal world of singular values" that Hemingway creates.

Harlow, Benjamin. "Some Archetypal Motifs in The Old Manand the Sea." McNeese Review 17 (1966): 74-9.

Examines symbols representing death to rebirth archetypes in the novella.

Heaton, C. P. "Style in The Old Man and the Sea" Style 4 (1970): 11-27.

Examination of the novella's punctuation, sentence types, word choice, and figures of speech.

Hurley, C. Harold, editor. Hemingway's Debt to Baseball in The Old Man and the Sea: A Collection of Critical Readings. Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1992, 117 p.

Features discussions about the use of baseball in the novella.

Jobes, Katherine T., editor. Twentieth Century Interpretations of "The Old Man and the Sea": A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968, 120 p.

Collection of eighteen essays on the novella written by noted critics, including Malcolm Cowley, Delmore Schwartz, Bickford Sylvester, and Carlos Baker, ranging from brief early reviews to in-depth analyses of single themes.

Johnston, Kenneth G. "The Star in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea." American Literature: A Journal of Literary, History, Criticism, and Bibliography 42 (1970): 388-91.

Examines the use of astrology in the novella, particularly how the star Rigel is used thematically.

Longmire, Samuel E. "Hemingway's Praise of Dick Sisler in The Old Man and the Sea." American Literature: A Journal of Literacy, History, Criticism, and Bibliography 42 (1970): 96-8.

Discussion of baseball player Dick Sister's fame in Cuba.

Kovacs, Jozsef. "Ernest Hemingway, Mati Zalka and Spain: To the Symbolic Meaning of The Old Man and the Sea." Acta Litteraria Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 13 (1971): 315-24.

Maintains that Hemingway's understanding of the Spanish Civil War was integral to his artistic development and played a role in his producing The Old Man and the Sea.

Mansell, Daniel. "When Did Ernest Hemingway Write The Old Man and the Seal" Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual (1975) 311-26.

Argues that Hemingway may have written the novella in the 1930s.

Monteiro, George. "Santiago, DiMaggio, and Hemingway: The Ageing Professionals of The Old Man and the Sea." Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual (1975): 273-80.

Discusses Santiago's worship of DiMaggio, comparing the old man's adversity to that of the baseball legend.

Price, S. David. "Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea." Explicator 38, No. 3 (Spring 1980): 5.

Brief discussion maintaining that Santiago represents Hemingway and the sharks represent literary critics.

Radeljkovic, Zvonimir. "A Long Journey to Hope: Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea." Yugoslav Perspectives on American Literature: An Anthology, pp. 103-106. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1980.

Views Santiago's victory-in-defeat in contrast to Hemingway's usual theme of the hopelessness of the human condition.

Sinha, Krishna Nandan. "The Old Man and the Sea: An Approach to Meaning." In Indian Studies in American Fiction, edited by M. K. Naik, S. K. Desai, and S. Mokashi-Punekar. Delhi: Macmillan India, 1974, pp. 219-28.

Study of the religious themes in the novella, in particular incarnation and religious sanction.

Stoltzfus, Ben. "Pride, The Old Man and the Sea." In Gide and Hemingway: Rebels against God, pp. 41-79. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1978.

Offers a new approach to reading the religious allusions in the novella.

Strauch, Edward. "The Old Man and the Sea: A Numerological View." Aligarh Journal of English Studies 6, No. 1 (1981): 89-100.

Discussion of the religious significance of numbers used in novella.

——. "The Old Man and the Sea: An Anthropological View." Aligarh Journal of English Studies 9, No. 1 (1984): 56-63.

Contends that Santiago's story can be seen as a religious pilgrimage.

Swan, Martin. "The Old Man and the Sea: Women Taken for Granted." In Visages de la feminite, edited by A. J. Bullier and J. M. Racault, pp. 147-63. St. Denis, France: Universite de Reunion, 1984.

Feminist evaluation of Hemingway's hostility to women and the feminine in the novella.

Sylvester, Bickford. "Hemingway's Extended Vision: The Old Man and the Sea." Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 81 (1966): 130-38.

Widely reprinted essay arguing that the novella presents a philosophical naturalism that also allows for transcendent meaning in the harshness of human existence.

Ueno, Naozo. "An Oriental View of The Old Man and the Sea." East-West Review 2 (1965): 67-76.

Praises the quiet control and descriptive action in the novella.

Vitacolonna, Luciano. "The Old Man and the Sea: Some Aspects of a Structural Analysis." In Micro and Macro Connexity of Texts, edited by János Petöfi and Emel Sözer, pp. 287-313. Hamburg, West Germany: H. Buske, 1983.

Examination of the structural coherence of the novella.

Wagner, Linda W. "The Poem of Santiago and Manolin." Modern Fiction Studies 19 (1973-74): 517-29.

Compares The Old Man and the Sea to Islands in the Stream to bring attention to the selfless love of Santiago and Manolin.

Waldmeir, Joseph. "Confìteor Hominem: Ernest Hemingway's Religion of Man." In Hemingway and His Critics: An International Anthology, edited by Carlos Baker, pp. 144-49. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962.

Claims that The Old Man and the Sea elevates Hemingway's "philosophy of Manhood to the level of a religion."

Warner, Stephen D. "Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea." Explicator 33 (1974): Item 9.

Brief examination of the five references to Africa and lions.

Wells, Arvin R. "A Ritual of Transfiguration: The Old Man and the Sea." In Twentieth Century Interpretations of "The Old Man and the Sea": A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Katherine T. Jobes, pp. 56-63. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Analysis of the novella's complex religious symbolism, in which affirmation and guilt, destruction and life, are intertwined.

Additional coverage of Hemingway's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Gale Group: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 19; Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography, 1917-1929 ; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 77-80; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 34; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vols. 1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 13, 19, 30, 34, 39, 41, 44, 50, 61, 80; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 4,9,102,210; Dictionary of Literary Biography Documentary Series, Vols. 1, 15, 16; Dictionaryof Literary Biography Yearbook, Vols. 81, 87, 96, 98; Discovering Authors; DiscoveringAuthors: British; Discovering Authors: Canadian; Discovering Authors: Most-Studied Authors Module; Discovering Authors: Novelists Module; Major 20th-century Writers, Vols. 1, 2; Short Story Criticism, Vols. 1, 25; and World Literature Criticism.

Carlos Baker (essay date 1962)

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SOURCE: "Hemingway's Ancient Mariner," in Ernest Hemingway: Critiques of Four Major Novels, edited by Carlos Baker, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962, pp. 156-72.

[In the following revision of an essay that first appeared in his influential 1956 work Hemingway: The Writer as Artist, Baker argues that Hemingway's particular understanding of the notion of "Wahrheit," or "Truth, "finds its greatest expression in The Old Man and the Sea; thatSantiago is a Christ-like hero in touch with his true nature; and that the boy Manolin stands for the old man's lost youth. He goes on to comment on the movement of struggle, deprivation, and triumph in the novella.]


Goethe called his autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit, Poetry and Truth. The reverse of Goethe's title, as a strategy of emphasis, admirably fits the collected works of Hemingway. From the first he has been dedicated as a writer to the rendering of Wahrheit, the precise and at least partly naturalistic presentation of things as they are and were. Yet under all his brilliant surfaces lies the controlling Dichtung, the symbolic underpainting which gives so remarkable a sense of depth and vitality to what otherwise might seem flat and two-dimensional.

The literary histories commonly credit Hemingway with being the "archpriest of naturalists." This is something less than a half-truth because it tends, as a designation, to ignore what is always taking place down under. That Hemingway the technician achieves effects simply impossible to his naturalistic forebears or current imitators has sometimes been noticed. The cause behind the majority of these effects, the deep inner Dichtung which runs through all of his work from The Sun Also Rises to The Old Man and The Sea, has not until very recently been fully recognized or systematically explored.

Hemingway's conception of the meaning of Wahrheit has steadily increased in breadth and depth over the past thirty years, attaining a kind of apogee in The Old Man and The Sea. His earliest conviction, to which he still adheres with one facet of his artistic consciousness, is well summed up in a remark of Albert Schweitzer's on the Naturphilosophie of Goethe: "Only that knowledge is true which adds nothing to nature, either by thought or imagination; and which recognizes as valid only what comes from a research that is free from prejudices and preconceptions, from a firm and pure determination to find the truth, from a meditation which goes deeply into the heart of nature."

As a partial summary of Hemingway's esthetic and moral position, Schweitzer's statement would have to be qualified only by adding human nature to the rest of nature. Hemingway has rarely been interested in the passing show of the non-human universe unless it could serve him in some way to gain further understanding of one of nature's more complex phenomena, the human mind. A meditation which goes deeply enough into the heart of nature, whether along the banks of the Big Two-Hearted River, on the high slopes of the Guadarramas, or among the vast waters of the Gulf Stream, will often end, as it does in Hemingway, with a meditation which goes deeply into the heart of man.

Its grasp of reality, its content of Wahrheit, is one guaranty of the survival power of Hemingway's art. A second guaranty, not less important, is the use and control of Dichtung. The Dichtung in Hemingway might be provisionally defined as the artist's grasp of the relationship between the temporal and the eternal. That grasp is expressed, in his fiction, through the considered use of imaginative symbols. Most of these come, by way of the artist's imagination, from the visible material universe—the mountains and the plains, the rivers and the trees, the weather and the seasons, the land and the sea. To such natural images Hemingway has attached the strong emotional power of his artistic apprehension of them. With Wordsworth, he knows that natural "objects derive their influence, not from properties inherent in them, not from what they are actually in themselves, but from such as are bestowed upon them by the minds of those who are conversant with or affected by those objects. Thus the poetry . . . proceeds, whence it ought to do, from the soul of man, communicating its creative energies to the images of the external world." At the same time, Hemingway has generally managed to render with fidelity each of the natural objects or scenes precisely for what, in itself, it really is. As a result of their union with imagination and emotion, the various phenomena rise up as operative symbols in all his art. They become thereby not less real but more real than they are in themselves because of the double or triple significations with which they have been imbued.

Hemingway hinted strongly at this point when he said in 1942 that the writer's "standard of fidelity to the truth should be so high that his invention, out of his experience, should produce a truer account than anything factual can be." The invention here could be defined as that form of symbolic logic which is the artist's rough equivalent to the rational logic of the philosophers. Hemingway well knows, with Niebuhr, that "the relation of time and eternity" cannot be expressed in simple rational terms, but "only in symbolic terms." In some writers, the symbols are made over from antecedent literatures. In Hemingway they are usually, though not invariably, derived from the nexus of nature by means of the imaginative apprehension of human experience in natural environs. . . .


The Old Man and The Sea earned its author the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for 1952, and was instrumental in winning him the Nobel Prize two years later. This short novel, in the words of Eliot, explores yet "another intensity" beyond those which can be located in Hemingway's previous fictions. Among the vast waters of the petrel and the porpoise, he seemed to many of his readers to have found the means of establishing "a further union" and "a deeper communion" between Wahrheit and Dichtung than he had achieved before.

The old man of the title is a fisherman by trade. He bears the fitting name of Santiago. Early one morning after months of bad fishing luck, he rows out alone into the mile-deep Gulf Stream where it swings in above the long island of Cuba. Towards noon of the first day out, he hooks a gigantic marlin. For two days and two nights, it pulls him in his boat far to the northward and the eastward, while he hangs for dear life onto the heavy line, a human towing bitt, fighting a battle of endurance against the power of the fish. On the third day out, again nearly at noon, he succeeds in bringing the marlin to the surface and killing it with his harpoon. Since it is too large to put aboard, he lashes it alongside his skiff and sets his small, patched sail for the long voyage home. Then, one by one, two by two, and later in rapacious ripping packs, the sharks move in on his trophy. By the time he has reached his native harbor, there is nothing left of it except the skeleton, the bony head, and the proud, sail-like tail.

Heads or tails, the old man loses the battle he has won. The winner takes nothing but the sense of having fought the fight to the limits of his strength, of having shown what a man can do when it is necessary. Like many of the rest of us, he is undefeated only because he has gone on trying. There is no need for the corrupting forces of moth and rust: thieves have broken through Santiago's lines of defence and made off with all there is. As for the mariner himself, he has reached a condition of absolute physical exhaustion as well as, on the moral plane, an absolute but not an abject humility. Both have cost him very little less than everything, which is of course the price one must always finally pay. Santiago's victory is the moral victory of having lasted without permanent impairment of his belief in the worth of what he has been doing.

In its main outlines, the story is simple in the extreme. Stripped, like the marlin, down to its bare bones, it looks not unlike the 200-word version which Hemingway first recorded in an article on the Gulf Stream during the spring of 1936.

An old man fishing alone in a skiff out of Cabanas hooked a great marlin that, on the heavy sashcord handline, pulled the skiff far out to sea. Two days later the old man was picked up by fishermen 60 miles to the eastward, the head and forward part of the marlin lashed alongside. What was left of the fish, less than half, weighed 800 pounds. The old man had stayed with him a day, a night, a day and another night while the fish swam deep and pulled the boat. When he had come up the old man had pulled the boat up on him and harpooned him. Lashed alongside the sharks had hit him and the old man had fought them out alone in the Gulf Stream in a skiff, clubbing them, stabbing at them, lunging at them with an oar until he was exhausted and the sharks had eaten all they could hold. He was crying in the boat when the fishermen picked him up, half crazy from his loss, and the sharks were still circling the boat.

The difference between this anecdote and the finished work of art is of course immense. What makes the difference is the manner of the narration. Concentrating on the shape of the anecdote alone, the unsympathetic reader might argue that, except for its presumptive basis in historical fact, the story is nearly incredible. Or he might find too neat a balance in the narrative of a determined old man doing battle, first against an almost equally determined marlin, and then against a band of predators determined to make off with the catch. Such a reader might ask what the whole matter comes to. After the sharks' assault, the tangible loss precisely cancels out the tangible profit, leaving the reader neither in the red nor in the black, neither plus nor minus, but exactly at zero.

Yet the novel does not leave us that cold. The manner of its telling controls, one might say, the thermogenetic factor. The warmth of our sympathy can be traced in part to the way in which the portrait of Santiago himself has been drawn.

He was an old man, [the story begins,] who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy's parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat. The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown splotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert. Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.

In a strictly objective view, the man Santiago is only a simple fisherman, like his namesake the son of Zebedee, mending his nets by the shore of Galilee. As Laurence Housman remarked of Wordsworth's leech-gatherer, another old man going about his lonely professional work on the undulating stretches of a British moorland, he is probably not in himself an exceptionally noble character. What has happened is that in both instances an individual has been singled out against such ancient backdrops of sea or moorland, and then staged so memorably, and in terms of a contest of endurance that seems itself a paradigm of human life, that he enters immediately, and perhaps not even tentatively, into the gallery of literary immortals.

Sean O'Faolain once commented on Hemingway's love for the spirit of gallantry, which has made him rove the world "in search of the flame of the spirit in men and beasts." Within the structure of the story, it may be said at once, the gallantry of Santiago is defined in part by the gallantry of his adversary. Aside from the essential valiance of the marlin's towing operation, which Santiago knows all too well because he is on one end of it, the adversary's courage and power are underscored in three stages. When he first sees one of his bobbing green sticks dip sharply, and feels the slight, nibbling, tentative yank on his line, Santiago knows that an event of some importance is in the offing. For this is the line set for a hundred fathoms, and six hundred feet down in the darkness a marlin is eating the sardines impaled on the point and shank of the hook.

After the gentle tugging comes the hard pull and heavy weight when the huge fish swims off with the bait in its mouth. As Santiago braces himself against the thwart and leans against the pull, weight against weight, the skiff moves slowly off towards the northwest. Four hours later the fish is still swimming steadily and the old man is still solidly braced with the line across his back. Like other Hemingway characters in not dissimilar positions, he is by now trying "not to think but only to endure." By sunset it is still the same. "I wish I could see him only once," thinks Santiago, "to know what I have against me." And again, near midnight: "We are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either of us." Gallantry against gallantry: but neither of them has seen his adversary.

The second stage comes with Santiago's first sight of the fish, in royal purple as befits a king, near noon of the second day. "The line rose slowly and steadily and then the surface of the ocean bulged ahead of the boat and the fish came out. He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides. He was bright in the sun and his head and back were dark purple and in the sun the stripes on his sides showed wide and a light lavender. His sword was as long as a baseball bat and tapered like a rapier and he rose his full length from the water and then re-entered it, smoothly, like a diver and the old man saw the great scytheblade of his tail go under and the line commenced to race out." With awe, Santiago observes that the marlin is two feet longer than the skiff.

But Santiago knows, has known all along, that there are other standards of measurement than feet or inches on steel tape. That morning, at first light, while the boat still moved steadily, inexorable as the tick of time, he had spoken to the fish of his love and respect: "But I will kill you dead before this day ends." It is the huntsman's code—as in the pursuit of the kudu among the green hills of Africa—to admire the courage and the strength of that which one is out to kill. Breakfasting on raw bonito, the old man had reflected that he would like to pass some down to the fish his brother. Yet he knew he must kill the fish and keep strong to do it, and that by the same token the fish's strength must be worn down.

From his new knowledge of "what I have against me" Santiago becomes newly aware of what he has inside him that will enable him to win. It is this sense of proving worth against a worthy adversary which, as much as any other means at his disposal, sustains the old man in his time of stress. The first breaching, like the various slight changes in the slant of the line, suggest that by almost imperceptible degrees Santiago is gaining the advantage. The sight of the fish itself is a further spur, for here at last, expansed before his eyes, is the enormous quarry, the goal towards which he moves. But the chief way in which the power outside enlarges the power inside is through Santiago's resolute comparisons. "Let him think I am more man than I am, and I will be so." Or again: "I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures." If the old man wins, he has proved his own worth to himself once more, which is the proof men need in order to continue with the other and perpetual endurance contest into which birth precipitates them all.

Stage the third, the zenith of Santiago's struggle, which is also close to the nadir of his strength, comes on the morning of the third day. Now the marlin rises and slowly circles the boat while the old man sweats and strains to get him close enough for harpooning. "You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who." But he does care. Though his hands are pulped and he is nearly blind with fatigue, he tries one final time on the ninth circle. "He took all his pain and what was left of his strength and his long gone pride and he put it against the fish's agony and the fish came over onto his side and swam gently on his side, his bill almost touching the planking of the skiff." Now Santiago drives home the harpoon, the fish leaps and falls in death, and the first forty-eight hours are over.

In this movement of the story, as in the phase of the sharks that is yet to come, Santiago bears a significant relationship to other characters in the Hemingway canon. For many years prior to the composition of The Old Man and The Sea, Hemingway had interested himself in the proposition that there must be a resemblance, in the nature of things, between Jesus Christ in his human aspect as the Son of Man and those countless and often nameless thousands in the history of Christendom who belong to the category of "good men," and may therefore be seen as disciples of Our Lord, whatever the professed degree of their Christian commitment. The young priest, friend to Lieutenant Henry in A Farewell to Arms, is an early example; the old Spaniard Anselmo, friend to Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls, is a more recent instance.

Santiago shows, in his own right, certain qualities of mind and heart which are clearly associated with the character and personality of Jesus Christ in the Gospel stories. There is the essential gallantry, a kind of militance. There is the staying-power which helps him in his determination to last to the end of whatever is to come. There is the ability to ignore physical pain while concentrating on the larger object which is to be achieved. "Etched on the reader's mind," writes a recent commentator, "is the image of the old man as he settled against the wood of the bow . . . and took his suffering as it came, telling himself, 'Rest gently now against the wood and think of nothing.'" The suffering, the gentleness, and the wood, it is noted, "blend magically into an image of Christ on the cross." So it may be. As the old man moves into and through the next phase of his operation, the force of the crucifixion idea is gradually intensified.

Besides the qualities already enumerated, three others deserve particular notice in this connection: Santiago's humility, his natural piety, and his compassion. His humility is of that well-tested kind which can co-exist with pride. "He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride." When his own disciple, the boy Manolo, calls him, as Jesus has many times been called, "the best fisherman," Santiago answers in character:

"No. I know others better."

"Qué va," the boy said. "There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you."

"Thank you. You make me happy. I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong."

The great fish that Santiago is soon to be engaged with will not, of course, prove Manolo to be in error. Quite the contrary. But when the old man finally outfights his marlin, we are told that his pride has been gone for a long time—forced out through the openings in the sieve of his suffering. The humility remains as the natural companion of his immense fatigue.

However jocular he may be about his religion, however much, in his humility, he may deny himself the guerdon, Santiago is evidently a pious old man. The piety appears unobtrusively in his constant, accepted, and unquestioning awareness of supernal power, at once outside and potentially inside his personal struggle. His allusions to Christ, to God, and to the Virgin are never oaths, as one might expect to find them in the mouth of a professional fisherman out of Havana. They are rather simple petitions to a presumably available source of strength of which he feels the need. "Christ knows he can't have gone," he exclaims in the parlous interval before the fish is actually hooked. "God let him jump," he prays, soon after dawn on the second day, for if God will permit or urge the great fish to leap high and twist, "he'll fill the sacs along his backbone with air and then he cannot go deep to die." "God help me to have the cramp go," says Santiago once again, when his left hand has become temporarily useless. But he does not depend solely on God's intercession: he massages the hand, he exposes it to the sun, he eats raw tuna in the expectation of benefit. If he has to compel the hand to open, he will. He prefers to "let it open by itself and come back of its own accord." But like sun, diet, and massage, prayer may help.

One finds also the more formal prayers. "I am not religious," says the old man untruly. "But I will say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys that I should catch this fish, and I promise to make a pilgrimage to the Virgen de Cobre if I catch him. That is a promise." As he begins to say his prayers, he discovers that he is so fatigued that he cannot always remember the word-sequences. Concluding that "Hail Marys are easier to say than Our Fathers," he tries one of the former and completes it, appending a further petition to the Blessed Virgin: "Pray for the death of this fish. Wonderful though he is." Then, "with his prayers said, and feeling much better, but suffering exactly as much and perhaps a little more," he leans once more against the wood of the bow of his boat, mechanically working the fingers of his recently uncramped left hand. Much later, at the battle's climax, prayer enters his mind again. This time he raises the ante of promised prayers tenfold. "Now that I have him coming so beautifully, God help me to endure. I'll say a hundred Our Fathers and a hundred Hail Marys. But I cannot say them now."

According to the ancient mariner of Coleridge, "he prayeth best who loveth best all things both great and small." Along with humility, pride, and piety, Hemingway's ancient mariner is richly endowed with the quality of compassion. Of course he is not so foolish as to love all creatures equally. He dislikes, for example, the Portuguese men-of-war, whose beautiful "purple, formalized, iridescent, gelatinous" bubbles serve to buoy up the "long deadly purple filaments" which trail a yard behind them in the water and contain a poison which will paralyze unwary passersby. "Agua mala," says the old man to one of them. "You whore." Outwardly handsome, inwardly lethal, these beings strike him as the falsest things in the sea. It is his landside sport to "walk on them on the beach after a storm and hear them pop when he stepped on them with the horny soles of his feet." He has another set of enemies in the waters of the tropic sea. For he genuinely hates, and gladly destroys, the voracious sharks which attack and disfigure the marlin he has fought so long to win.

But his hatred is more than overbalanced by his simple love and compassion for all those creatures which swim or blindly soar. His principal friends on the ocean are the flying fish. He loves the green turtles and the hawksbills "with their elegance and speed," and though the logger-heads are huge and stupid, happily gobbling the Portuguese men-of-war with shut eyes and an air of heavy contentment, the contempt he feels for them is friendly. Porpoises delight him. "They are good," he says. "They play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish." Several times in the course of his struggle he feels pity for the great marlin he has hooked—so "wonderful and strange" in his power to pull the skiff for so many hours, without sustenance, without respite, and with the pain of the hook in his flesh.

For the lesser birds his compassion is greatest, "especially the small delicate dark terns that were always flying and looking and almost never finding." The birds, he reflects, "have a harder life than we do except for the robber birds and the heavy strong ones. Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly, dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices are made too delicately for the sea."

His grateful sense of brotherhood with the creatures of the water and the air is, though full of love, essentially realistic and unsentimental. His implied or overt comparisons between subhuman and human brothers often open out, therefore, in as many directions as our imaginations wish to follow. A memorable example of this tendency appears in the incident of the land-bird, a warbler, which comes to rest on Santiago's skiff far out at sea.

A small bird came toward the skiff from the north. He was a warbler and flying very low over the water. The old man could see that he was very tired. The bird made the stern of the boat and rested there. Then he flew around the old man's head and rested on the line where he was more comfortable.

"How old are you?" the old man asked the bird. "Is this your first trip?"

The bird looked at him when he spoke. He was too tired even to examine the line and he teetered on it as his delicate feet gripped it fast.

"It's steady," the old man told him. "It's too steady. You shouldn't be that tired after a windless night. What are birds coming to?"

The hawks, he thought, that come out to sea to meet them. But he said nothing of this to the bird who could not understand him anyway and who would learn about the hawks soon enough.

"Take a good rest, small bird," he said. "Then go in and take your chance like any man or bird or fish."

This gently humorous monologue with its serious undertone of implied commentary on the human condition encourages the old man at this stage of his struggle. "Stay at my house if you like, bird," he said. "I am sorry I cannot hoist the sail and take you in with the small breeze that is rising. But I am with a friend." It is just at this point that the marlin gives a sudden lurch, the tautened line jerks, and the warbler flies away—towards whatever it is that awaits him on the long voyage home. Hawks or sharks, the predators wait, whether for tired young birds or tired old men.

Coleridge's ancient mariner comes, one might say, to share with Hemingway's this quality of compassion. A major difference between the novel and the poem is that Santiago alreadys owns compassion as by a natural gift; Coleridge's wanderer must achieve it through an ordeal. The act of shooting the albatross is in no way comparable to Santiago's killing of the marlin. One is meaningless and wanton; the other is professional and necessary. In Coleridge's poem, the broken circuit, the failure of spiritual electricity, leads immediately and sequentially to the ordeal, which is by hunger and thirst, cold and heat (like Santiago's), but is chiefly an ordeal by loneliness. Precisely balancing the horror of aloneness is the sense of brotherhood and at-one-ment which floods in upon the mariner when by a simple act of contrition he subconsciously blesses the watersnakes as they coil and swim in the phosphorescent ocean of Coleridge's imagination. The central theme of the poem resides exactly here: in that projected sense of a breakable but reparable solidarity between us and the other life that is around us on the earth, or in the waters beneath the earth.

To their hazard or their sorrow, Hemingway's heroes sometimes lose touch with nature. Jake Barnes in the Parisian café-circle and Fred Henry in the toils of war on the plains of Italy are two memorable examples. Their health ordinarily returns when they re-ally themselves with the natural laws and forces which wait unchanged for the errants' return. But Santiago is never out of touch. The line which ties him to the fish is like a charged wire which guarantees that the circuit will remain unbroken. Saint Francis with his animals and birds is not more closely allied to God's creation than this Santiago with his birds and his fish. These are his brothers, in all the sizes. "I am with a friend," he cheerfully tells the warbler. When the bird has departed, he is momentarily smitten by a sense of his aloneness on the vast waters. Then he looks ahead of his skiff to see "a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again." Once more he is convinced of what he has only momentarily forgotten: no man is ever alone on the sea. This sense of solidarity with the visible universe and the natural creation is another of the factors which help to sustain him through his own long ordeal.


In the light of the experiment in symbolic representation which Hemingway tried in Across the River and Into The Trees, the meaning of the Santiago-Manolo relationship becomes clear. Renata stands, in one of her aspects, for Colonel Cantwell's lost youth. Manolo fulfills a similar purpose, and with greater success in that we do not have to overcome the doubt raised by the difference of sexes. To say this is not, of course, to discount Manolo's dramatic function, which is to heighten our sympathy for the old fisherman. At the beginning and end of the story, we see Santiago through the boy's sympathetic eyes. From the charitable and again fittingly named Martin, owner of the Terrace, Manolo brings Santiago a last supper of black beans, rice, fried bananas, stew, and two bottles of beer. On the morning of the expedition, Manolo arranges for the simple breakfast of coffee in condensed milk cans, and procures the fish and sardines which Santiago will use for baits. He helps launch the skiff, and sees Santiago off in the dark with a wish for luck on this eighty-fifth day. At the end of the story, after the ordeal, Manolo brings coffee and food for the old man's waking, and ointment for his injured hands, commiserating on the loss, planning for a future when they will work side by side again. The love of Manolo for Santiago is that of a disciple for a master in the arts of fishing; it is also the love of a son for an adopted father.

But from Santiago's point of view, the relationship runs deeper. He has known the boy for years, from the period of childhood up to this later time when Manolo, strong and lucky, stands confidently on the edge of young manhood. Like many other aging men, Santiago finds something reassuring about the overlay of the past upon the present. Through the agency of Manolo he is able to recapture in his imagination, and therefore to a certain degree in fact, the same strength and confidence which distinguished his own young manhood as a fisherman and earned him the title of El Campeón.

During his ordeal, the two phrases, "I wish the boy was here," and "I wish I had the boy," play across Santiago's mind nine separate times. In each instance, he means exactly what he says: the presence of the boy would be a help in a time of crisis. But he is also invoking by means of these phrases the strength and courage of his youth. Soon after he has hooked his marlin and knows that he must hang onto the line for some time, Santiago says, "I wish I had the boy." Immediately his resolution tightens. During the first night he says it again, reflecting that "no one should be alone in their old age," although in this case it is unavoidable. As if the mere mention of the boy were a kind of talisman, he then resolves to eat the tuna he has caught "in order to keep strong." Later the same night, he says aloud, "I wish the boy was here," and promptly settles himself against the planks of the bow for another period of endurance. Near dawn he says again, "I wish I had the boy." Then he upbraids himself for wishful thinking. "But you haven't got the boy, he thought. You have only yourself and you had better work back to the last line now . . . and cut it away and hook up the two reserve coils." So he does exactly that.

As he summons courage to eat the raw tuna for his breakfast on the second day, he links the boy and salt in what amounts to an image with double meanings: "I wish the boy were here and that I had some salt." Then he proves to himself that he has enough of both in their metaphorical meaning to eat the tuna and renew his waning strength. While he wills to unknot the cramp, he thinks that "if the boy was here" a little massaging would loosen the forearm and maybe help the still useless gnarled claw of the hand. Yet when, soon afterwards, his great marlin breaches, Santiago summons the strength he needs to play his fish.

On the next breaching it is the same. While the marlin leaps again and again in an attempt to throw the hook, and while the old man and his line are both strained and stretched to the breaking-point, he triples the refrain: "If the boy was here he would wet the coils of line . . . Yes. If the boy were here. If the boy were here." Once more the effect of the invocation is nearly magical as if, by means of it, some of the strength of youth flowed in to sustain the limited powers of age. Always, we notice, just after he has said the words, Santiago manages to reach down into the well of his courage for one more dipperful. Then he goes on.

From this point onwards, having served its purpose, the refrain vanishes. It is not until the return voyage, while the old man reflects Job-like upon the problem of the connection between sin and suffering and while the sharks collect their squadrons in the dark waters, that the boy's image returns again. "Everything kills everything else in some way," he tells himself. "Fishing kills me exactly as it keeps me alive." Then he corrects the misapprehensions that can come from false philosophizing. "The boy keeps me alive . . . . I must not deceive myself too much." It is good, at this point, that the old man has the thought of the boy to keep him alive. The sharks wait, and a very bad time is just ahead.

In the night in which he is preparing for betrayal by the avaricious sharks, Santiago has recourse to another sustaining image—a pride of lions he has seen at play on the beaches of Africa when he was a young man like Manolo. Hemingway early establishes a clear symbolic connection between the boy and the lions. "When I was your age," Santiago says, "I was before the mast on a square rigged ship that ran to Africa and I have seen lions on the beaches in the evening." Manolo's answer—"I know. You told me."—indicates not only that the reminiscence has arisen before in their conversations, but also that the incident of the lions is a pleasant obsession in Santiago's mind. "There is for every man," writes the poet Yeats, "some one scene, some one adventure, some one picture that is the image of his secret life, and this one image, if he would but brood over it his life long, would lead his soul." Santiago finds such an image in the lions of his youthful experience.

The night before his ordeal, after the boy has left him to sleep, the old man dreams of the lions.

He was asleep in a short time and he dreamed of Africa when he was a boy and the long golden beaches and the white beaches, so white they hurt your eyes, and the high capes and the great brown mountains. He lived along that coast now every night and in his dreams he heard the surf roar and saw the native boats come riding through it. He smelled the tar and oakum of the deck as he slept and he smelled the smell of Africa that the land breeze brought at morning. Usually when he smelled the land breeze he woke up and dressed to go to wake the boy. But tonight the smell of the land breeze came very early and he knew it was too early in his dream and went on dreaming to see the white peaks of the Islands rising from the sea and then he dreamed of the different harbours and roadsteads of the Canary Islands.

Santiago "no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy."

Early in the afternoon of his second day out, having said his prayers and strengthened his resolution by this means, Santiago thinks again about his lions. The marlin is pulling steadily. "I wish he'd sleep and I could sleep and dream about the lions," thinks Santiago. "Why are the lions the main thing that is left? Don't think, old man . . . Rest gently now against the wood and think of nothing. He is working. Work as little as you can." Much later that day, "cramping himself against the line with all his body," and "putting all his weight onto his right hand," the old man manages to sleep. Presently then, he begins to dream "of the long yellow beach." In the dream, we are told, "he saw the first of the lions come down onto it in the early dark and then the other lions came and he rested his chin on the wood of the bows where the ship lay anchored with the evening offshore breeze and he waited to see if there would be more lions and he was happy." In his old age and the time of his suffering, Santiago is sustained by the memory of his youth and the strength of his youth. Living so, in the past, he is happy. Luckily for him, he has also the thought of the strength of the boy Manolo, a young lion of just the age Santiago was when he first sailed to Africa. These together enable him to go on.

They help in a very notable way. For the boy and the lions are related to one of the fundamental psychological laws of Santiago's—and indeed of human—nature: the constant wavelike operation of bracing and relaxation. The boy braces, the lions relax, as in the systolic-diastolic movement of the human heart. It is related, as a phenomenon, to the alternation of sleep and waking through the whole range of physical nature. But it is also a law which operates on the level of mentality, and its effects can be seen in our reactions to works of literature like this story of the acquisition and the loss of the great marlin. In its maritime sections, at any rate, the basic rhythms of the novel resemble those of the groundswell of the sea. Again and again as the action unfolds, the reader may find that he is gradually brought up to a degree of quiet tension just barely endurable, as in the ascent by a small craft of a slow enormous wave. When he has reached the presumptive peak of his resistance, the crest passes and he suddenly relaxes towards a trough of rest. The rhythm of the story appears to be built on such a stress-yield, brace-relax alternation. The impression is furthered by the constant tension which Santiago and his fish maintain on the line which joins them. Again and again one finds the old man telling himself that he has stretched the cord to a tension just short of the breaking-point. Then and only then, the stress relaxes, and the involved reader relaxes with it. This prolonged tug-of-war involves not only the fisherman and his fish but also the reader and his own emotions.

The planned contiguity of the old man with the boy and the lions pulls the story of Santiago, in one of its meanings, in the direction of a parable of youth and age. There is a distinct possibility that Hemingway, who read the whole of Conrad during the days of his writing apprenticeship in Paris and Toronto, has recollected if not the details at least the central strategy of Conrad's long short story, "Youth." For that story is brilliantly organized in terms of the contrast of age and youth. The ill-fated voyage of the barque Judea, out of London, bound for Bangkok, shows young Marlow, with all the illusions and prowess of his youth, side by side with old Captain Beard, the ship's master and a brave man. "He was sixty, if a day," says Marlow of the captain. "And he had blue eyes in that old face of his, which were amazingly like a boy's, with that candid expression some quite common men preserve to the end of their days by a rare internal gift of simplicity of heart and rectitude of soul." Again Marlow says, as the fated ship beats her way through a sea of trouble, that Beard was "immense in the singleness of his idea." It may of course be a coincidence that these are qualities which Santiago shares. Two "quite common men" rise to the level of the heroic through simplicity of heart, rectitude of soul, and that immensity in the singleness of their respective ideas which enables each to stick out the voyage to the end. "Do or die," the motto which adorns in flaking gilt the stern-timbers of the old Judea, might with equal justice be carved into the weather-beaten wood of Santiago's skiff.

Conrad's story depends for its effects not only upon the contrast of young Marlow and old Beard but also, since the story is told some twenty years after the event, upon the contrast of the aging Marlow and his own remembrance of his youthful self. The aging Santiago happily recalls the lions on the shore of Africa. The aging Marlow recollects, with mingled happiness and sorrow, that time, far back now, when the small boats from the wrecked Judea at last pulled into a port on the Javanese coast. "I remember my youth," says Marlow, "and the feeling that will never come back any more—the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort—to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires." This feeling, which Hazlitt has well described as "the feeling of immortality in youth," is closely associated in Marlow's mind with the East—"the mysterious shores, the still water, the lands of the brown nations." For me, he tells his auditors, "all the East is contained in that vision of my youth. It is all in that moment when I opened my young eyes on it. I came upon it from a tussle with the sea—and I was young—and I saw it looking at me. And this is all that is left of it! Only a moment; a moment of strength, of romance, of glamour—of youth!"

For Santiago it is not the coast of Java but that of Africa, not the faces of the brown men crowding the jetty but the playing lions, which carry the associations of youth, strength, and even immortality. "This is all that is left of it," cries Marlow of his youthful vision. "Why are the lions the main thing that is left?" says Hemingway's old man in the midst of his ordeal. For both of them, in Marlow's words, it is "the time to remember." But Santiago, luckily, is able to do more with his vision than remember it. He puts it to work once more in the great trial of his old age. "I told the boy I was a strange old man," he says. "Now is when I must prove it." And the author adds: "The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it." But if he does not, at these times, think about the past to brood upon it, he periodically calls back what it means to him through the double vision of the boy and the lions. If he can prove his mettle for the thousand-and-first time, there is no reason why he cannot prove it again and again, as long as his vision lasts.

Of how many events in the course of human life may this not be said? It is Marlow once more who reminds us of the way in which one account of one man on one journey can extend outwards in our imaginations until it easily becomes a paradigm of the course of men's lives. "You fellows know," says Marlow, beginning his account of the Judea, "there are those voyages that seem ordered for the illustration of life, that might stand for a symbol of existence. You fight, work, sweat, nearly kill yourself, sometimes do kill yourself, trying to accomplish something—and you can't. Not from any fault of yours." If it is so with the Judea, out of London bound for Bangkok, do or die, it is so likewise with Santiago of Havana, bound for home, with the sharks just beginning to nose the blood of his great fish. Do or die. In such works as this we all put to sea, and sitting well in order smite the sounding furrows. Santiago makes his voyage on what used to be known as the Spanish Main. But it is also, we are persuaded, that more extensive main or mainstream where we all drift or sail, with or against the wind, in fair weather or foul, with our prize catches and our predatory sharks, and each of us, perhaps, like the ancient mariner of Coleridge, with some kind of albatross hanging around his neck.


It is provided in the essence of things, writes the stoical philosopher, that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary. With such a sentiment Santiago would no doubt agree. For the second major movement of the novel confronts him with a struggle which, though shorter in duration, is at least as intense as the fight with the marlin just brought to a successful conclusion. This comes, too, at a time when he has used all his strength, and as much more as he could summon, to attain his object; when his hands are stiffening round the edges of his wounds, when the muscles of his back and shoulders are knotted with pain, and when his fatigue runs bone-deep.

Having secured his catch alongside, stepped his mast, rigged his boom, and moved off with the beneficent tradewind towards the southwest and home, Santiago enjoys (though not to the full because of his tiredness) that brief respite which follows work well done. Side by side like brothers the old man and the marlin move through the sea. Up to now, they have been, as Santiago believes, friendly and mutually respectful adversaries. Now they join together in league against the common enemy. "If sharks come," the old man has long ago reflected, "God pity him and me." It is a full hour before the first shark arrives.

With its arrival begins a tragedy of deprivation as piteous as that which King Lear undergoes at the hands of his sharkhearted daughters. Lear's hundred knights, the only remaining sign of his power and the badge of his kingly dignity, are taken from him in batches of twenty-five. A series of forty-pound rippings and tearings are now gradually to reduce Santiago's eighteen-foot, fifteen-hundred-pound marlin to the skeleton he brings finally to shore.

The first of the sharks is a Mako. "Everything about him was beautiful except his jaws . . . Inside the closed double lip . . . all of his eight rows of teeth were slanted inwards. They were not the ordinary pyramid-shaped teeth of most sharks. They were shaped like a man's fingers when they are crisped like claws. They were nearly as long as the fingers of the old man and they had razor sharp cutting edges on both sides." Santiago, standing poised with his harpoon, hears the clicking chop of these great jaws and the rending and tearing of the marlin's flesh just before he drives the point of his weapon "with resolution and complete malignancy" into the Mako's brain. Death is immediate but the loss is heavy. When the shark sinks, he takes with him forty pounds of the marlin, the harpoon, and all the rope. The marlin's blood will attract other sharks. But worse than this is the mutilation of the long-fought-for prize. Santiago "did not like to look at the fish anymore since he had been mutilated. When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit." The process of crucifixion is now intensified.

At first sight of the second shark, Santiago utters the single word Ay. "There is no translation for this word," writes Hemingway, "and perhaps it is just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood." For some hours now, of course, Santiago's hands have shown the fisherman's equivalent of the stigmata of a saint. Both have been cut in the "working part," which is the palm, by the unpredictable lurchings of his quarry. The right hand is cut first, at a time when the old man's attention is momentarily diverted by the warbler's visit. Another of the marlin's sudden accelerations awakens him from the only sleep he permits himself. The line is burning out through his already wounded right hand. When he brings up his left for use as a brake, it takes all the strain and cuts deep.

The old man's involuntary epithet, and Hemingway's explanation of it, is fully in line with what has gone before. Throughout the ordeal, Santiago has been as conscious of his hands as any crucified man might be. He speaks to them as to fellow-sufferers, wills them to do the work they must do, and makes due allowances for them as if they were, what he once calls them, "my brothers." He also carefully distinguishes between them in a manner which should not be lost on any student of paintings of the Crucifixion. The right hand is the good one, dextrous and trustworthy. The left hand, the hand sinister, has "always been a traitor."

Our Lord might well have entertained a similar reflection about the man who was crucified on his own left. The allusions to Santiago's hands are so carefully stylized that such a statement becomes possible. On the naturalistic plane, of course, the meaning of the distinction between the two hands is apparent to all normally right-handed persons; the left is never as good as the right. But on the plane of what we have called Dichtung, and in the light of the tradition of Christian art as it pertains to the Crucifixion, it is clear that a moral judgment is to be inferred. Of the two who were crucified with Jesus Christ, the one on the left failed Him, insulting and upbraiding him. But the man crucified on Jesus' right hand rebuked his companion, and put his fortunes into the hands of the Savior. In paintings of the Crucifixion, as Hemingway is well aware, the distinction between the two malefactors is always carefully maintained. It even carries over into pictures of the Last Judgment, where those who are to be saved are ranged on the right hand of the Savior, while the damned stand dejectedly on the left.

Santiago vanquishes the second and third sharks, hateful, bad smelling, "scavengers as well as killers" with his knife lashed to an oar. But when the galanos sink into the sea, they take with them fully a quarter of the marlin's best meat. "I wish it were a dream and that I had never hooked him," says the old man. "I'm sorry about it, fish. It makes everything wrong." The fourth shark, a single shovel-nose, adds yet another degree to our sense of wronged rightness. "He came like a pig to the trough if a pig had a mouth so wide that you could put your head in it." This one breaks Santiago's knife, bearing the blade in its brainpan as it follows the galanos to death.

By the time the old man has clubbed the fifth and sixth sharks into submission just at sunset, a full half of the marlin has been gouged away. "What will you do now if they come in the night?" asks the voice inside Santiago. "Fight them," says the old man aloud. "I'll fight them until I die." But when he tries to stand off a whole ravaging pack at midnight, striking at whatever heads he can see, he knows the fight is almost useless. Something seizes his club and it disappears; he hits out with the unshipped tiller until it breaks, and then lunges at another of the sharks with the splintered butt. When this one lets go of the marlin and rolls away, the massacre is ended. A few more come to hit the carcass in the night, "as someone might pick up crumbs from the table." But the old man ignores them and sails on. There is nothing left of the great fish except the skeleton, the bony head, and the vertical tail.

This story of great gain and great loss is esthetically satisfying partly because of its symmetry. Hemingway has little trouble, either, in persuading his readers of the inevitability of the process. For with so fine a prize in a tropical sea where hungry sharks constantly swim, Santiago's return with a whole fish would be nothing short of miraculous. In assessing the old man's total experience, one is reminded of the experiences of younger men in some of Hemingway's earlier novels: Lieutenant Henry's gain and loss of a new wife, for example, in A Farewell to Arms, or Robert Jordan's gain and loss of a new life in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Yet in this latter-day return to the theme of winner-take-nothing, on which Hemingway has so often and so successfully played his variations, he seems to have added a new dimension. This is the dimension of transfiguration, anticipated (it is true) in the story of Robert Jordan, but never made quite so nearly explicit as in the instance of Santiago.

Santiago's experience is a form of martyrdom. We do not object: it is his by right of eminent domain. The old man's only fault, if it is a fault, consists in doing to the best of his ability what he was born to do. When the man on the right rebuked his companion for crass raillery at the expense of Jesus Christ, he raised the essential moral problem. "We receive," said he, "the due reward of our deeds: but this man [Jesus Christ] hath done nothing amiss." Neither has Santiago, but this does not prevent his martyrdom. Tried out through an ordeal by endurance comparable to a crucifixion, he earns, by virtue of his valiance, a form of apotheosis.

His humility and simplicity will not allow entry to any taint of conscious martyrdom. "Man is not made for defeat," he says at one point. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated." His resolution is always stiffened by some such thought as this, and he acts in accordance with it. Being native to his character, these qualities of resolution and action sustain him up to that point when he knows that his only remaining recourse is to take what comes when it comes. Arrival at this point does not unbalance him. He is not a rebel, like the mariner Ahab, against the ruling powers of the universe. Nor does he imagine, as he drives his harpoon into the marlin's heart, that he is destroying anything except a prize fish with whom he has fought long and fairly. The arrival of the sharks on the scene does not surprise him. He does not expect for a moment that they will let him run their sabertoothed gauntlet unscathed. Santiago is a moral realist.

Yet he is too human not to be troubled, like Job before him, by certain moral and metaphysical questions. One is the problem of whether any connection exists between sin and suffering. "It is silly not to hope," he thinks to himself after the killing of the Mako shark. "Besides I believe it is a sin." In this way he launches himself into a consideration of the problem. At first his realistic capacity for self-criticism cautions him that this is dangerous ground. "There are enough problems without sin. Also I have no understanding of it and I am not sure that I believe in it . . . Do not think about sin. It is much too late for that and there are people who are paid to do it. Let them think about it."

The problem will not be put down so easily. "Perhaps," he speculates, "it was a sin to kill the fish. I suppose it was even though I did it to keep me alive and feed many people." After all, "San Pedro was a fisherman," and who would accuse him of sin? But once more the cautionary voice chimes in. "You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?"

On this double allusion to pride and to love, greatest of sins and greatest of virtues, hangs the philosophic crux of the problem. Was his real motivation the blameless one of doing his professional duty and feeding people? Probably not basically. He did it for pride: to show that he was still El Campeón. "I'll kill him," he boasted during the battle. "In all his greatness and his glory . . . I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures." Yet all through the struggle he was never without love and compassion for his marlin, or for most of the lesser creatures in God's marine creation.

As in other tragic literatures, the whole process consists ultimately in the readjustment of moral proportions. What begins as a balanced mixture of pride and love slowly alters through the catalysis of circumstance. When Santiago brings his marlin to the gaff, his pride has been gone for a long time. Statements like "I'll fight them until I die," made during the encounter with the sharks, are not so much the evidence of pride as of the resolute determination to preserve something loved and earned from the distortion that comes with mutilation. The direction of the process then comes clear. Where pride and love exist together, the pride must be burned out, as by the cautery of fire. Love will remain as the natural concomitant of true humility.

Though Santiago admits to pride and lays claim to love, his moral sense is not fully satisfied by this way of resolving the problem. He looks for some other explanation of the profit-and-loss pattern. What he seems finally to settle on is the notion that he has gone, as he often puts it, "too far out." This concept of "too-far-outness" is not simply what Colonel Cantwell might describe as over-extension: lines of communication stretched past the breakingpoint, possible support abandoned, danger courted for its own sake, excess of bravery spilling over into foolhardiness. It is rather what Melville described as "the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea"—a willingness to take the greater risk where the greater prize is involved.

Very early in the book the contrast is established between the 1ee shore and the Gulf Stream. There are the inshore men, those who work within sight of land because it is easier, safer, and less frightening, and those like Santiago who have the intrepidity to reach beyond the known towards the possible. "Where are you going?" Manolo asks him, on the eve of the eighty-fifth day. "Far out," replies Santiago, "to come in when the wind shifts." The boy hopes to persuade his father to work far out that day in order to provide help for Santiago if it should be necessary. But this will not happen. Manolo's father is plainly an inshore man, one who does not like to work far out, one who prefers not to take chances, no matter how great the potential gain might be.

Santiago does not hesitate. On the morning of the eighty-fifth day, we are told that he "knew he was going far out." This is why he passes over, even before dawn, the inshore fishing-ground which fishermen call "the great well"—an easy place teeming with provender, where thousands of fish congregate to feed and to be caught. By seven he is already so far out that only three fishing boats are remotely visible inshore; by noon only the tops of the blue Cuban hills show on the horizon. No other boats are now in sight. Here, somewhere, lurk the great fish of this September season. When Santiago is passed by a school of dolphin, he guesses that marlin may be nearby. "My big fish," he tells himself, "must be somewhere."

Even as he speaks the marlin is approaching, the lordly denizen of this farout domain. In coming there, in the process of invasion, the old man has made his choice—not to stay inshore where the going might be easier but to throw out a challenge to what might be waiting, far out and down deep at the hundred-fathom level. As for the marlin, "his choice had been to stay in the deep dark water far out beyond all snares and traps and treacheries." Yet he accepts, in effect rises to, the old man's challenge. From then on Santiago is tied by a strong line to his doom. "My choice," he reflects, "was to go there to find him beyond all people. Beyond all people in the world. Now we are joined together." The long battle is also joined. Since it came about through Santiago's free choice, he has no alternative but to accept the consequences.

These follow inevitably. For to have gone far out is to have invited the depredations of the sharks on the equally long homeward voyage. When the first three have done their work, Santiago apologizes. "I shouldn't have gone so far out, fish. Neither for you nor for me. I'm sorry, fish." When the mutilation has developed to the point where he cannot bear to look at it, he apologizes again. "You violated your luck," says his speaking self, "when you went too far outside." Inshore again, with the marlin destroyed and the old man's weapons gone, there is another dialogue of the soul with itself. "And what beat you?" "Nothing," answers the second voice. "I went out too far." Urged on by pride, by the love of his trade, by his refusal to take continuing bad luck as his portion, and by a resurgent belief that he might win, Santiago made trial of the impossible. In the tragic process he achieved the moral triumph.

It is not necessarily a Christian victory. Yet it is clear that Hemingway has artfully enhanced the native power of his tragic parable by enlisting the further power of Christian symbolism. Standing solus on the rocky shore in the darkness before the dawn of the fourth day, Santiago shows the wounded hands. Dried blood is on his face as from a crown of thorns. He has known the ugly coppery taste in his mouth as from a sponge filled with vinegar. And in the agony of his fatigue he is very much alone. "There was no one to help him so he pulled the boat up as far as he could. Then he stepped out and made her fast to a rock. He unstepped the mast and furled the sail and tied it. Then he shouldered the mast and started to climb."

Once he paused to look back at the remains of his fish. At the top of the hill "he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder. He tried to get up. But it was too difficult and he sat there with the mast on his shoulder and looked at the road. A cat passed on the far side going about its business and the old man watched it. Then he just watched the road." The loneliness of the ascent of any Calvary is brilliantly emphasized by the presence of the cat. The Old Masters, as Auden wrote long ago, were never wrong about suffering. "How well they understood its human position; how it takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along . . . They never forgot that even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course anyhow in some corner, some untidy spot where the dogs go on with their doggy life"—and where the innocence of ignorance never so much as bats an eye. The cat on the far side of the road from Santiago is also proceeding about its private business. It could not help the old man even if it would. Santiago knows and accepts this as he has accepted the rest. There is nothing else to be done—except to reach home, which he manages at last to do, though he has to sit down five times to rest between the hilltop and the door of his shack.

On the newspapers that cover the springs of the bed, and below the colored chromos of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Virgin of Cobre, the old man now falls heavily asleep. He sleeps face down with his arms out straight and his body straight up and down: cruciform, as if to sum up by that symbolic position, naturally assumed, all the suffering through which he has passed. In hoc signo vinces. Santiago has made it to his house. When Manolo looks in next morning, he is still asleep. There is a short conversation as he drinks the coffee the boy brings, and they lay plans for the future even as they allude laconically to the immediate past. "How much did you suffer?" Manolo asks. "Plenty," the old man answers. Outside, a three-day blow has begun. Inside the shack, the book concludes, the old man falls again into the deep sleep of renewal, of diurnal resurrection. "He was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about the lions." In my end is my beginning.

Charles K. Hofling (essay date 1963)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 4675

SOURCE: "Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and the Male Reader," in The American Imago, Vol. 20, No. 2, Summer, 1963, pp. 161-73.

[In the following essay, Hofling offers a psychoanalytic reading of The Old Man and the Sea, contending that for the adult male reader of the story, Santiago serves both as a father figure and someone who, because of his "victory-in-defeat" or lack of adult success, brings to mind a regressive "latency" experience of adolescence.]

In psychoanalytically-oriented literary criticism there are three principal ways in which a composition may be approached. The critic may study the protagonist from a clinical, a dynamic, and, occasionally, a genetic point of view, as if he were a real person, endeavoring to enrich one's understanding of the character and thus of human nature in much the same way as in a case presentation. The critic may study the composition as a psychic production of its author, endeavoring to shed light on the personality of the latter. Finally the critic may endeavor to study the impact of the composition on himself and/or upon readers in general.

Of the three approaches, the last is the least often used. It is probably the most open to adverse criticism, since another reader may always say with complete honesty that he is not affected in the way described. On the other hand, it can be of particular value in the study of the author as author, i.e., as one with a degree of mastry of techniques of arousing certain responses in his readers.

It is this third approach which is utilized in the present paper, an effort which is thus in no sense a balanced criticism of the master-work upon which it is based.

In an attempt to apply the insights of psychoanalysis toward gaining a fuller understanding of the emotional impact of The Old Man and the Sea upon the reader, an appraisal of the protagonist becomes a logical starting point. Indeed, if one is reading purely for pleasure, this is what one tends naturally to do. Despite the close interrelationship of plot and character and despite the high degree of artistic unity which marks the tale, a sufficiently leisurely pace is preserved before the great crisis for one to form deep impressions of the Old Man's personality while not yet fully absorbed in the narrative.

The physical characteristics of Santiago, the fisherman, are simply and vividly portrayed, and they are in harmony with other aspects of his personality as these are gradually revealed. Well past his physical prime, the Old Man is by no means enfeebled. Gaunt and weatherbeaten and old he is and with none of the surplus vitality which, presumably, he would once have revealed even in repose. Yet his shoulders and neck are powerful in action, and his eyes are "cheerful and undefeated." Hints of weakness are given, but they are largely relative; it is clear that Santiago has, in his day, been of quite exceptional strength (as is shown, for example, in his reminiscences of "the hand game").

Psychologically speaking, one of the most significant statements that can be made of the Old Man is perhaps the seemingly simple one that he is heart and soul a fisherman. His sense of identity, his sense of purpose, and his sense of worthwhileness are entirely bound up in his occupational role. His enduring pleasure is the functional pleasure of his work. Through his work he remains himself; through his work he remains in contact with his world.

As we are given to understand early in the book and are repeatedly shown throughout the narrative, Santiago1 has been and continues to be not merely a good, but a great fisherman. His knowledge of wind and weather, of marine and avian life, and of "tricks of the trade" remains sensitive and profound.

In his work and in his way of living, the Old Man shows courage, fortitude, and a kind of simple nobility. He is humble in a healthy sense of the word, i.e., in the sense of freedom from arrogance and unearned pride. The fisherman is primarily a man of action—of aggressive action when the situation calls for it, but he is by no means unthinking. ("But he liked to think about all things that he was involved in.")

The Old Man's strength has allowed him to be gentle (as in waking the boy) and to have been a good teacher of Manolin. From the start of their relationship he had not merely permitted but encouraged his young pupil to reach out, to function up to his growing capacity.

There is a great simplicity about Santiago. Though withouth religiosity, he is rather superstitious. He is prone to a boyish hero-worship ("the great DiMaggio").

As the narrative begins, the fisherman has become lonely but not embittered. He is capable of loving, both in reality and in fantasy: the boy, the lions, the sea, and many of its creatures. His sentiment in these matters does not become sentimentality. He is relatively free from a disturbing hostility. His heterosexual libido is greatly diminished ("he no longer dreamt of women"), with the remainder being sublimated.

The Old Man dwells much in the past (in dreams and daydreams), but he is by no means indifferent to the present. The pennant race and the lottery catch his interest, and he continues to think of ways to improve his fishing equipment.

At the opening of the story, Santiago is clearly experiencing a depression, the nature and extent of which are relevant to the ensuing action. It is a quiet affair, pervasive rather than profound. The lifelessness of his features in repose, the considerable lack of interest in food and sex, the tendency toward rumination, and the lessened ability to sleep (all of these evidently somewhat beyond the usual changes of advanced age), point in this direction, as, quite possibly, do the Old Man's thoughts of death.

Yet there is ample evidence, on the one hand, that the depression is not severe (clinically speaking), and, on the other, that it is not related to an unusually strong sense of guilt. For example, Santiago's previously mentioned rather lively interest in current sporting events is not in keeping with the existence of a serious depression; nor is the fact that he takes rather good care of himself (drinking shark's liver oil and eating turtle eggs). He is by no means a willing martyr, and, even at the last, he is appreciative of the fact that others are interested in him (inquiries about the search parties). Indeed, his conscious philosophy of life remains both brave and optimistic, a feature which is, of course, not at all characteristic of a severe depression. ("Man is not made for defeat" and "it is silly not to hope.")

The last mentioned point is to be qualified by the recognition that these conscious attitudes involve an element of denial. In other words, one senses the potentiality for a deepening of the depression. Yet within the span of the story, this potentiality does not become an actuality. Similarly, it may be said that, in the central events of the tale, the Old Man courts danger and takes unnecessary risks. Yet it can scarcely be argued that a self-punitive motive is the principal one for the risk-taking.

The sources of the Old Man's low spiritedness, that is to say, of his considerably diminished self-esteem, are, in fact, fairly clear. They are the lessening of his strength by reason of age, his loneliness, his ill fortune,2 his diminished reputation, and his increasing dependence upon the boy, Manolin. Santiago's depression is the result of a sense of shame and of direct narcissistic injury rather than of a sense of guilt.

The Old Man's dependence upon Manolin, we are shown, has several aspects. Santiago receives food, companionship, assistance, admiration, and affection from the boy. There is no question but that he is in conflict about the dependent aspects of their relationship. As one piece of evidence, there is his pretense of having food in his cottage. In the same vein are his thoughts—spoken aloud at a later point in the story—"The sea feeds me. No, I must not deceive myself too much; the boy feeds me."

This insight is allowed only with some difficulty.

Yet it is, after all, allowed. Thus, while one can readily document the existence of a conflict in the fisherman between the demands of pride, on the one hand, and those of a group of dependent strivings, on the other, one can, at the same time, find evidence to show that the portion of the conflict which involves Manolin is of only moderate intensity. In addition to flashes of insight such as the one quoted (incompatible with intense conflict), there is the essentially unambivalent nature of the Old Man's emotions and behavior toward Manolin. The fisherman shows a sustained kindness to the boy, a graciousness even, which could not exist in the presence of strong negative feelings. At no time has the Old Man any need to depreciate his pupil; on the contrary, he has consistently encouraged the boy's manliness and fostered his competence.3

At the outset of the story, then, one finds in Santiago a mood which, though subdued, calls for vigorous action to ameliorate his situation. There is a purpose not unlike that of Ulysses in Tennyson's poem.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die. It may be that the gulf will wash us down: It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, And see the great Achilles whom we knew. Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' We are not now that strength which in old days Moved heaven and earth; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

What happens to this protagonist, Santiago? The gross external events of the tale can be very quickly summarized.

For eighty-four days, Santiago has caught not a single fish. On the eighty-fifth day, the Old Man rows far out into the Gulf Stream, where he hooks the largest marlin ever seen in that area. For two and a half days he struggles to make the catch, and he finally succeeds in doing so. Nearly exhausted, he is then forced into a running battle with a series of marauding sharks. He kills a number of them, but they leave him only the skeleton of the marlin, which he finally brings into port. Deprived of any material gain from his venture and psysically worn out, the Old Man sinks into a profound sleep, briefly interrupted by a conversation with the boy, Manolin.

Here is the presentation of a seeming defeat, and an undeserved defeat, at that. The reader is saddened by the account. Yet there is more than one kind of sadness, and the kind experienced at the close of The Old Man and the Sea is not enervating, not depleting, but curiously involving a trace of quiet exhilaration. Does the reader sense that he has witnessed a kind of victory in this defeat? If so, what is the nature of this victory? What are the deeper strata in the reader's personality which are activated by the story, and by what technical means does the author bring about this response?

First it may be well to recognize the magnitude of the test to which Santiago is exposed. It should be clear that The Old Man and the Sea is not the story of a man, once capable, who has become professionally incompetent through senescence and who finally loses a battle fought for routine stakes and against routine odds. Hemingway has presented such a story in "The Undefeated." Toward Manuel, the bullfighter, one feels a pity that is less positive, a kind of admiration that is more limited, and a sense of resignation less tinged with hope, than is the case with one's feelings toward Santiago. The prizefighter in "Fifty Grand" comes, perhaps, a bit closer to eliciting emotions like those roused by the Old Man, but, for a number of reasons—his material success, to name one—not identical with them.

On the contrary, there is a great deal to indicate that, in the central experience of the tale, Santiago faces a quite exceptionally severe test. A marlin eighteen feet in length and 1500 pounds in weight: as the bartender says, "There has never been such a fish!" There is not much in the story to suggest that the Old Man could have done appreciably better at any previous period of his life,4 and there is nothing to suggest that any of the other fishermen could have done better than the Old Man.

Next one may note the ways in which Santiago may be said to have passed this severe test. Some of these are evident while he is still alone at sea. He does not, for example, abandon the long struggle with the fish, but brings this phase of the adventure to a successful conclusion. He does not stop fighting the sharks so long as they attack, killing the last of the marauders.

His judgment survives. (". . . he sailed the skiff to make his home port as well and as intelligently as he could.") His optimism survives—or, if one prefers, his ability to make a limited but effective use of denial. ("She's good, he thought. She is sound and not harmed in any way except for the tiller. That is easily replaced.") Most significantly, his self-esteem not only survives but is enhanced. ("He spat into the ocean and said, 'Eat that, Galanos. And make a dream you've killed a man.'")

In the fishing village on the Old Man's return there are indications of an objective nature that Santiago has achieved a kind of triumph. While his reputation as a fisherman had never been lost, but merely tarnished, it is now restored. His achievement receives open admiration. ("Many fishermen were around the skiff looking at what was lashed beside it and one was in the water, his trousers rolled up, measuring the skeleton with a length of line.")

Of greater significance than the reactions of the villagers is a shift in the arrangement between the Old Man and his young friend, Manolin. Santiago's bravery in the face of suffering has mobilized further admiration and compassion, plus a degree of guilt, clinching the boy's determination to resume fishing with him, whatever the opposition. An appraisal of the relationship between the Old Man and the boy, underlying this aspect of the denouement—and a great deal else,—takes one quite deeply into the significance of the story and into an understanding of the author's great technical skill.

To come straightway to one of the principal psychological points, one may offer the impression that Santiago has regressed to approximately the same psychosexual phase as that to which Manolin has advanced, and that this phase is late latency.

The fisherman's having put aside his dead wife's picture as too painful a reminder of their relationship is, of course, strongly reminiscent of the partial "forgetting" by a boy of his mother during latency. The Old Man's hero-worship and the type of hero involved (DiMaggio) are similarly typical. The general emphasis on male-male relationships and the utter deemphasis of male-female relationships are further bits of evidence. Above all, there is in the Old Man—to a striking degree—that "conflict between industry and inferiority" which Erikson has so clearly shown to be a decisive one during the latency period.

With the oncoming latency period, the normally advanced child forgets, or rather sublimates, the necessity to "make" people by direct attack or to become papa and mama in a hurry: he learns to win recognition by producing things. . . . He develops industry—i. e., he adjusts himself to the inorganic laws of the tool world. . . . To bring a productive situation to completion is an aim which gradually supersedes the whims and wishes of his autonomous organism. His ego boundaries include his tools and skills: the work principle (Ives Hendricks) teaches him the pleasure of work completion by steady attention and persevering diligence.

His danger at this stage lies in a sense of inadequacy and inferiority. If he despairs of his tools and skills or his status among his tool partners, his ego boundaries suffer. . . .5

Aside from the very extensive sharing of interests and values between Manolin and the Old Man, cues to the boy's age are limited in number. It is a good while since Manolin has been five years old; he is old enough to be a valued helper, but not generally considered old enough to assume much initiative. He is still subject to parental instructions. Manolin displays no conscious interest in girls or women, but a great deal of interest in learning what for him is the trade of a man. All in all, the impression from reading the story is perhaps that of a boy of ten or eleven years,6 a boy of the latency period. He is an appealing character; in his presence—a point to be elaborated further on—the reader tends naturally to view the Old Man through his eyes.

To return to the question: what is the nature of Santiago's victory? He is still poor; he is still old; he is, if anything, physically weaker for the buffeting he has received; he may be dying. Yet all this does not obscure the impression that his fortitude and skill and perseverance have, in some sense, won out. From the nature of the test, from the ways in which it has been passed, and from the glimpse forward which Santiago allows himself (of fishing with Manolin), one is led to conclude that the victory is primarily a victory over a deepening sense of shame. Whether he is to survive or perish, whether—as seems to be understood in the former case—he is to be increasingly dependent upon Manolin or not, the Old Man is in a stronger emotional position to accept whatever happens next.

If one turns now from the bare facts and the immediate implications of the characterization and the action, if one attempts to appraise the effects of the tale upon the reader, one may simplify matters a good deal by confining one's attention to the adult male reader. To digress for a moment, one may note in passing that the impact of The Old Man and the Sea is, as a rule, greater by far, and, in a sense, more clear-cut upon men than upon women. The relatively modest sales of the book and the box-office failure of the artistically made motion picture attest to the limited appeal of the story for women. One also gathers, from casual conversations about the book, that many women readers find the story pathetic rather than inspiring and, in general, somewhat confusing. It is perhaps doubtful if the average woman reader may be said to react to the story in any fundamental way, whereas the male reader, even when rather inarticulate, appears to have a considerable intuitive understanding of and response to what is portrayed.

It may be worth recalling briefly the two principal ways in which a reader may become emotionally involved with the protagonist of a literary work. These are, of course, through various types of partial identification and through taking the protagonist as the fantasied object for various types of strivings. As a rule, for a given reader and a given literary work, one mechanism is clearly predominant over the other, though it seems likely that ordinarily both are in operation to some degree. (For the adult male reader, one may cite Fielding's Tom Jones as an example of the case in which his involvement would be very largely through identification and Austen's Pride and Prejudice as an example of involvement in which taking the protagonist as object is the more significant.)

It is important to note that in The Old Man and The Sea —for the adult male reader—there tends to be quite significant involvement by both routes and, perhaps, in nearly equal proportions. It becomes pertinent to inquire just how this double involvement is established and how the oscillations set up in the reader between the one emotional position and the other are related to the kind and intensity of the effects produced in him by the story.

Notice how the structure of the tale favors this dual involvement. In the introductory phase and in the last phase Manolin is present, and various references are also made (by the author) to other members of the little community and their attitudes toward the Old Man. By these techniques the reader is encouraged to respond to Santiago as an object. On the other hand, during the long central portion of the story, the Old Man is alone, struggling against various forces, inner and (in the present connection, more importantly) outer. During this phase deep-going reader identifications are fostered.

During the first phase, one's responses to Santiago are heavily influenced by a sort of father-transference, perhaps softened and rendered less ambivalent by elements of a grandfather transference. Numerous aspects of the Old Man's character are introduced which can form the basis for admiration and respect: his courage, pride and optimism; his past achievements, etc. Yet other aspects—his humble position, his advanced age, his ill fortune, etc.—are presented which neutralize the ordinarily concomitant emotions of fear, envy, and anger (usually preconscious or unconscious). Still other aspects—his gentleness and kindliness toward the boy—stimulate one's affection.

The identification which develops during the central phase may well begin in a quite general and superficial fashion; one may identify with Santiago as one is apt to do with any brave man struggling against odds. As a result, however, of the groundwork of characterization which has already been accomplished (the evidences of the Old Man's being in the emotional position of latency), the more significant basis for the identification becomes the reader's own latency period experiences and fantasies.

In this connection it is worth mentioning again the extent to which—in this central portion of the tale—the Old Man is presented as being in conflict with environmental forces. The use of projections here is obvious—the author's, Santiago's, the reader's, depending upon which point of view one chooses to adopt—but this is not really the most valuable point in analysing this phase of the story. The point of special significance here is that a sense of being in conflict with environmental forces and, relatively speaking, the actual being in such conflict is typical of latency (the world of tools, projects, and attempts at mastery of the environment). Thus this aspect of the story favors the particular type of identification just discussed.

Keeping in mind both types of reader involvement—with the Old Man as object and with the Old Man as a half-forgotten part of oneself—one can see an important basis of the artistic requirement that his degree of triumph in the latter portion of the second phase and in the third phase be incomplete, be tinged with elements of failure and of resignation. Insofar as he is an object via a father-transference, for Santiago to have been fully successful, for him to have remained physically unscathed and to have brought in the huge fish (with all its richness of symbolism) intact, would have aroused the reader's envy and jealousy to an extent which would have interfered with the desired effect.

At the same time, insofar as he is an identification figure reminiscent of the reader's latency experiences, for Santiago to have been completely successful would have weakend the whole identification process, since latency is above all, a time of preparation and not of adult type successes.

Thus the peculiar poignancy of the third phase of the story and of the mood which lingers after the book is closed is a culmination of certain features of the first and second phases, reinforced by features of the third phase itself. First the reader's latency period love of his father has been mobilized; then, through identification with the protagonist, the central features of the reader's own latency experiences have been brought to life in a stirring fashion. While the effects of these old dynamics are still active, the reader is once again brought to respond to the protagonist as object. Thus an exceptional degree of empathy is made possible.

On the basis of these close ties between reader and protagonist, what further delineation of the components of this final emotional effect can be achieved? First, as to the sadness. There are, of course, many nuances of which such an affect may be composed. Plainly this particular sadness is not akin to despair. To use a neglected and wholly nonprofessional term, one might say that there is a wholesome quality about it. For the reader, this is a sadness with a future; something comes of this sadness. It is a sadness appropriate to the loss of a father-figure toward whom one's negative emotions have been largely resolved. It is a sadness which facilitates something akin to an effective mourning response. (It is true that the reader's emotions are apt to be tinged with a sense of guilt—as it appears Manolin's were—but the guilt feelings derive from a sense of "faults" of omission rather than of commission. One wishes that he might have helped the Old Man in some way.)

As in actual mourning (though, of course, on a small scale), there is—as one reads the last words and after one has closed the book—a final process of partial identification with the lost object. This occurrence is in addition to and in some measure distinct from the identifications taking place during the reading of the story. It is this element which is responsible for the reader's sense of having participated in some kind of a triumph. Vicariously—through the Old Man—he has triumphed over the threat of shame. The Old Man's victory-in-defeat is, for the reader, a recapitulation of some of the favorable aspects of latency. He, too, is now readier for whatever may happen next.


1 The name is, of course, the Spanish form of Saint James (the Apostle), fisherman and "fisher of men." Santiago de Cuba has as its predecessor Santiago in north-west Spain. In the latter are two large stones, called to this day "Barca" and "Patron," i.e., "the ship" and "the skipper." The sanctity of these stones derives from the old belief that the bones of Saint James had, after his martyrdom, been brought there for burial. After the Moorish conquest, the region around Santiago was the only part of Spain that retained its independence, and it was the place from which the reconquest of the peninsula was begun.

2 A question can, of course, be raised as to the extent to which this "ill fortune" has been self-induced, thus becoming a symptom, rather than a cause, of depression. The author gives two clues, however, which limit the weight of this interpretation: the other fishermen consider the Old Man to be unlucky rather than foolish or self-destructive, and two past instances are mentioned in which Santiago has vigorously surmounted comparable lean periods.

3 Manolin, in turn, shows the Old Man an intuitive tactfulness, born of love, but this circumstance would not prevent ambivalent behavior on the Old Man's part if his pride violently rejected dependence upon the boy.

4 One of the few points tending in this direction may be the Old Man's regretful thought, "If I had the boy with me. . . . ," if this is interpreted to mean, "If I had youth on my side . . ."

5 From Childhood and Society, pp. 226-227.

6 In the motion picture, however, the part was cast, for technical reasons, as that of a young adolescent.

Stanley Cooperman (essay date 1965)

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SOURCE: "Hemingway and Old Age: Santiago as Priest of Time," in College English, Vol. 27, No. 3, December, 1965, pp. 215-20.

[In the following essay, Cooperman considers The Old Man and the Sea a "poem of reconciliation to the meaning and nature of age," maintaining that Hemingway fails to view old age in any other terms but through the values of pride, sacrifice, and endurance, and as a hardening rather than a softening of the qualities found in youth.]

The preoccupation of Ernest Hemingway with individual courage, will, and endurance—the need for self-contained action, ritualized form, precision of motion (and emotion), and—perhaps most important—the fear of complex motivation and the insistence upon the absolute necessity for initiative as a definition of manhood—was seriously threatened in the years preceding and following World War II.

The period before the war was a time of political ambiguities, a time which more than ever before represented the triumph of machines over men. And World War II itself was a difficult matter for Hemingway to shape into art: for one thing, it was a gigantic organization in which the politician became more important than the soldier, and the mechanic became more important than both. As for the post-World War II era of "Cold War" and continuing crisis—there was simply nothing in it for Hemingway to use; the swamp of ideological-political-military complexities offered no solid ground on which Hemingway could stand either as a man or as a writer.

Such a war, and such complexity, could not provide for Ernest Hemingway the framework of "pure" action, the concrete and formal ritual which had always been so essential to his work. Even For Whom the Bell Tolls had for its setting a preliminary skirmish—the Spanish civil war—rather than the second world conflict itself. And the novel was by no means an unmixed success; despite the fact that such Hemingway specialists as Carlos Baker see the book as a Tragedy of major importance, most critics have felt that Hemingway simply could not master (in either literary or intellectual terms) the scope of material which he undertook to use. For Whom the Bell Tolls, indeed, avoids rather than utilizes the new mechanical warfare, for by placing his protagonist in a situation of guerilla activity, Hemingway permits Robert Jordan to make those choices of will and initiative which the war itself had so often eliminated.

In ideological terms, the novel is not an account of confrontation, but rather one of total retreat, since Jordan spends a good portion of his time regretting the need for ideology altogether, and using learned-by-rote slogans, the sleeping-bag ecstasy of Maria, or the clean-cut task of "dynamiting" to turn all ideological problems into mere irrelevancies. For Whom the Bell Tolls, in short, despite its surface of social and political affirmation, is effective as narrative only at those moments when Hemingway drops the pretext of abstract or intellectual analyses, and concentrates on the sphere of self-contained action. There is a "love" relationship in which one of the individuals (the woman) all but vanishes, so that the result is less a love-affair than an exercise in auto-eroticism; there is military action that resembles an Indian skirmish more than any exposure to modern, technological warfare; and there is an attempt to eliminate ideological complexity by refusing to confront it on any terms whatsoever.

Hemingway's only other effort to produce a major novel dealing with the war against Fascism—Across the River and Into the Trees, published in 1950—gave even sharper evidence of a decline in his literary direction. In this novel there is a quality of weariness and exhaustion not simply in the book's protagonist, an aging army colonel named Robert Cantwell, but in the narrative itself.

The simplicity, the concrete "hardness" of the Hemingway style becomes bleak rather than noble; the measured cadence and rhythm of Hemingway prose becomes labored and self-conscious. Despite his moments of power, despite all his talk of dying with dignity, Robert Cantwell is a man defeated by life, a man unable to redeem this defeat by action. Not yet reconciled to his own approaching middle-age, rueful at having survived, Cantwell seems pathetically confused as to what may be done with the very fact that he has outlived the days of his youth. And so he spends a good part of the book either reminiscing about the youth itself, or repeating—in a rather enervated fashion—his own "time of wine and roses." The wine, however, has become rather too dry for pleasure, and the roses have a rather scraggled look: as though their petals were kept together with paste and nostalgia instead of youthful blood.

Romantic tragedy, after all, is the province of the young. There is nothing especially moving about the athlete or warrior who lives long enough to become rich and fat and impotent, and who dies in his own bed. Committed to romantic tragedy—the doomed and beautiful young man who wills his own death—Hemingway seemed uncertain of the value of his own protagonist, and this uncertainty is reflected in the narrative. Cantwell, who has survived the war, is admittedly "waiting" to die—and the passivity itself eliminates the heroic stance and willed sacrifice which alone can turn man's inevitable disaster (death) into victory. All the rituals, whether of action or love, have softened into repetition and shadow. It is hardly surprising that so much of Across the River and Into the Trees consists of the aging officer's memories, for the novel reads like a capitulation to age instead of a confrontation of it.

The fact that Hemingway was attempting to deal with the problem of old age, however, was a significant development in his work, and in this sense Across the River and Into the Trees was a milestone in his career. If the book did fail, it nevertheless served as a kind of preliminary to The Old Man and the Sea —a far smaller book, and a far less ambitious one, but a novel that served as a poem of reconciliation to the meaning and nature of age itself, and the manhood and courage and fierce love of creative will which redeem the flesh from its own decay.

The virtues of the Hemingway hero had always been the virtues of the young: to kill "cleanly" and risk being killed; to drink manfully, speak simply, love beautifully (and briefly), and to avoid all entanglements of either responsibility or complexity. As Harry Levin remarks: "The world that remains most alive to Hemingway is that stretch between puberty and maturity which is . . . a world of mixed apprehension and bravado before the rite of passage, the baptism of fire, the introduction to sex." Certainly it is difficult to imagine Frederic Henry as a fifty-year-old exsoldier—unless, perhaps, we imagine him as Colonel Cantwell, "waiting" to die, and brooding upon approaching age and impotence.

So essential is the "proper" confrontation of death to the work of Ernest Hemingway, that the problem of growing old seems quite irrelevant; few of his heroes are likely to grow old, and none of them will live to die in bed if they can possibly help it. As to a man outliving the days of his sexuality: this is simply too horrible to contemplate. Even the hunter in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" dies of a wound rather than of old age, and at the time of his death, furthermore, is served by a sophisticated woman—a tribute to his strength and at least one kind of potency.

For Ernest Hemingway, far more than for most men, the spectre of age was a terrible spectre indeed; the very virtues upon which he had based his art and his life were virtues of the young. Even in his later years Hemingway was delightfully "boyish" (or regrettably so, depending on one's point of view); the problem of age was never far from his mind nor, for that matter, from his conversation—and in this connection Lillian Ross's New Yorker piece on Hemingway (May 31, 1950) is of particular interest. "As you get older," said Hemingway, "it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary."

The problem, of course, is to decide what sort of heroism is possible as a man gets older, and in this respect Hemingway in 1950 was still looking backward rather than forward, so that for him (as for Robert Cantwell in Across the River and Into the Trees) old age itself was simply a matter of holding on to youthful appetites and youthful abilities as long as one could. "What I want to be when I am old is a wise old man who won't bore," he remarked to Miss Ross, while Mrs. Hemingway was saying "Papa, please get glasses fixed," and while the waiter was pouring wine:

"I'd like to see all the new fighters, horses, ballets, bike riders, dames, bullfighters, painters, airplanes, sons of bitches, cafe characters, big international whores, restaurants, years of wine, newsreels, and never have to write a line about it. . . . Would like to make good love until I was eighty-five. And what I would like to be is not Bernie Baruch. I wouldn't sit on park benches, although I might go around the park once in a while to feed the pigeons, and also I wouldn't have any long beard, so there could be an old man who didn't look like Shaw." He stopped and ran the back of his hand along his beard, and looked around the room reflectively. "Have never met Mr. Shaw," he said. "Never been to Niagara Falls either. Anyway, I would take up harness racing. You aren't near the top at that until you're over seventy-five. Then I would get me a good young ball club, maybe, like Mr. Mack. . . . And when that's over, I'll make the prettiest corpse since Pretty Boy Floyd. Only suckers worry about saving their souls. Who the hell should care about saving his soul when it's a man's duty to lose it intelligently, the way you would sell a position you were defending, if you could not hold it, as expensively as possible, trying to make it the most expensive position that was ever sold. It isn't hard to die." He opened his mouth and laughed, at first soundlessly and then loudly. "No more worries," he said. He picked up a piece of asparagus and looked at it without enthusiasm. "It takes a pretty good man to make any sense when he's dying," he said.

The note of buoyancy combined with uncertainty, of readiness for death juxtaposed with fear of aging, of awareness of the inevitable combined with an almost wistful assertion of youthful power, and—finally—a kind of subdued self-perspective in which Hemingway seems to be doubting his own verbal posture—all these clashing elements were intrinsic to Hemingway's own position, as they were to the position of his protagonist in Across the River andInto the Trees.

From the jumble of hopes for continued youth and fears of age, however, one element emerges as perhaps the greatest fear of all—a fear that had been close to Hemingway from the crisis of his World War I experience: that is, the fear of passivity, the nightmare, a recurrent nightmare for Ernest Hemingway, in which the individual is deprived of his manhood by becoming an object rather than originator of action. Whether sitting on a park bench and "waiting for death," or growing crochety and senile in an easy-chair, or whining and complaining in a hospital bed (while the hands of stranger-women clean the body and obscenely kill the soul), the overriding fear is not loss of life ("It isn't hard to die," said Hemingway) but loss of will: the failure of manhood itself. And it was the divinity of manhood—a mystique defined by the sacred trinity of willed sacrifice, pride, and endurance—which Hemingway worshipped (and worried) throughout his life.

The problem, in short, was not how to avoid becoming an old man, but rather how to avoid becoming an old woman—and whether indeed an individual could be one without becoming the other. Whether Hemingway himself ever achieved a satisfactory solution to this dilemma is not for us to judge, although the circumstances of his death would indicate that he could not and would not abide a final weakening of those powers which were so intrinsic to the protagonists of his stories.

In the last decade or so of his life, at any rate, Hemingway was searching for a posture which would enable him to cope with the fact of his own age—and in a basic sense, Across the River and Into the Trees reflected the urgency of just such a search. Hemingway's temporary but vivid solution was a change of personal role: he would dramatize what he could not avoid. "Because of his own absolute youthfulness, he regards old-growing as an utter and complete tragedy," remarked one of his friends, "and he is not going to degrade himself by maturing or anything absurd of that sort. All the same, since he has a sense of costume, he will emphasize his decline in all its hopelessness by sprouting a white beard and generally acting the part of senex. We are going to get a lot of this inverted youth from him henceforth" (quoted by Carlos Baker, Hemingway and his Critics, p. 9).

If the early Hemingway had been an almost legendary figure of youthful and virile adventure, the older Hemingway would take up the role of Grand Old Man, the battle-scarred veteran, the aging but still indomitable combatant. Hemingway "The Champ," indeed, would become "Papa" Hemingway—the Citizen of the World still rough-edged and manfully poetic, but mellowed by experience and years, and come to full bloom as a connoisseur of life, bullfighters, women, fishing, and war.

The resources of age rather than the powers of youth would henceforth be Hemingway's public role, and this was to provide the substance for his literary role as well. For The Old Man and the Sea, published in 1952, is the story not of youthful disillusion, or youthful political idealism in a framework of social affirmation, or youthful love in a world of chaos, or youthful frustration and anguish (bolstered by a code of manly non-sentiment), or not-so-youthful reminiscence relating to youth itself, but rather the story of an aged champion for whom power of will has replaced the power of flesh, and the wisdom of true pride and humility has replaced the arrogance of either simple pessimism or romantic self-sacrifice.

Humility and true pride, however, are not qualities likely to be possessed by the Crusading Idealist (such as Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls), or by heroes of nostalgia (such as Colonel Cantwell in Across the River and Into the Trees), or by protagonists of alienation—protagonists who, like Frederick Henry in A Farewell to Arms, refuse to play the game of life (and death) if the rules are not of their liking. The qualities of humility and pride must be forged in the smithy of a man's own soul; only when the individual neither requires nor uses external crutches—either of affirmation, negation, or nostalgia—can he achieve that power of selfhood (which for Hemingway is synonymous with manhood) that old Santiago the fisherman achieves in his open boat, alone with his pain, his endurance, his love for the noble marlin that is his opponent, his defeat, and his ultimate triumph.

This triumph, of course, is a victory in spiritual terms—for it is only in spiritual terms that a victory can ever be real. Ultimately, the only "Cause" is a man's own being, his own truth; romantic love is an illusion of youth, and political or social motivation is either so complex as to be meaningless, or so corrupt as to defeat its own rhetorical purpose. Unlike Robert Jordan, Santiago does not attempt to justify his struggle in terms of externals; unlike Frederick Henry, he does not attempt to worship a sacred object—a kind of "Love-Goddess" for whose sake all things may be sacrificed. For Santiago, the only justification for life is living, and the only justification for death is dying: he is a fisherman and the marlin is a fish, and—joined together by a larger pattern in which each is merely a part—they fulfill their true roles.

The relationship between Santiago and the marlin is self-contained and self-meaning; not only is their struggle without hate, but—because the struggle itself is a link in that holy chain of life-and-death whose sole reason is its own existence—the contest becomes an act of love, almost of worship. And for Ernest Hemingway (much to the irritation of his more socially oriented or religiously orthodox critics) no act of worship could be defined in terms of group therapy. Santiago is indeed timeless; an aged monument to that power of will which finally emerges as the only means to defeat age itself, he remains a monument that stands for and by nothing but its own existence. His sainthood consists not in redeeming temporality, but rather in willing its irrelevancy.

The Old Man and the Sea, in short, marks a return on Hemingway's part from some attempt at social involvement to justify action, to an examination of action itself—and a hymn of praise to the sacred nature of such action, when purified by will and uncorrupted by external cause. "From the first eight words of The Old Man and the Sea," says Robert P. Weeks ("He was an old man who fished alone . . ."), "we are squarely confronted with a world in which man's isolation is his most insistent truth."

Human isolation: the basic fact of our existence, the "insistent truth" that men so often disguise by verbiage or theories, by titles or property, by all the various cosmetics and comforts offered by society, by entrenched religion, or by fleshly lusts called (or miscalled) spiritual allegiance, that they forget the isolation itself. Only in Santiago's old age, when the lusts of the flesh have cooled and the egoism and ambition of youth are no more than distant echoes, does he act in such a way that the act becomes its own truth: that is, he achieves divinity of manhood by means of the ritual or trinity of action consisting of willed sacrifice, pride, and endurance.

That such a ritual of manhood has only a limited relationship to brotherhood or unity in the orthodox sense, is indicated by the fact that Santiago himself despises and hates those forms of life which are neither worthily beautiful nor noble; if he kills but loves the great marlin, he butchers and spits at the scavenger-sharks, and his attitude toward the Portuguese man-of-war (the bladder of "beautiful poison" that floats by his boat) is one of unrelieved loathing.

There is nothing of "love thine enemy" in Santiago's attitude toward those forms of life which either through appetite or a passive show of poison (or, as in the case of the tourists at the end of the book, simple ignorance) are outside the pattern of nobility and beauty, forms of life which—because they risk nothing, do not fight purely, or feed on carrion—provide no means for a man to celebrate the sacred ritual of his own manhood.

This theme of the "initiated" versus the "outsider" is, of course, a recurrent one throughout Hemingway's work, which celebrates a brotherhood of the worthy and noble rather than any sort of universal love. The very definition of worthiness and nobility, moreover, depends upon whether the creature in question (bull, fish, or woman) is capable of being used, or absorbed, into the ritual of manhood. Since this ritual is a means (indeed, for Hemingway the only means) of establishing non-temporality through assertion of will, "nobility" becomes a matter of usefulness, while "beauty"—always in terms of the ritual itself—is defined according to its manageability.

The story of Santiago, then, clearly represents a return, or rather, a reemphasis and intensification, of the theme of isolation—the individual confronting his own destiny, and redeeming this destiny by means of a ritual of manhood which becomes its own justification. Having survived the great strength of his youth, Santiago has passed beyond all merely material ambitions and desires. There is a transcendent glow about the old man, who is himself a symbol of noble creation—that is, willed creation—with its sorrow and glory, pain and love. Divinity itself, after all, is Supreme Will ("Let there be light!" says the voice of God) rather than desire; as the embodiment of ageless will, Santiago the fisherman (who dreams of "lions") becomes an echo of the divine.

Part of the dramatic effect of The Old Man and the Sea, however, may be weakened by the fact that Santiago—despite his use of wisdom instead of mere strength, and of knowledge and wit instead of mere arrogance—is in many ways a romantic picture of old age itself. His very oldness is monumental and rocklike; his endurance becomes a statement of desire rather than a human reality. For Ernest Hemingway, looking toward his own old age and attempting to construct a means of coping with it, the vision of Santiago must indeed have seemed a noble possibility. That the Santiago-solution is largely allegorical, however, is something that Hemingway could not or would not face: it is not, after all, every old age that can go out to sea in an open boat and catch giant marlin.

In the refusal (or inability) of Ernest Hemingway to see old age in any other terms but the values of pride, sacrifice, and endurance—the ritual of will he worshipped all his life (in Santiago's case forged and made harder rather than softer by old age itself), and in his insistence that the old man must be a young man grown tougher and purer, Hemingway may well have been setting up his own final tragedy.

Richard B. Hovey (essay date 1966)

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SOURCE: "The Old Man and the Sea: A New Hemingway Hero," in Discourse: A Review of the Liberal Arts, Vol. IX, No. 3, Summer, 1966, pp. 283-94.

[In the following essay, Hovey rejects earlier interpretations of Santiago as a Christ-figure and Aristotelian tragic hero, seeing him rather as a more believable character than those found in Hemingway's other works; he is representative of the human race and the novella "reconciles us to our human condition."]

In 1950 Hemingway embarrassed us with his worst book, Across the River and into the Trees. Two years later, he astonished us with The Old Man and the Sea. Somehow he had regained control of his art. Out of his inner conflicts as a man and artist he had achieved a harmony which makes this, in a classical sense, the sweetest and most serene of his works. Whatever its shortcomings, The Old Man and the Sea will stand in relation to the body of Hemingway's writings as Billy Budd does to Melville's.

Both authors explored the power of blackness. In each of these books they tried, near the end of their careers, to say yea to life. Whether or not Hemingway wins us over to an affirmation, we have here his most philosophical story. A tale of adventure, The Old Man and the Sea is also one of those fictions where the thought and the action are one. We might label it Hemingway's summa—the summa of his lifelong preoccupation with the questions of evil, of heroism, and of love. His subject is man-in-nature and the nature of man. For all his affectionate description of nature's beauties, Hemingway never lets us forget the Darwinian struggle going on beneath and above the Gulf waters. Against such naturalism, we are made continually aware of Santiago's fellow-feelings for nature's creatures. His tenderness toward them reminds us of Francis of Assisi.

This dualism is embodied in the old Cuban fisherman. Santiago is unique among Hemingway heroes. By chance, not by choice, is his manhood challenged. He is not on a battlefield or in a bullring or meeting a lion's charge or otherwise facing the likelihood of sudden death—nor is he recovering from a wound. With a long streak of bad luck behind him, Santiago at the start is more like, say, a farmer who has had a series of poor harvests. His predicament is that of average humanity in its day-to-day effort to keep going. That is why he is more broadly representative of the human race than any other Hemingway character. In fact, his is precisely the sort of figure so far absent from Hemingway's fiction.

Of course Santiago demonstrates and lives the "code." But, though sometimes his strife becomes violent and desperate, he is not a desperate man and is without inward violence. He is more or less at peace with himself and he is not at war with his world. His physical heroism is incidental to the routine need of earning his daily bread. Since what he endures is not edged by masochism, it never exacerbates our nerves. Naturally we feel with Santiago his hurts; but these occupy us, as they do him, more as practical impediments than badges of heroism.

Besides, of all the Hemingway protagonists, Santiago is closest to nature—feels himself a part of nature; he even believes he has hands and feet and a heart like the big turtles'. At first we think of him as a simple man, a primitive. Under such a guise, however, we have a wonderfully sensitive and contemplative person. He by no means lives—in Socratic phrase—the unexamined life. He asks the eternal questions. We can easily imagine another old fisherman undergoing Santiago's ordeal with equal physical courage and yet never having the surface of his mind or conscience troubled. On those vast blue waters Santiago is a speck of intense human consciousness. It is because he is so aware of himself and the world around him that he calls himself, more than once, "a strange old man." This is also why the boy, Manolin, tells him, "There are many good fisherman and some great ones. But there is only you.'" For the essence of Santiago's test is spiritual—a question of what shall a man believe. And the essential courage he demonstrates is moral—even intellectual—courage in his ceaseless self-examination.

What comes of his self-examination, this inquiry into the nature of man, these questions put to the universe? On the Gulf waters Santiago meditates on the drama of love against hate and of life against death which nature eternally stages for us. He thinks the little terns have a harder life than we human beings have: "Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel?" But for Santiago the ocean is not necessarily an antagonist. He regards it "as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things, it was because she could not help them." When he gets farther out, he sees a man-of-war bird circling and diving, and then "flying fish spurt out of the water and sail desperately over the surface." Santiago knows that the fish fly so desperately because dolphins are chasing them while the bird is trying to catch one of them: "It is a big school of dolphin, he thought. They are widespread and the flying fish have little chance. The bird has no chance. The flying fish are too big for him and they go too fast." Though always Santiago feels involved in affectionate kinship with creatures who must prey on one another, he knows he in his turn must prey on them. These musings—the torment of their ambivalence and of their ambiguities—are of course dramatized in his struggle with the big fish.

When his marlin begins to nibble at the bait, Santiago is by turn seductive and prayerful. He hooks the fish at noon, and all the rest of that day and all of the following night the marlin tows his skiff farther from land. They are joined together, he remarks; "And no one to help either one of us." He has been remembering the time he hooked one of a pair of marlin; how "the hooked fish, the female, made a wild, panic-stricken, despairing fight that soon exhausted her"; how the male stayed with her; how after Santiago had landed her, "the male fish jumped high into the air beside the boat to see where the female was and then went down deep. . . ." Among the marlins, this was "the saddest thing" Santiago had ever seen. "He was beautiful, the old man remembered, and he had stayed." These reflections stir guilt in Santiago simply because he is a fisherman. "But that was the thing that I was born for," so he answers his doubts. Then in words which might remind us of the marriage vow—"'Fish,' he said softly, aloud, 'I'll stay with you until I am dead.'" Then, a little later: "'Fish, he said, 'I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.'" At this moment a tired little warbler lights for a few seconds on the taut line between man and fish. Santiago thinks of the hawks which may soon come after it and apologizes that he cannot take the bird home with him. "Take a good rest, small bird,' he said. Then go in and take your chance like any man or bird or fish.'"

As the hours grind away and Santiago's hand bleeds from a line burn and the other hand stiffens and cramps, to regain his strength he eats some raw fish. "I wish I could feed the fish, he thought. He is my brother. But I must kill him and keep strong to do it." When the fish jumps and for the first time shows its huge size, Santiago tells himself he must never let the fish know how strong it is. "But, thank God," he adds, "they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able." As the day wears on and Santiago wears down, he tries to keep up his confidence by thinking of his baseball hero, feeling less lonely to recall that DiMaggio's father had also been a fisherman. Then he reflects: "Man is not much beside the great birds and beasts. Still I would rather be that beast down there in the darkness of the sea."

Everywhere are proofs of Eros and its antagonist death. While drawn through an island of Sargasso weed "that heaved and swung in the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket," Santiago catches and kills a beautiful dolphin which flaps "wildly in the air . . . in the acrobatics of its fear. . . ." As the duel continues through the second night, his conscience puzzles over these killings: "Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him." How many people will this marlin feed? he wonders. But, "There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity." Of these painful mysteries he can only tell himself: "But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers." When the old man manages to doze a little, though, he does not dream of killing; he dreams of a vast school of porpoises in their mating time and he dreams of lions as harmlessly playful as happy lambs.

By sunrise of the third day the marlin begins to circle. Santiago, though faint and dizzy, is able to pull the tiring marlin closer to his boat. Yet again the fish swims away:

You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.

So in this mortal battle, fish and man become one, killer and killed become one. Still, there is nothing here like the sickly caressing of the dead kudu in Green Hills of Africa. Rather, the context might remind us of Emerson's paradoxes in the poem "Brahma":

If the red slayer think he slays, Or if the slain think he is slain, They know not well the subtle ways I keep and pass, and turn again.

At last comes the chance, and Santiago drives the harpoon into the marlin's heart: "' I am a tired old man. But I have killed the fish which is my brother. . . .'"

When he lashes the great carcase to his skiff and begins the long trip back to land, Santiago believes his lacerated hands will heal quickly in the salt water:

The dark water of the true gulf is the greatest healer that there is. . . . With his mouth shut and his tail straight up we sail like brothers. Then his head started to become a little unclear and he thought, is he bringing me in or am I bringing him in?

An hour later the first shark hits: a giant Mako, "and everything about him was beautiful except his jaws. . . ." Santiago succeeds in putting his harpoon into the Mako's brain. This time he is pure killer, kills with hate; and we infer both the masochism and the sadism of this killing: "He hit it with his blood mushed hands driving a good harpoon with all his strength. He hit it without hope but with resolution and complete malignancy." But the shark has already succeeded in mutilating the marlin; and it is as if Santiago himself has been hit. He fights his despair: "'But man is not made for defeat,' he said. 'A man can be destroyed but not defeated.'"

Unquestionably, this is the explicit moral of The Old Man and the Sea. And yet Santiago has an after-thought: "I am sorry that I killed the fish, though." He says he has no "understanding" of sin, yet he wrestles with his conscience:

Perhaps it was a sin to kill the fish. I suppose it was even though I did it to keep me alive and feed many people. But then everything is a sin. Do not think about sin. It is much too late for that and there are people who are paid to do it. Let them think about it. You were born to be a fisherman as the fish was born to be a fish. San Pedro was a fisherman as was the father of the great DiMaggio.

Such reflections bring no comfort:

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

"You think too much, old man," he said aloud.

But you enjoyed killing the dentuso, he thought. He lives on the live fish as you do. He is not a scavenger nor just a moving appetite as some sharks are. He is beautiful and noble and knows no fear of anything.

"I killed him in self-defense," the old man said aloud. "And I killed him well."

Besides, he thought, everything kills everything else in some way. Fishing kills me exactly as it keeps me alive.

Then Santiago undercuts these gloomy musings by reminding himself that it is the love of Manolin which also keeps him alive. Here is no mystique of death. This Hemingway hero is no self-destroyer, not death-obsessed. Santiago is philosophical, is thinking about death, not morbidly agonizing over it.

When more and still more sharks come—ugly, shovelnosed galanos —Santiago fights them off and kills them, with his oars, with a club, even with his tiller. By sunset, when they have eaten away half his trophy, he speaks to what is left of the marlin: "'Fish that you were. I am sorry that I went too far out. I ruined us both. But we have killed many sharks, you and I, and ruined many others. How many did you ever kill, old fish? You do not have that spear on your head for nothing.'" He takes a baleful comfort in the thought that those who get killed have in their time been killers. By midnight more sharks come; then nothing is left of the marlin but the bones. Exhausted, and with "a strange . . . coppery taste" in his mouth, Santiago spits into the ocean. "'Eat that, galanos. And make a dream you have killed a man." He is "beaten now finally and without remedy." Somehow, he manages to sail his skiff and the great skeleton back to his home port. He is grateful that the boat is sound and the current is helping. "The wind is our friend, anyway, he thought. Then he added, sometimes. And the great sea with our friends and our enemies." He wants only bed and sleep. "It is easy when you are beaten, he thought. I never knew how easy it was."

If we ask what are the meanings of the old man's experience, Hemingway himself has explained: "I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things." For symbol-searchers, this statement has sometimes provided carte blanche. No doubt certain things in The Old Man and the Sea are suggestive beyond literal fact. These deepen the spiritual resonances of the story, enhance it with overtones of meanings. Still, even those things in the story which are unquestionably symbolic are subordinated to the conventions of realistic fiction.

It is easy for close readers to point to analogies between Santiago and Christ. And yet only those with a penchant for seeking in literature support for their own religious convictions or yearnings will be satisfied with interpreting the story, in any doctrinal sense, as a Christian parable. As to the view that Santiago is, in Aristotelian terms, a tragic hero equipped with a tragic flaw and punished for hubris —this requires equal ingenuity, even more erudition; and it is less persuasive. For Santiago's case is at once too simple and too complex for either of these academic schemata.

The doctrinaire Christian interpretations of The Old Man and the Sea push us into certain awkwardnesses. Of course, we might compare Santiago's ordeal with a crucifixion. No doubt Hemingway plays upon our religious sensibilities when, with the coming of the shovelnosed sharks, the old fisherman utters the word "Ay"; and Hemingway comments, "There is no translation for this word, and perhaps it is just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands into the wood." We know however, of worse sufferings, both in fiction and in life, which have never earned the word crucifixion. It is true that, when Santiago gets back to land he carries his mast on his shoulders as he climbs the hill to his shack. But a skiff's mast is not exactly cruciform. Once he falls down climbing his hill; the other times he merely sits down to rest. Christ, of course, is said to have fallen more frequently when he climbed Calvary. And Christ's worst agony was on the hill of Calvary; Santiago's worst occurs well before he climbed his hill. When the old man falls on his bed, he sleeps "face down on the newspapers with his arms straight out and the palms of his hands up." That uncomfortable position is evidence of his exhaustion. But the usual representation of Christ crucified shows his palms and face in the same direction.

Then, too, Santiago has been called a Christian for his virtues and for his religious faith. On more than one occasion he prays—as does nearly everybody in a great crisis. Only once, though, does praying make Santiago feel better in his heart. Hemingway does not give us a man here who relies upon his religion: Santiago hardly gets from his Christianity the sort of consolation a committed believer does. As to his Catholicism, it is accident rather than essence—as anyone with intimate understanding of that faith will recognize, or even anyone who has assimilated, say, the novels of Graham Greene. And only the parochial-minded will insist that Santiago's virtues are specifically Christian. Unquestionably, he is humble, compassionate, conscientious, patient, loving, and feels kinship with and reverence for living creatures. Such virtues, though, are by no means the exclusive teaching of Christianity. If at the end, Santiago's resignation may be called Christian, we must also admit that other religions and philosophies teach resignation, even renunciation, of this world.

Whether Santiago can be labelled a tragic hero in anything like an Aristotelian sense is a problem which arises when we speculate on the question the protagonist puts to himself: What defeated him? Does he err through being too much the individualist, going it alone, and going out too far? If so, that is because circumstances force him to.

Santiago declines the boy's offer to accompany him because he is considerate and not selfish. Since Manolin is a poor boy who is now with a lucky boat, it would not have been sensible for him to throw in his lot with a fisherman who has been making no catches. Santiago takes the risk of going far beyond the usual fishing grounds because, with such poor luck for eighty-four days, he must try something radical.

He sets out with no prideful individualism. The pride he takes in his strength and skill is a part of his healthy self-love, the normal pride any worker should take in worth while work. When the boy insists that Santiago is unique among the fishermen—"'there is only you'"—he is happy with the compliment; but he adds: "'I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong.'" When Manolin expresses his faith in him: "'I may not be as strong as I think,' the old man said. 'But I know many tricks and I have resolution.'" He is never one who overestimates himself. Had he not correctly estimated his physical and moral strength, his venture would have been foolhardy at the outset.

Naturally in the heat of battle with the great marlin, Santiago's pride does grow. This, however, is scarcely the sort of over-weening pride which drives a man out of his place in the order of things, angering the gods and bringing on their punishment. Of the moment of the actual kill, Hemingway writes: "He took all his pain and what was left of his strength and his long gone pride and he put it against the fish's agony. . . ." Santiago feels no pride at the kill: "The old man felt faint and sick and he could not see well." Afterwards he is simply sorrowful: "I am a tired old man. But I have killed this fish which is my brother. . . ." He is not punished for pride. He suffers for two reasons: the lucky accident of hooking so extraordinary a fish; the consequences of going far out which increased the likelihood of sharks getting his trophy. The coming of bad luck with the sharks does not surprise Santiago. When he looks for a reason why he has lost, he can only say, "'I went out too far.'" That is all he knows. That is all we know. With good luck, he got his fish; with better luck he might have escaped the sharks. But he was not rebelliously challenging the nature of things. Nor does he glimpse, as the heroes of classic tragedy sometimes do, some fresh awareness of his own nature, some new insight into the workings of the universe. From the beginning, he knew himself well enough and he knew the law of kill-and-be-killed. His only lesson is that defeat is easier than he thought it might be.

This book, however, is not nihilistic nor deeply pessimistic. More than any of Hemingway's earlier works it reconciles us to our human condition. Compare it, for instance, with A Farewell to Arms, and we see the distance Hemingway has travelled. Lt. Henry thinks that the world "kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave. If you are none of these things you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." Santiago is very good, very gentle, very brave; but he has not been killed in a hurry. At the end he is asleep, dreaming of his happy lions, while the boy who loves him watches at his side. From the outset Santiago understands instinctively what Harry Morgan glimpsed only in his death agony: "No matter how a man alone ain't got no bloody fucking chance." Of Robert Jordan's solidarity with humanity certain questions nag us: for all his professor's intellect, Jordan's cause is verbalized in clichés, never quite dramatized in his experience. By contrast, the love which binds Santiago to nature and his fellow human beings is always realized. He is lonely but not isolated. He has not rejected the world nor cut himself off from his fellows.

Of the love realized in The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway makes plain enough its values. In effect, he tells us that there are persons like Santiago who have love in their hearts. He sees evidence of love also in the nonhuman world. Alive as the hero is to the love in himself and in nature, he is equally alive to the pain, the violence, the killing which are inescapable in the natural world. Though he is tormented that he, too, must bring pain and death, at least Santiago knows that the love he feels is somehow allied with the love in nature. Before the paradox of this fact Hemingway does not flinch. It is writ large in every ambiguity, in every ambivalence, of Santiago's adventure with the marlin. As a killer Santiago is a breed apart from all the earlier Hemingway killers. As to that pride in giving the god-like gift of death, Santiago is a world's distance away from the matadors of Death in the Afternoon.

More than anywhere else in his writings, Hemingway has succeeded here in expressing tenderness—without the tight lips, or the oblique implications. If he embarrassed us with love's tenderness in Across the River and into the Trees, that is because in Colonel Cantwell, Hemingway was too much entangled subjectively. By contrast, there is no such fumbling in the characterization of Santiago, and no false notes in his story—despite the aging Hemingway being something of a Santiago himself. He too had fished for big ones in the Gulf stream; and sharks had eaten away one of his own great catches. But he has never slipped into exploiting the legend of Papa the great sportsman.

Nevertheless, it is Hemingway's deeply personal involvement which gives this novelette a convincingness lacking—except in a few of the stories—in all his other writings since Winner Take Nothing. Here at last he has found—and found a way to realize in fiction—the warmth and tenderness and intimacy of love. A love which affords a reprieve against violence, pain, and death gives this story its poignancy. Part of Hemingway's success comes from his attitude toward his subject. It required the disciplined love of the artist to create a hero who, without too much self-love or self-hate, can still interest us.

To be sure, Santiago is not presented as a figure complexly involved in his society. Mostly we see him as a man alone with nature and man alone with himself. Not that his community is indifferent to Santiago or he independent of them. On his way back he reflects:

I hope no one has been too worried. There is only the boy to worry, of course. But I am sure he would have confidence. Many of the older fishermen will worry. Many of the others too, he thought. I live in a good town.

But Santiago is without a real home. His wife has been dead so long that, though he keeps a couple of religious remembrances of her, he no longer dreams or thinks of her. He has no woman, no family, no children. All his personal love is directed to the boy. And Manolin is another man's son.

Manolin's function is to heighten our sympathy for and increase our understanding of Santiago. The boy appears only at the beginning and at the end of the narrative. Of course, in the central drama, the catching of the marlin and the fighting against the sharks, he is of no practical help, though repeatedly Santiago wishes the boy were with him. Before the old man sets out, Manolin fetches him food and bait and helps him carry his gear. After the ordeal, Manolin is the first to see the old man, finding him asleep. His mangled hands make the boy cry, and he is not ashamed of other people seeing his tears. There is a special tenderness in Manolin's solicitude for Santiago, and it goes further than what we expect of affection between age and youth or the reciprocal love between master and apprentice. Manolin adores Santiago as the boy narrator of "My Old Man" adores his father. It is not only that he worries that Santiago may not eat enough or that he is so careful about the blanket when the old fisherman sleeps. For a boy scarcely in his teens, Manolin has astonishing tact when it comes to helping Santiago maintain certain little fictions to sustain the dignity of the elderly—like that about the cast net, which he knows has been sold, and the pot of yellow rice and fish, which he knows does not exist. One can scarcely question Philip Young's remark that Manolin, in his compassion, love, and admiration for Santiago, takes on something of the role which in the earlier fictions has been performed by passive heroines like Maria and Renata.

What complicates the figuration of a father-son relationship here is the fact that Manolin dislikes his own father and prefers Santiago. Beyond this, Hemingway offers no further explanations of the boy's unusual devotion to the old man. Possibly Hemingway had other reasons to put Manolin into his story, emotional reasons screened from his own consciousness. And perhaps here we can begin to understand some of the hidden depths of the power in this story. At least this much seems likely: Hemingway, himself an aging and fine fisherman, could identify with Santiago; at the same time he can identify with Manolin. So he was able, in his fantasy and in the guise of fiction, not only to recapture something of his own adult experiences but also to relive some of his own childhood. For is he not telling again the story of himself as a little boy, whose father was a big fine fisherman and gave him his first rod when he was three—the father whom the little boy adored and whose suicide later so disillusioned him? From the psychologist's point of view, we might remark that here Hemingway resolves his conflicts—at least insofar as he has made a work of art out of his own ambivalent feelings toward his father. So, the controlled sweetness and the hard-won serenity which please us in the art of The Old Man and the Sea are rooted in this reconciliation with the image of the father.

But in whatever affirmations we have here about love, Hemingway has still not been able to give us any affirmation about adult heterosexual love. It is as if, in his own testimonial, love between man and woman is impossible in our world in our time. Love does exist. But the only reliable personal love is homoerotic. Ideally, this is the love among males who are cut off from women, from family ties, from parental responsibilities, from the complications of society. It is hard to deny the relevance of Leslie Fiedler's thesis. True, Santiago is not wholly an isolated one. Yet mostly he is alone in the wilderness—the Gulf waters being, for Hemingway, all that was left of the American wilderness. Thus, in the tradition of American letters the old fisherman takes his place along with mythic figures like Natty Bumppo, an old trapper alone in the wilderness, dying among the Pawnees, loving Hard-Heart and loved by him as earlier he had loved Chingachgook of the Last of the Mohicans.

Philip Young (essay date 1966)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 4218

SOURCE: "The Old Man and the Sea: Vision/Revision," in Twentieth-Century Interpretations of "The Old Manand the Sea," Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968, pp. 18-26.

[In the following two-part essay, the first part of which appeared in 1952 and the second of which is a 1966 commentary on the earlier reaction, Young first praises The Old Man and the Sea's perfect construction, exciting story, and tight action, and regards the tale as one about life: that struggle against natural forces that cannot be overcome but which can be met with dignity. In the second part of the essay, Young recants some of his earlier praise of the work, pointing out its "affectation of simplicity," and likens Hemingway's book to a fish he had hooked as his great prize and that was later devoured by the critics.]


This book has many roots in the rest of Hemingway's work. Much of it goes back to an essay, "On the Blue Water (A Gulf Stream Letter)," which the author published in Esquire, in April of 1936. In this piece he tried to explain what there is about deep-sea fishing in the Stream that makes it exciting—the mysteries of that largely unexplored place, the indescribable strangeness, wildness, speed, power and beauty of the enormous marlin which inhabit it, and the struggle while their strength is bound to a man's, his thick line "taut as a banjo string and little drops coming from it." He also included a paragraph of more specific interest:

Another time an old man fishing alone in a skiff out of Cabañas hooked a great marlin that, on the heavy sashcord handline, pulled the skiff far out to sea. Two days later the old man was picked up by fishermen sixty miles to the eastward, the head and forward part of the marlin lashed alongside. What was left of this fish, less than half, weighed eight hundred pounds. The old man had stayed with him a day, a night, a day and another night while the fish swam deep and pulled the boat. When he had come up the old man had pulled the boat up on him and harpooned him. Lashed alongside the sharks had hit him and the old man had fought them out alone in the Gulf Stream in a skiff, clubbing them, stabbing at them, lunging at them with an oar until he was exhausted and the sharks had eaten all that they could hold. He was crying in the boat when the fishermen picked him up, half crazy from his loss, and the sharks were still circling the boat.

Here, of course, is the germ of the novel.1 And the old man himself, Santiago, is also an outgrowth of past performances. Just as Col. Cantwell presented the Hemingway hero aged for the first time beyond his young manhood, so Santiago is the first of the code heroes to have grown old. Particularly he is related to men like Jack, the prizefighter, and Manuel Garcia, "The Undefeated" bullfighter, who lose in one way but win in another. Like Manuel, Santiago is a fighter whose best days are behind him, who is too old for what his profession demands of him and, worse, is wholly down on his luck. But he still dares, and sticks to the rules, and will not quit when he is licked. He is undefeated, he endures, and his loss therefore, in the manner of it, is itself a victory.

"A man can be destroyed but not defeated," is how Hemingway put it this time. And so the theme—"What a man can do and what a man endures" ("plenty," as Santiago admits of his suffering)—is also familiar. So are other things—Hemingway's concern with fishing as a deeply meaningful occupation, for instance, and his awareness of death, expertly delivered and received, as the source of much of life's intensity. In a way we have even known the boy before, for in providing that sentimental adulation which in his need for love and pity the other hero once required, Manolin has taken over some of the functions hitherto performed by the heroine.

There is little that is new, either, in the technique. The action is swift, tight, exact; the construction is perfect, and the story is exciting. There is the same old zest for the right details. And there is the extraordinary vividness of the background—the sea, which is very personal to Santiago, whose knowledge of it, and feeling for it, bring it brilliantly and lovingly close. Again there is the foreign speech translated—realistic, fresh and poetic all at once. In short, The Old Man and the Sea, in manner and meaning, is unmistakable Hemingway. But where characteristic methods and attitudes have on rare occasion failed him in the past, or have been only partly successful, this short novel is beyond any question a triumph.

This is the first time, in all of Hemingway's work, that the code hero and the Hemingway hero have not been wholly distinct. Wilson the guide, Cayetano the gambler, Morgan the smuggler—all embodied ideals of behavior the Hemingway hero could not sustain. They balanced his deficiencies; they corrected his stance. Of course Santiago is not Hemingway, and is not the Hemingway hero; he is the code hero, based on the experience of an unfictional Cuban fisherman. But now the relation of the author and the code hero is very close. Though Hemingway was thought with the phrase to be acknowledging his eccentricity, whereas Santiago makes it clear that he means he is formidable, both figures were given to remarking "I am a strange old man." And both men were preoccupied with their "luck"—a kind of magic which people have in them, or do not. Indeed it is the only flaw in the book, beyond our involuntary recollections of the heroine, that there are times when the old fisherman sounds a little like Col. Cantwell: "Do not think about sin," Santiago tells himself with uncharacteristic sarcasm. "There are people who are paid to do it."

What this means, among other things, is that Hemingway was narrowing the gap that had always existed between him and his code heroes. Actually he narrowed it to the point where it is possible to show that on one level The Old Man and the Sea was wholly personal: as he seemed obscurely to acknowledge his demotion in Across the River by removing the stars from Cantwell's shoulders, so here Hemingway seemed, but more obviously, to promote himself back. Harry, dying in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," was himself a writer, and the Hemingway hero, but not even that story contained a more transparent or confident discussion by the author of those constantly absorbing problems of his professional past, present and future. The Old Man and the Sea is, from one angle, an account of Hemingway's personal struggle, grim, resolute and eternal, to write his best. With his seriousness, his precision and his perfectionism, Hemingway saw his craft exactly as Santiago sees his. The fishing and the fishermen turn out to be metaphors so apt that they need almost no translation: Santiago is a master who sets his lines with more care than his colleagues, but he has no luck any more. It would be better to be lucky, he thinks, but he will be skillfully exact instead; then when the luck comes he will be ready for it. Once he was very strong. "The Champion" they called him, and he had beaten many rivals in fair fights. The boy agrees: "There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you." Still there are many who do not know this, and the whole reputation is gravely imperilled by a streak of bad luck. And so the ex-champion musters his confidence: "I may not be as strong as I think. . . . But I know many tricks and I have resolution."

Santiago needs these things, for he is still out for the really big fish. He has assured the boy he is a strange old man; "Now is when I must prove it." (The times that he has proved it before "meant nothing. Now he was proving it again.") And he does prove it. The sharks may eat his fish, and spoil everything, as they always try to do. But even a young fisherman in the prime of his strength would have done well to land this marlin, and so at the end Santiago is secure in bed, dreaming happily of the lions. (As for these lions, they play like cats on beaches "so white they hurt your eyes"—as white, we might think, as the "unbelievably white" top of Kilimanjaro that Harry dreamed of, the magical goal of the artist, where the leopard froze. And so we could say here, as Hemingway said of Harry, that Santiago is happy in the end because he knows that "there was where he was going.")

But this time it is the public and not the private parable—the generalized meanings which underlie and impregnate the action—that matters most. On this level there is no allegory in the book and, strictly speaking, no symbols. The marlin Santiago catches, the sharks that eat it away and the lions he dreams of are not so much symbolic of other things as broadly suggestive of them. To pin them down by naming equivalents they do not have would be to limit and decrease, vulgarly and gratuitously, the power of what Hemingway had written. On the public level the lions, for instance, are only so vague as the "poetry" in Santiago, and perhaps the sign of his nostalgia for his youth. The marlin is not even anything so general as "nature"—which would justify the most obvious trap, a man-vs.-nature allegory—for as brothers in this world and life, inextricably joined by the necessity of killing and being killed, Santiago and the fish are tightly bound up in the same thing. If we ask ourselves what The Old Man and the Sea is "about" on a public and figurative level, we can only answer "life," which is the finest and most ambitious thing for a parable to be about. Hemingway has written about life: a struggle against the impossible odds of unconquerable natural forces in which—given such a fact as that of death—a man can only lose, but which he can dominate in such a way that his loss has dignity, itself the victory.

The stories of all the best parables are sufficient to themselves, and many will prefer to leave the meanings of this one unverbalized. Such a reading, however, would comprehend less than Hemingway clearly intended. By stripping his book—as only this novelist can—of all but the essentials, and Santiago himself of all but the last things he needs for his survival (the old man owns almost nothing, and hardly even eats), and by the simplicity of the characterization and the style, Hemingway has gently but powerfully urged a metaphor which stands for what life can be. And it is an epic metaphor, a contest where even the problem of moral right and wrong seems paltry if not irrelevant—as in ancient epics, exactly—before the great thing that is this struggle.

If all this sounds a little "classical," it is because this tale of courage, endurance, pride, humility and death is remarkably so. It is classical not only technically, in its narrow confines, its reduction to fundamentals, the purity of its design, and even in the fatal flaw of pride (for Santiago exceeded his limits and went out too far). It is also classical in spirit, in its mature acceptance, and even praise, of things as they are. It is much in the spirit of the Greek tragedies in which men fight against great odds and win moral victories, losing only such tangible rewards—however desirable the prizes and heartbreaking the losses—as will dissipate anyway. It is especially like Greek tragedy in that as the hero fails and falls, one gets an unforgettable glimpse of what stature a man may have.

The story has affiliations, too, with Christian lore. These are not so much this time in its spirit, despite the virtues of pity, humility and charity with which it is invested. They are in its several allusions to Christian symbolism, particularly of the crucifixion. This orientation was not entirely new to Hemingway. Nearly forty years ago he published a little play, "Today Is Friday," in which a Roman soldier who was present at Calvary kept saying of Jesus: "He was pretty good in there today." In Across the River and Into the Trees the Colonel, whose heart goes out to anyone who has been hit hard, "as every man will be if he stays," has a twice-wounded and misshapen hand, which he is very conscious of. Renata, running her fingers lightly over the scars, tells him she has strangely dreamed it is "the hand of Our Lord." Now it is Santiago's hands, and the noise that comes from him when he sees the sharks ("a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood"), which first relate his ordeal to an ancient one. Then when at the end he carries his mast uphill to his cabin, and falls, exhausted, but finally makes it, and collapses on his cot, "face down . . . with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up," the allusion is unmistakable.

All this does not indicate that Hemingway was embracing, or even necessarily approaching, the Christian faith. Such passages as the one on the possible nonexistence of sin explicitly disavow it, as does the running insistence on the story as a wholly natural parable, confined to the realms of this world and what we know by experience. Instead Hemingway is implying another metaphor, and seems to say here, as in Across the River: the world not only breaks, it crucifies, everyone, and afterwards many are scarred in the hands. But now he has gone further, to add that when it comes, and they nail you up, the important thing is to be pretty good in there like Santiago.

One of the virtues of this short novel is that its meanings emerge from the action with all the self-contained power of the marlin breaking the surface of the ocean. Hemingway did not drag up anything, and one of the means whereby he kept the parable from obtruding is the baseball—that force in Santiago's life which, beside the lions, is all the life he has beyond his calling. Baseball stars are the heroes of this simple man; their exploits are the incidents, and their pennant races the plots, of his mythology. Baseball works a charm on the pages of this book. The talk about it is vastly real, it gives a little play to the line when unrelieved tension would be dangerous, and the sober conversations about it, which Santiago conducts with himself and with the boy, are delicious in their own right:

"The Yankees cannot lose."

"But I fear the Indians of Cleveland."

"Have faith in the Yankees my son. Think of the great DiMaggio."

"I fear both the Tigers of Detroit and the Indians of Cleveland."

"Be careful or you will fear even the Reds of Cincinnati and the White Sox of Chicago."

Nowhere in the book is there the slightest touch of condescension in the humor of this childlike preoccupation. Hemingway gave it without irony, without patronizing his characters, without unkindness. This is because he profoundly respected his characters, and wrote his book with a tenderness that was new to him and to his work. And that is an important perception, because it leads to the heart of the book's power.

"I love more than any son of the great bitch alive," said the Colonel in Across the River, and although he said it "not aloud" it sounded foolish anyway. But it sounds a little less silly now: The Old Man and the Sea is a powerful book, and a large part of its power is the power of love.

Santiago's respect for his foe, the marlin, which is love, actually, as for a brother, is surpassed by Hemingway's respect for both that fish and Santiago himself, and for the whole of life which this battle epitomizes, and the world that contains it. An extraordinary thing had happened, for somehow or other a reverence for life's struggle, which this contest dramatizes, and for mankind, for which Santiago stands as a possibility, had descended on Hemingway like the gift of grace on the religious. This veneration for humanity, for what can be done and endured, and this grasp of man's kinship with the other creatures of the world, and with the world itself, is itself a victory of substantial proportions. It is the knowledge that a simple man is capable of such decency, dignity, and even heroism, and that his struggle can be seen in heroic terms, that largely distinguishes this book. For the knowledge that a man can be great, and his life great, might be in itself an approach to greatness. To have had the skill, then, to convince others that this is a valid vision is Hemingway's achievement.

This is to say, among other less abstract things, that Hemingway had reached the point where he was able to affirm without forcing, or even apparent effort, certain things about brotherhood, man, and life which he had tried and crucially failed to affirm in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Indeed, since Santiago is a man alone and without the boy—for, after all, a man faces certain final things alone—and since the old man catches his fish, Hemingway had sharply qualified the pronouncement of To Have and Have Not, which was even more forced. The Old Man and the Sea is pregnant with implications about the contestants and the contest, but this time there is no need to say anything about them outright. It seems you never have to say it if you really mean it.

It is the heartening vision of this story, then, and the deep sense one has of a writer who is at long last completely at home in this life and world, which chiefly account for the power of the book. The rest of its force is the result of its remarkable surface virtues. And it may be that the action—so taut that beads of water seem to jump off the lines, all in a world miraculously alive and lasting—will seem one day the greatest thing after all. Hemingway's hope for his short novel, that "all the things that are in it do not show, but only are with you after you have read it," is mostly fulfilled; and, in the end, vicarious experience is the finest gift literature has to offer. It is the genius of Hemingway that our response is intense, rich, and deep. Without that, the vision and the meanings would count for nothing.

"It's as though I had gotten finally what I had been working for all my life," Hemingway also said, and there are many ways in which it would seem that he had. One of the more subtle ways lies in the fact of Santiago's survival: all the rest of the characters Hemingway projected himself deeply into have, if they struggled and attained the code, died in the process; at the end of this story Santiago is confident, happy, and ready for more. In addition, though The Old Man and the Sea is not necessarily Hemingway's greatest book, it is the one in which he said the finest single thing he ever had to say as well as he could ever hope to say it.

And so the question occurred to the faithless: then what was left for this one to do? To ask such a question was to reckon without the personal triumph Santiago represented and to forget what the old man said when the boy asked if he was strong enough then for a truly big fish: "I think so. And there are many tricks." Besides, this was indeed a strange old man.


If one were rewriting instead of revising this book, one thing he would greatly tone down is his praise for The Old Man and the Sea, with which he went farther out than Santiago.2 (One critic, Marvin Mudrick, wrote recently that I treated it as if it were one of Beethoven's last quartettes.) The feeling is now that although the tale is here and there exciting it is itself drawn out a little far. Even the title seems an affectation of simplicity, and the realization that Hemingway was now trading on and no longer inventing the style that made him famous came just too late. Redolent of self-admiration, Manolin's boyish worship of the old man is harder than ever to take. The boy himself once seemed a "substitute heroine," but the book by brother Leicester Hemingway supplied a better insight:

Ernest was never very content with life unless he had a spiritual kid brother nearby . . . someone he could show off to as well as teach. He needed uncritical admiration. . . . A little worshipful awe was a distinct aid. . . . I made a good kid brother when I was around.

Heroine or kid brother, this need was almost always part of the trouble when Hemingway was around in the novels; self-praise is always most embarrassing. And, this time, identifying with his "code hero" brought on confusion as well. Thick as a "pencil," and set out with more care than the opposition's, Hemingway was thinking more of his own lines than Santiago's; allegory overwhelms reality when we are told that the young boy carries this fishing line—three-quarters of a mile of it—plus a harpoon and the gaff to the boat. (A gaffe indeed, unless, as we are not told, the lad was actually a giant.) Similarly it does not make very much sense to say that Santiago "went out too far": he did after all boat his fish out there, and the sharks that took it away from him are not confined to waters distant from land. It is not so much that Santiago was a fisherman in whom the writer saw himself; rather that Hemingway was a writer who thought he could disguise himself as Santiago. The autobiographical element unfortunately triumphs again: it wasn't Into the Caribbean but Across the River where somebody felt he went out too far. Hemingway, taking a view of that failed novel which occasionally overrode his concern for his sea story, went way out and hooked his great prize, a book to keep a man all winter, but then the critics ate away at it until there was nothing left. Not as strong as he had been once, he felt that he was still the master of many tricks and still up to bringing in the big one—which, in his opinion, may have been the same small book that was the allegory of his vicissitudes.


1 On October 21, 1965, one Anselmo Hernandez, a gnarled, weathered old man allegedly 92 years old, made it to Key West, Florida, in the midst of thousands of anonymous refugees from the Castro regime. He became conspicuous, however, by announcing that he had "inspired" Hemingway's Nobel Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea: "I knew Hemingway for thirty years. . . . He said he would write a novel about me and he did." This claim, widely printed in the press with a current photograph of the old fisherman, was immediately dismissed by Mrs. Hemingway, who commented that a dozen Cuban fishermen made the same boast—further that although her husband had known Hernandez well the book was not based on any one person. Her statement was accepted as authoritative. But on seeing the photograph of Anselmo Hernandez, and seeming to recall both the image and the name in connection with the novel, the present writer dug up another picture (published by Vogue in June of 1953), and disputed Mrs. Hemingway on two counts. This earlier photograph was taken by Leland Heyward, producer of the film based on the book, and it shows a threesome seated in a bar "on location,"—purportedly the author of the story, Ernest Hemingway, together with the actor who was to play the old man, Spencer Tracy, and with the old man himself, who was identified only as "Anselmo." The Anselmo Hernandez whose picture was in the newspapers of October 22, 1965, is older and thinner and unmistakably the Anselmo of the 1953 photograph. Surely the character of Hemingway's old man is no transcript of any Anselmo's; it is chiefly the character of the author-fisherman himself. But if the experience of the old man in the book is not based on exactly what happened to an actual, single fisherman then Hemingway in 1936 gratuitously invented what he pretended in Esquire to report. And if Hernandez is not the same old man then Hemingway was party to a second deception when he sat for Heyward's photograph. Neither deceit is probable: Hemingway had a fondness for facts as well as fictions.

2 [Professor Young has revised the first sentence of this passage for [the 1966] reprinting.—Ed. note.]

Bickford Sylvester (essay date 1966-67)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2472

SOURCE: "They Went Through This Fiction Every Day': Informed Illusion in The Old Man and the Sea" in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. XII, No. 4, Winter, 1966-67, pp. 473-77. [In the following essay, Sylvester rejects Robert P. Weeks's assessment that in The Old Man and the Sea Hemingway's "view of the world has gone soft," arguing that the "calculated fictions" of the exchanges between Santiago and Manolin in the opening and closing of the novella frame the action and reveal a complex Hemingway "code hero" who accepts his fate while concocting an informed illusion about his circumstances.]

Carlos Baker writes of what he calls Colonel Cantwell's "informed illusion" in Across the River and Into the Trees: the Colonel "well knows that the necessary thing to retain, after the loss of any illusion, is the capacity for belief which made the original illusion possible."1 Mr. Baker then notices that in The Old Man and the Sea Santiago "loses the [physical] battle he has won," but wins the "moral victory of having lasted without permanent impairment of his belief in the worth of what he has been doing."2 In his discussion of the story, however, Mr. Baker never defines Santiago's belief in the precise way he does Colonel Cantwell's. But for evidence that the fisherman's faith, like the soldier's, depends upon "informed illusion," I want to direct critical attention to the hitherto unexplored ritual the old man and the boy find it necessary to observe daily as a bulwark against the loss of resolution threatened by the poverty of their lives:

"What do you have to eat?" the boy asked.

"A pot of yellow rice with fish. Do you want some?"

"No. I will eat at home. Do you want me to make the fire?"

"No. I will make it later on. Or I may eat the rice cold."

"May I take the cast net?"

"Of course."

There was no cast net and the boy remembered when they had sold it. But they went through this fiction every day. There was no pot of yellow rice and fish and the boy knew this too.3

The boy does not know at first whether the newspaper the old man presently mentions is also a fiction (p. 18). But he does know, when he brings back the real meal and the old man says he has only needed time to wash, that the village water supply is two streets down the road and that Santiago's ablutions are a fiction (p. 22). This dialogue takes place when we first see the two together, and it colors our understanding of their relationship. Each has part of the other inside himself—the wise child and the ancient youth. Mr. Baker has noticed that the youthful part of the old man's nature—marked by his memory of the boy—recurrently tightens his resolution during his struggle at sea.4 And Manolin's sober acceptance in this opening scene of the facts behind the game he plays reminds us that a child's intuitive understanding of the value of pretense is so profound that he never needs to confound fiction and reality. The necessity for such confusion comes with the barrenness of age, and because Santiago has the boy always within him he does not need to identify life with the lottery he is fond of playing. There is no chance of luck (in the practical sense) when one goes out too far, and the old man knows it. Yet the fiction of hope helps one to retain his resolution when the game is lost. And what is of absolute importance to Santiago, El Campeón, is that he must, like the marlin, "pull until he dies" (p. 86); it is the way of a champion, human or fish.

If we remember the calculated fiction which is at the center of this scene between the man and boy, we can see that the last dialogue between them fittingly parallels and complements the first. When the final exchange begins Santiago has at last lost some of his hope. "Now we fish together again," says Manolin, as the old man awakes in his shack the morning after his return. "No. I am not lucky," Santiago answers; "I am not lucky anymore" (p. 137). As he left his boat the night before, the old man had paused: "It was then he knew the depth of his tiredness. He stopped for a moment and looked back and saw in the reflection from the street light the great tail of the fish standing up well behind the skiff's stern" (p. 133). This was the only time in his journey that the old man had looked back, except when his forward progress depended on it (when he was rowing, tending his lines, or fighting sharks). In doing so he had violated the system of iconography set up for him within the book (he sleeps on his face, he huddles with his chin to the bow, he refuses to look at the mutilated rear of the fish and concentrates on the intact forward part, etc.). He had "sinned"—not enough to prevent his fighting his way up the hill to his shack, but enough to weaken his resolution. (In the description of his ensuing sleep, therefore, no mention is made of his dreams; the usual appearance of the young lions would be inappropriate.) Yet the youth within the old man is so close to the surface that it quickly reappears in the presence of the boy. "The hell with luck," the boy says. "I'll bring the luck with me." Santiago responds at once, "What will your family say?" Apparently he is instantly planning another trip: "We must get a good killing lance and always have it on board. You can make the blade from a spring leaf from an old Ford" (pp. 137-138).

But when the boy tells him to get his hands well, the old man answers: "I know how to care for them. In the night I spat something strange and felt something in my chest was broken" (p. 138). There is an arresting lack of coherence between these two sentences. Some connective seems to be demanded; and as we question our reading of the passage we are maneuvered into realizing that here, as often in Hemingway's work, the meaning is in what is omitted.5 By leaving out an "and," "but," or even "also" at the beginning of the second sentence, Santiago is at once telling the boy that he knows how to care for the hands, but not for an old man's broken chest, and saying it in such a way as to maintain the ritualistic fiction that binds these two special fishermen together. The boy responds expertly: "Get that well too," he says of the chest. Santiago's implication that he will be able to read the papers of the time that he has been away can be seen to further the fiction, as can the boy's rejoinder that the old man "must get well fast" (p. 138). It is not, therefore, until he goes out the door and down the road on an errand, that the boy abandons his pose and starts "crying again" (p. 139) as he had been before the old man awoke.

Readers have generally supposed that the boy is crying simply because he appreciates the great suffering which is the price of the old man's gallantry, just as they have supposed that the old man will live because in the last paragraph of the story he is "still sleeping" (p. 140). We should keep in mind, though, that the old man has compared his heart to that of the great turtle he loves; it is one which "will beat for hours after he has been cut up and butchered" (pp. 40-41). This line near the beginning of the book reverberates chiefly in the old man's ability later to fight the sharks even though his palms have been severely lacerated by the fishline. But it also suggests that, given the kind of man he is, it would not be appropriate for us to see him die, even though we have seen him killed.

Indeed, Santiago's death following an apparent return to vitality is rendered aesthetically appropriate by the natural parallels to human experience which provide the structure of the story. The champion marlin retains enough strength after his struggle against the current and the boat to make a great leap as he dies, and Hemingway remarks: "Then the fish came alive, with his death in him" (p. 104, italics mine). The fish has achieved the most intense kind of life by meeting the lance with the same resolute aggression he has shown toward everything else nature has arrayed against him—by having lasted all the way without relaxing the "pain of life" (p. 128) even at the moment of death. And the sharks are to the man what the man, the current, and the lance have been to the fish. Led by the champion mako (who, we notice, will not accept his death, either, and who plows over the water after being fatally stabbed [p. 113]), the sharks are the final, overwhelming natural odds against which a champion must pit himself. Like the fish, however, the man lasts all the way. He fights the sharks until "something" in his chest is broken (as the fish's heart has been pierced by the harpoon) and he notices the "coppery" taste of blood in his mouth (p. 131). Yet in the concluding dialogue we have considered, even as he tells the boy of his broken chest, Santiago undergoes a resurgence of life. Like the marlin and the shark, he comes alive "with his death in him" (p. 104).6

Death is the final concomitant of life in a champion's combat with nature, and only by recognizing this fixed connection can we properly understand several passages of the kind critics have ignored or regarded as artistic lapses on Hemingway's part. "Fishing kills me exactly as it keeps me alive," Santiago remarks. "The boy keeps me alive, he thought. I must not deceive myself too much" (p. 117, italics mine). His illusion must remain informed. He must remember not only that his vocation kills him. He must also remember that it is the boy who feeds him and who participates in the daily renewal of commitment that gives meaning to his inevitable death. There are additional lines that appear either cryptic or pompously "literary" otherwise, but that are revealed as specifically portentous and dramatically ironic under the present reading: "I'll fight them until I die," Santiago says of the sharks (p. 128); "Eat that, Galanos. And make a dream you've killed a man," he calls as he spits blood at the last shark to attack, the one to complete his destruction (p. 131). Nor should we forget that it is when he sees the first of the scavenger sharks that Santiago makes the sound, "Ay," "such as a man might make . . . feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood" (p. 118). If the first shark is the beginning of that ordeal which for Christ began with the nail through the hands, Santiago's crucifixion must end as did Christ's—in death. And conversely, once Santiago's fate is seen completely to parallel Christ's, there is less reason to consider the Calvary allusions forced and meretricious.7

But as he accepts his fate the fiction he laconically concocts with Manolin helps Santiago to surmount his enervating consciousness of inevitable finality—one of the obstacles to resolution faced only by a human champion. Thus he is able to behave once more like the great unthinking creatures he has opposed, and to pull as though there were no end. Accordingly, when he returns to sleep after his exchange with the boy, and sleeps on as we leave him, the old man is free again to dream of the lions, symbols throughout the story of that youthful confidence which had temporarily diminished the night before. The ritualistic play facilitating his "informed illusion" has done its work.

In failing, therefore, even to consider the element of fiction in the opening dialogue between Santiago and Manolin, and in thus neglecting to see that symmetry alone urges us to read the closing dialogue between them as similar in mode, criticism has done more than miss the subtle revelation of Santiago's imminent death.8 It has overlooked telling evidence against the fashionable contention recently echoed by Robert P. Weeks: that in The Old Man and the Sea Hemingway's "view of the world has gone soft."9 For we cannot responsibly interpret the second dialogue either as an argument for the possibility of practical survival,10 or as the celebration of "a cozy universe" where "cosmic camaraderie"11 justifies an indomitability lacking in ironic perspective. We are too clearly invited to see that the old man's plans for a new killing lance are—like his earlier reference to the fictitious food—part of the careful language of the code hero who has had to master a delicate formula for resolute behavior in a natural world where camaraderie kills. Then, too, all other critical issues aside, there is the importance of identifying—in the way these two strategically placed dialogues frame the action, playing against each other and against the rest of the story—yet another of the formal devices operating unobtrusively to unify this extraordinary work of art.


1Hemingway: The Writer as Artist, 2nd ed. (Princeton, 1956), p. 273.

2 Baker, pp. 293-294.

3The Old Man and the Sea (New York, 1952), p. 17. Page numbers in any text refer to this book.

4 Baker, pp. 305-307.

5 For recent comment on Hemingway's effects-by-omission, see Dwight Macdonald, Against the American Grain (New York, 1962), pp. 174-175.

6 See my "Hemingway's Extended Vision: The Old Man and the Sea," PMLA, LXXXI (March 1966), 135-136 for the substance of the foregoing paragraph in a different context.

7 This is a charge levelled at the story's fable generally, by Philip Toynbee in his review of Hemingway and His Critics, ed. Carlos Baker (New York, 1961) in Encounter, XV I (October 1961), 87.

8 To my knowledge only Verne H. Bovie has mentioned the two dialogues (comparing them to the hunting scenes embracing the action of Across the River and Into the Trees), and he concludes that in the story "the preparations made [within] the frame are for life, not death." See "The Evolution of a Myth: A Study of the Major Symbols in the Works of Ernest Hemingway," unpubl. diss. (Pennsylvania, 1955), pp. 254-255.

9 "Fakery in The Old Man and the Sea," College English, XXIV (December 1962), 192. For similar objections, although directed more at the story's style than at its vision, see Toynbee (p. 87) and Macdonald (p. 178).

10 Cf. Green D. Wyrick, "Hemingway and Bergson: The Élan Vital," Modern Fiction Studies, I (August 1955), 19: "The fact that Santiago survives, is happy and ready to fish again, proves for the first time that Hemingway will allow this twentieth century to sustain such men."

11 Weeks, p. 192.

Leo Gurko (essay date 1968)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3640

SOURCE: "The Old Man and the Sea," in Ernest Hemingway and the Pursuit of Heroism, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968, pp. 159-74.

[In the following chapter from a full-length book about Hemingway's notion of heroism, which is a revised version of an article that originally appeared in College English in 1955, Gurko examines The Old Man and the Sea in the context of Hemingway's other work, seeing it as a movement away from society and its artifices to the challenges of nature and the possibility for liberation of the human spirit.]

The hero of Hemingway's last story is an aged Cuban fisherman named Santiago. he is more than a hero; he is a superman. Though very old, he has the physical strength of a young man and a spirit that is absolutely indomitable. Everything about him is outsized: his age, strength, his cheerful disposition, even the run of extraordinary bad luck he has at the start of the book—he has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish. When on the eighty-fifth day he does catch one, it is record-breaking, a sixteen-hundred-pound marlin, so large, powerful, and symbolic as to complete a cosmic trilogy with Jonah's whale and Moby Dick.

On several occasions Santiago is compared with Christ. His raw bleeding hands during the ordeal with the marlin recall Christ's mutilated hands. His last trip up the hill to his hut, carrying the mast on his back, is a deliberate analogy to Christ bearing his cross to Calvary. There are not enough of these resemblances to argue that the fisherman is a modern Christ and his story a retelling of the New Testament. But the connections with Jesus, half-man, half-God, are enough to draw Santiago out of a purely human frame toward the superhuman.

Hemingway's novels are profound inquiries into the possibilities of heroism. Most of them emphasize the obstacles to achieving it, and define the world's limitations, cruelties, or built-in evil. The Old Man and the Sea is remarkable for its stress on what men can do and on the world as an arena where heroic deeds are totally possible. Like Hemingway's other protagonists, Santiago is confronted with a universe filled with tragedy and pain, but these are transcended, and the affirming tone is in sharp contrast to the pessimism permeating such books as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.

One aspect of this universe, familiar from the earlier works, is its changelessness. The round of nature—which includes human nature—is not only eternal but eternally the same. The sun not only rises; it rises always, and sets and rises again without change of rhythm. The relationship of nature to man proceeds through basic patterns that never vary. Therefore, despite the fact that a story by Hemingway is always full of action, the action takes place inside a world that is fundamentally constant.

Moreover, its processes are purely secular in character: Hemingway's figures are often religious, but their religion is peripheral rather than central to their lives. In The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago is a primitive Cuban, at once religious and superstitious. Yet neither his religion nor his superstitious beliefs are relevant to his tragic experience with the great marlin; they do not create it or in any way control its meaning. The fisherman himself relies on his own resources and not on God (in whom, however, he devoutly believes, just as Jake Barnes, while calling himself a bad Catholic, is also a devout believer). If he succeeds in catching the fish, he "will say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys . . . and make a pilgrimage to the Virgen de Cobre," but these are rituals that come after the event and have no significant relationship with it.

In this universe, changeless and unaffected by divinity, everyone has his fixed role to play. Santiago's role is to pursue the great marlin. "That which I was born for," he reflects. The marlin's is to live in the deepest parts of the sea and escape the pursuit of man. The two of them struggle with each other to the death, but without animosity or hatred. On the contrary, the old man feels a deep affection and admiration for the fish. He admires its great strength as it pulls his skiff out to sea, and becomes conscious of its nobility as the two grow closer and closer together, in spirit as well as space, during their long ordeal on the Gulf Stream. In the final struggle between them, his hands bleeding, his body racked with fatigue and pain, the old man reflects in his exhaustion:

You are killing me, fish. . . . But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or a more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.

On the homeward journey, with the marlin tied to the boat and already under attack from sharks, Santiago establishes his final relationship with the fish, that great phenomenon of nature:

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him.

A sense of brotherhood and love, in a world in which everyone is killing or being killed, binds together the creatures of nature, establishes between them a unity and an emotion which transcends the destructive pattern in which they are caught. In the eternal round, each living thing, man and animal, acts out its destiny according to the drives of its species, and in the process becomes a part of the profound harmony of the natural universe. This harmony, taking into account the hard facts of pursuit, violence, and death but reaching a state of feeling beyond them, is a primary aspect of Hemingway's view of the world. Even the sharks have their place. They are largely scavengers, but the strongest and most powerful among them, the great Mako shark which makes its way out of the deep part of the sea, shares the grandeur of the marlin. Santiago kills him but feels identified with him as well:

But you enjoyed killing the dentuso, he thought. He lives on the live fish as you do. He is not a scavenger nor just a moving appetite as some sharks are. He is beautiful and noble and knows no fear of anything.

Nature not only has its own harmony and integration but also its degrees of value. In The Old Man and the Sea this is contained in the idea of depth. The deeper the sea the more valuable the creatures living there and the more intense the experience deriving from it. On the day that he catches the great marlin, the old man goes much farther out than the other fishermen and casts bait in much deeper water. The marlin itself is a denizen of the profounder depths. Even the Mako shark lives in the deep water and its speed, power, and directness are qualities associated with depth. There are, in fact, two orders in every species: the great marlins and the lesser, the great sharks and the smaller, bad-smelling, purely scavenger sharks who dwell in shallower water and attack with a sly indirectness in demeaning contrast with the bold approach of the Mako. There are also two kinds of men—as there have always been in Hemingway—the greater men and the lesser, heroes and ordinary humans.

Santiago is the clearest representation of the hero because he is the only major character in Hemingway who has not been permanently wounded or disillusioned. Romero, at the other end of the age scale, is the closest to him in this respect, but his disillusionment has already begun with his savage beating by Cohn and his desertion by Brett. Santiago's heroic side is suggested throughout. Once, in Casablanca, he defeated a huge Negro from Cienfuegos at the hand game and was referred to thereafter as El Campeón. Now in his old age, he is hero-worshipped by the boy, Manolin, who wants always to fish with him, or, when he cannot, at least to help him even with his most menial chores. At sea Santiago, sharing the Cuban craze for baseball, thinks frequently of Joe DiMaggio, the greatest ballplayer of his generation, and wonders whether DiMaggio, suffering from a bone spur in his heel, ever endured the pain to which the marlin is now subjecting him. At night, when he sleeps, he dreams of the lions he had seen, in his younger days, playing on the beaches of Africa. The constant association with the king of ballplayers and the king of beasts adds to the old man's heroic proportions.

To be a hero means to dare more than other men, to expose oneself to greater dangers, and therefore more greatly to risk the possibilities of defeat and death. On the eighty-fifth day after catching his last fish, Santiago rows far beyond the customary fishing grounds; as he drops his lines into water of unplumbed depth he sees the other fishermen, looking very small, strung out in a line far inland between himself and the shore. Because he is out so far, he catches the great fish. But because the fish is so powerful, it pulls his skiff even farther out—so far from shore that they cannot get back in time to prevent the marlin, once he is captured, from being chewed to pieces by the sharks.

"I shouldn't have gone out so far, fish," he said. "Neither for you nor for me. I'm sorry, fish."

The greatness of the experience and the inevitability of the loss are bound up together. Nature provides us with boundless opportunities for the great experience if we have it in us to respond. The experience carries with it its heavy tragic price, but no matter. It is worth it.

When Santiago at last returns with the marlin still lashed to the skiff but eaten away to the skeleton, he staggers uphill to his hut, groaning under the weight of the mast. He falls asleep exhausted and dreams of the African lions. The next morning the other fishermen gaze in awe at the size of the skeleton, measure it to see by how much it is record-breaking, while the reverential feeling of Manolin for the old fisherman is strongly reinforced. Everyone has somehow been uplifted by the experience. Even on the lowest, most ignorant level, it creates a sensation. The tourists in the last scene of the story mistake the marlin for a shark, but they, too, are struck by a sense of the extraordinary.

The world not only contains the possibilities of heroic adventure and emotion to which everyone, on whatever level, can respond, but it also has continuity. Santigo is very old and has not much time left. But he has been training Manolin to pick up where he leaves off. The boy has been removed by his parents from the old man's boat because of his bad luck, but this in no way diminishes the boy's eagerness to be like Santiago. The master-pupil relationship between them suggests that the heroic impulse is part of a traditional process handed down from one generation to another, that the world is a continuous skein of possibility and affirmation. This affirming note, subdued in Hemingway's earlier fiction, is sounded here with unambiguous and unrestricted clarity.

Heightening and intensifying these already magnified effects is the extraordinary beauty of nature, which continually astonishes us with its sensuous intoxications. The account of the sea coming to life at dawn is one of the most moving passages in the story, supplemented later at rhapsodic intervals by the drama of the great pursuit. This comes to its visual climax with the first great jump of the marlin when, for the first time, Santiago sees the gigantic size of his prey. Hemingway pays very close attention to the rippling and fluting of the water, to wind currents, the movements of turtles, fish, and birds, the rising of sun and stars. One is filled not simply with a sense of nature's vastness, but of her enchantment. This enchantment adds an aesthetic dimension to Santiago's adventure, an adventure whose heroism invests it with moral meaning and whose invocation of comradeship and identity supply it with emotional grandeur.

Within this universe, where there is no limit to the depth of experience, learning how to function is of the greatest importance. It is not enough to have the will to experience; one must also have technique. If will is what enables one to live, technique is what enables one to live successfully. Santiago is not a journeyman fisherman, but a superb craftsman who knows his business thoroughly and practices it with great skill. He keeps his lines straight where others allow them to drift with the current. "It is better to be lucky," he thinks. "But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready." To be ready, with all one's professional as well as psychological resources—that is the imperative. One reason that Hemingway's stories are so crammed with technical details about fishing, hunting, bullfighting, boxing, and war is his belief that professional technique is the quickest and surest way of getting into the sensory universe. Men should study the world into which they are born as the most serious of all subjects; they can live in it successfully only to the degree that they handle themselves with skill. Life is more than an endurance contest. It is also an art, with rules, rituals, and methods that, once learned, lead to mastery.

Furthermore, when the great trial comes, one must be alone. The pressure and the agony cannot be shared or sloughed off on others, but must be endured alone. Santiago, his hands chafed and bleeding from the pull of the marlin, his face cut, in a state of virtual prostration from his struggle, several times wishes the boy were with him to ease the strain, but it is essential that he go unaccompanied, that in the end he rely on his own resources and endure his trial unaided.

At the bottom of this necessity for solitariness, there is the incurable reliance on the individual which makes Hemingway the great contemporary inheritor of the romantic tradition. The stripping-down of existence to the struggle between individual man and the natural world, during the course of which he rises to the highest levels of himself, has an early expression in Keats's line, "Then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone. . . ." In modern fiction it is Melville and Conrad who give this theme its most significant shape. The mysterious, inscrutable, dramatic nature into which their heroes plunge themselves in search of self-realization supplies Hemingway with the scaffolding for The Old Man and the Sea. Like Captain Ahab, like Lord Jim, Santiago is pitched into the dangerous ocean; for only there, and with only himself to fall back on, can he work out his destiny and come to final terms with life.

The concept of the hero whose triumph consists of stretching his own powers to their absolute limits regardless of the physical results gives The Old Man and the Sea a special place among its author's works. This theme of unqualified affirmation, that had begun to be struck in Across the River and Into the Trees, is presented here much more convincingly. Colonel Cantwell, of the immediately preceding novel, is forever talking about his heroism; Santiago acts his out. Cantwell reminisces on past triumphs; the old fisherman demonstrates them before our eyes. The strain of boastful exhibitionism that sometimes caused Hemingway to be regarded as an adolescent Byron spoiled Cantwell's story. It is almost totally absent from Santiago's.

Here we enter a world that has become, to some degree, less frightening than in the early stories. The world which injured Jake Barnes so cruelly, pointlessly deprived Lieutenant Henry of his one love, destroyed Harry Morgan at the height of his powers, and stripped Robert Jordan of his political idealism has now begun to regain its balance. It is no longer the bleak trap within which man is doomed to struggle, suffer, and die as bravely as he can, but a meaningful, integrated structure that challenges our resources, holds forth rich emotional rewards for those who live in it daringly and boldly, though continuing to exact heavy payment from them in direct proportion to how far they reach out for experience. There is no less tragedy than before, but life has lost its bleakness and accidentality, and become purposive. It is this sense of purposiveness that makes its first appearance in Hemingway's work, and sets off The Old Man and the Sea from his other fiction.

After the First World War the traditional hero disappeared from Western literature. He was replaced in one form or another by Mr. K., the harassed victim of the haunting, nightmarish novels of Franz Kafka. Hemingway's protagonists, from Nick Adams on, were hemmed in like Mr. K. by a bewildering and menacing cosmos. The huge complex mushrooming of technology and urban society began to smother the individual's sense of identity and freedom of action. In his own life Hemingway tended to avoid the industrialized countries, including his own, and was drawn to the primitive places of Spain, Africa, and Cuba. There, the ancient struggle and harmony between man and nature still existed, and the heroic possibilities so attractive to Hemingway's temperament had freer play. In the drama of Santiago, a drama entirely outside the framework of modern society and its institutions, he was able to bring these possibilities to their full fruition, and rediscover, in however specialized a context, the hero lost in the twentieth century.

Thus The Old Man and the Sea is the culmination of Hemingway's long search for disengagement from the social world and total entry into the natural. This emerges more clearly than ever before as one of the major themes in his career both as writer and man. Jake and Bill are happy only in the remote countryside outside Burguete, away from the machinery of postwar Europe. It is when Lieutenant Henry signs his separate peace, deserts from the Italian army, and retires with his love to the high Swiss mountains far removed from the man-made butchery of the war that he enjoys his brief moment of unclouded bliss. The defeated writer in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," as he lies dying, laments his inability to free himself from the temptations of money, fashion, the life of sophisticated dilettantism, and thinks of his lost talent as resting unspoiled on the remote virginal snows cresting the summit of an African mountain (height on land is the moral equivalent in Hemingway to depth in the sea). Robert Jordan must first disengage himself from the political machinery of Spain before the act of sacrificing his life for his comrades can acquire its note of pure spiritual exaltation.

The movement away from society and its artifices is not motivated by the desire to escape but by the desire for liberation. Hemingway seeks to immerse himself totally in nature not to "evade his responsibilities" but to free his moral and emotional self. Since life in society is necessarily stunting and artificial, cowardice consists not of breaking out of it but of continuing in it. To be true to oneself makes a return to the lost world of nature imperative. And that lost world, as The Old Man and the Sea reveals, has its own responsibilities, disciplines, moralities, and all-embracing meaning quite the equivalent of anything present in society and of much greater value because it makes possible a total response to the demands upon the self. Santiago is the first of the major figures in Hemingway who is not an American, and who is altogether free of the entanglements of modern life. It is toward the creation of such a figure that Hemingway has been moving, however obscurely, from the beginning. His ability to get inside this type of character without the fatal self-consciousness that mars so much literary "primitivism" is a measure of how far he has succeeded, in imagination at least, in freeing himself from the familiar restraints of convention.

In this movement from the confinements of society to the challenges of nature, Hemingway is most closely linked to Conrad. Conrad thrust his Europeans into the pressures of the Malayan archipelago and darkest Africa because he was convinced that only when removed from the comforts and protective mechanisms of civilization could they be put to the test. In his one London novel, The Secret Agent, Conrad demonstrated that suffering and tragedy were as possible in Brixton and Camberwell as off the Java coast; heroism, however, was not, and The Secret Agent stands as his one major work that has no hero.

This embracing of nature has nothing of Rousseau in it; it is not a revulsion against the corruption and iniquities of urban life. It is, instead, a flight from safety and the atrophying of the spirit produced by safety. It is for the sake of the liberation of the human spirit rather than the purification of social institutions that Conrad and Hemingway play out their lonely dramas in the bosom of nature.

Because The Old Man and the Sea records this drama in its most successful form, it gives off in atmosphere and tone a buoyant sense of release that was new in Hemingway. The story may well have been less a capstone of Hemingway's extraordinary career than a fresh emotional point of departure for the work that, because of illness and death, he was never to complete.

Sheldon Norman Grebstein (essay date 1970)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3900

SOURCE: "Hemingway's Craft in The Old Man and the Sea," in The Fifties: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, edited by Warren French, Everett/Edwards, Inc., pp. 41-50.

[In the following essay, Grebstein analyzes Hemingway's craft in The Old Man and the Sea, commenting on the structure, symbolic patterns, language, and narrative technique in the novella.]

The Old Man and the Sea, published in 1952, was the last major work of fiction by Hemingway to appear in his lifetime. Although several years of creative effort remained to him before his death in 1961, the writing of those years is not likely to either enhance or materially alter his reputation—at least in the opinions of Carlos Baker and Philip Young, who have examined the writer's unpublished papers. If this is indeed the case, The Old Man and the Sea will probably solidify its position as the final boundary of Hemingway's career, just as In Our Time marks its beginning. The judgment of the Nobel Committee, which singled out The Old Man and the Sea for special praise in its award of the 1954 Literature prize to Hemingway, has proved to be unusually percipient.

Nor have critics neglected the work. Soon after its publication it became the subject for serious and generally sympathetic commentary, continuing to this moment. Some have hailed The Old Man and the Sea as Hemingway's affirmation and reconciliation of man and nature; others have interpreted it as Hemingway's reiteration of man's tragic or ironic defeat by insuperable forces. The story's allegorical dimensions have also been examined, especially its use of Christian symbolism and the parallels between Santiago's ordeal and Christ's, or that of a mythic quest-hero. An early and persistent reading holds that the novella poses a parable of Hemingway's own literary fate, with himself as the gallant fisherman and his career as the splendid marlin devoured by bloodthirsty shark-critics. In sum, The Old Man and the Sea would not seem to be a neglected work.

Nevertheless, while the story's themes, characters, and dominant symbols have been carefully examined, as in the recent study by Bickford Sylvester which also reviews the various critical interpretations (PMLA, 71:130-38, 1966), many of the work's vital elements of structure and some of its most effective techniques remain unnoticed. This despite the common agreement that Hemingway's narrative art has never been better than in The Old Man and the Sea. I am convinced that much of the hostility to Hemingway, seemingly more virulent and frequent with each passing year, and the oft-heard and influential view of him as a minor writer of narrow range and scanty achievement, derive from too much emphasis on his ideas, his world view, the "meaning" of his work. However important the Hemingway "Code" and the Hemingway "Hero" have been to our literary imagination, we are a little tired of hearing about them. Literature will owe more to his technique than to his vision of life; after him the writing of prose narrative was not the same. It is the craft, then, of The Old Man and the Sea that this essay proposes to treat.

One of the characteristic effects of Hemingway's good work is that of wholeness, completeness, symmetry. What has usually been attributed to the Hemingway Code, the sense of rigid control over painful or turbulent feelings, is as much an attribute of form—of a violent pattern of action contained within a strong but unobtrusive structure. This structure must never be ignored in the reading of a Hemingway narrative, yet, surprisingly, one finds relatively little attention to it.

First, the essential design of The Old Man and the Sea can be compared to that of the drama, for the narrative moves through three distinct phases of action which are symmetrically proportioned in relation both to one another and to the whole. In the first part, or act, Hemingway establishes the old man's relationship with the boy, Santiago's uniqueness and potentiality for tragic stature, the ethical values to be tested, and the voyage out to sea. This part occupies almost exactly one-fourth of the entire work. The second section, act two in the drama, is introduced by Santiago's twice-repeated "yes" and begins at the moment when the great marlin takes the fisherman's bait. It proceeds to describe the harrowing combat between man and fish, and concludes with Santiago's killing of the marlin. This section is virtually twice the length of the opening phase and occupies the middle half of the work. The concluding section, the dénouement, completes the symmetry for it is the same length as part one. It narrates the voyage back, the destruction of the marlin by sharks, and the old man's reconciliation with the boy. Thus the story comes full circle. This sequence of action, then, in its proportional arrangement, comprises the work's basic architecture. However, this is hardly its only structural principle. The large frame is reinforced by other, more intricate designs.

Among the essential symbolic patterns which support the structure of The Old Man and the Sea, as of other Hemingway narratives, is the movement from inside to outside, or, conversely, from outside to inside. This movement sometimes applies literally as the progression from indoors to out-of-doors (or the reverse), from nature to dwelling or dwelling to nature, as in "Indian Camp," 'Three-Day Blow," "An Alpine Idyll," and many others. In some instances the pattern has only two phases, in others three, with the action returning to the place or sphere of origin. The inside-outside pattern has many ramifications, of course, which break through the literal naming and which inherently convey deep emotional associations and values: in here—out there, home—abroad, familiar—strange, tame—wild, predictable—unpredictable, and so on.

Furthermore, the values which gather around each of these polarities are themselves ironically ambivalent, alternately desirable or repugnant, good or evil. For example, in "Indian Camp" the out-of-doors—especially the lake which Nick Adams crosses to and from the Indian settlement—represents the seeming peace, serenity, and infinity of untrammeled nature, which the naive boy contrasts with the dark hut where a woman has screamed in the agony of childbirth and a man has cut his throat. The symbolic possibilities of the contrast are manifold: Eden before and after the Fall, marriage and single life. Yet the placid lake which assures Nick of his immortality is but a mirror of his innocence. It may be immortal; he, of flesh, is not.

In The Old Man and the Sea the same pattern applies but in a slightly different form. Here the movement is from shore to sea to shore, and we have at once a credible imitation of life (is this not the way of fishermen?) and the archetypal associations which sea and shore inspire. Carlos Baker has rightly insisted that the simultaneous creation of a vivid surface reality and strong symbolic undercurrents is fundamental to Hemingway's method and among his greatest achievements. This is in part what Hemingway meant when he spoke of the "iceberg principle," a famous but not wholly understood phrase.

But these associations, as I have noted, are more complex than they may seem at first. Irony and symbolism, E. M. Halliday reminds us, are often inseparable in Hemingway. Shore means home, safety, comradeship; it is the locale for the story's portrayal of the love between Santiago and Manolin. It represents peace, rest, even perhaps an ultimate destiny, in two senses: first in the untranslatable but portentous image of lions playing on African beaches, second in the possibility that (as Bickford Sylvester argues) Santiago returns to die. The shore's negative or hostile function is emphasized when we recall that here Santiago lives in total poverty and is mocked by other fishermen, and that here, at the end, obtuse tourists mistake the marlin's skeleton for a shark's—the very monster which destroyed it. If the shore is thus the affirmative symbol of the closest human relationship Santiago has ever known, it also represents corrupt and confused standards of judgment.

Just as Hemingway establishes paradoxical values for the land, he bestows even more ironically ambiguous meanings upon the sea. As the vast arena for Santiago's struggle with the great marlin, it is that sphere in which man becomes most intensely alive, most severely tested, most heroic. The sea is beneficent, the source of peace and nourishment, and of inexpressible grandeur. But it is a trap, too, the element populated by deceptively beautiful yet poisonous creatures such as the Portuguese Man-of-War, and by the vicious sharks. The sea succors and exalts man even as it overwhelms and ruins him. This is what Santiago means when he says repeatedly in the book's concluding section that he has gone out "too far." The sea becomes, finally, the obective correlative for the abstractions we name Nature, Fate.

Thus the work's narrative pattern and frame, the land-sealand movement, embodies also the polarities of its meanings: the known against the unknown, the human against the infinite. Furthermore, Hemingway strengthens the principal narrative pattern by interweaving two other sub-patterns, which serve to reduplicate the three-part structure: together-alone-together, darkness-light-darkness.

In the together-alone-together design the narrative opens with its depiction of Santiago's intimate comradeship with the boy, takes him out to sea alone, then closes with the renewed and intensified love of the boy, who resolves henceforth to defy his natural father and always accompany his spiritual father. Whatever one's interpretation of the significance of Santiago's solitary trial against marlin and shark, affirmative, negative, or ironic, the final phase of this design seems to allow little ambiguity; from his aloneness on the sea Santiago is restored to human love on shore. We surmise, too, that other fishermen will no longer mock him for his bad luck. The secular prayer the old man utters recurrently during his exhausting contest, "I wish I had the boy," is fulfilled at the story's end. He will have the boy for as long as he lives, and the boy—as he did at the beginning—is keeping him alive, with food, admiration, and hope. Structure becomes parable; our children extend us.

The second related pattern, darkness-light-darkness, is clear enough in its literal or realistic appearance but contains subtle implications. That is, as fishermen do, Santiago sets out before dawn, captures his fish in daylight (though not of the same day), and returns to port at night. Because the quest itself begins and ends in darkness, the response elicited would seem to be tragic, with darkness functioning first as foreshadowing and then confirmation of failure, loss, defeat, or, at the extreme, the fisherman's death. In darkness also the sharks complete their savage work, as we associate darkness with bestiality and sin. Yet here is the paradox. That the marlin is first hooked and then killed in daylight, that the first shark attacks when the sun is still high, as in daylight Santiago begins to question the ethics of his actions, all suggest that slaughter and moral awareness occur simultaneously and that both are forms of illumination. Indeed, Santiago's reflections upon the joy, the pride, and the evil of killing, ideas stated in full consciousness (in broad daylight, as it were) rehearse a lifelong preoccupation of Hemingway's and perhaps his most profound and disturbing literary idea. The killing of the fish, another of Hemingway's deaths in the afternoon, and the old man's thoughts about it remind us of Hemingway's overt statement of that idea in the opening pages of the earlier book: that for him the most intense, the truest art, occurs in the presence and with the inspiration of violent death.

The narrative and symbolic pattern of light-darkness can be studied in further detail, for it serves in the story both as simple external frame and as internal imagery. As frame, the story begins and ends in daylight, from the late afternoon of the eighty-fourth day Santiago has gone unlucky to the afternoon three days later, when the tourists comment ignorantly while Santiago sleeps exhausted. More important, Hemingway uses a recurrent imagery of light and darkness. The sun on the sea hurts Santiago's eyes but it also warms him and helps unclench his crippled left hand. He dreams of white and gold beaches where the lions play. He is fed by white turtle eggs and gold and silver-sided fish. The moon and stars are his friends, and he associates the great fish with the celestial bodies. He knows he cannot be lost at sea because he will be guided by the glow of lights from shore—related, too, to the landsea symbolism. But silver is also the color of extinction, as the marlin changes from its regal and vibrant blue-purple of life to the pale hue of death: "the color of the silver backing of a mirror." The sea, in contrast, is always and only dark. In fact, the word assumes almost the significance of leitmotif. I count "dark" (or darkness) used thirty times in the story, usually in connection with sea or water, yet never obtrusively. It works as a subtle form of incremental repetition, underscoring the sea's inscrutability, its archetypal mystery, for example in Santiago's thought: "The dark water of the true gulf is the greatest healer that there is."

We must consider, finally, the techniques by which Hemingway portrays his hero, and here again there appears a kind of ambivalence. That is, Hemingway commends Santiago to our affection and admiration; at the same time, he carefully foreshadows the story's tragic or ironic outcome and demonstrates the protagonist's frailties as a man. Hemingway's method is dual: first, he establishes the old man's attributes through a series of contrasts and associations which convey both strength and weakness, innocence and guilt; second, the writer makes his hero intimately familiar to us by his skillful use of a particular narrative perspective.

It was noted earlier in this essay that one of the important functions of the story's opening section is to elevate the fisherman to heroic stature. The most obvious means is direct statement, and three such assertions occur in the work's early pages. Hemingway tells us that Santiago's eyes remain "cheerful and undefeated;" the hero says of himself, "I am a strange old man;" the boy utters the highest tribute: "There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you." These statements convince us, despite their honorific content, because they are balanced against Santiago's age, scarred hands, tattered shirt, and simple humility of speech. Even more persuasive and revealing, however, are the characteristics suggested by the difference or contrast between the old man (and his relationship with the boy) and other men.

Santiago is unlucky; others, such as the boy's present master, are lucky. The boy's father "hasn't much faith;" the boy and the old man do. The boy's present master has poor vision, does not allow the boy to help him carry the boat's equipment, and fishes close to shore. The old man has keen eyes, welcomes the boy's help, and goes far out. Other men speak of the sea as neutral or enemy; Santiago feels the same kinship with it one has with a woman. The old man drinks shark liver oil for its healthful properties; other men hate it. The old man talks to himself for company; others have radios. Santiago fishes correctly and precisely; other men tend their lines carelessly. He thus becomes a kind of natural aristocrat of fishing, as his idol DiMaggio is a true prince of baseball. Even the old man's white lies to the boy contribute to his nobility, for he wishes no pity or charity; and the very poverty of his shack enhances the nobility of his character and the magnificence of his dreams.

Yet it must be shown that Santiago is a flawed mortal, one of the race of Cain, born to kill his brothers and to suffer. Hemingway reminds us of the hero's human imperfection by emphasizing the theme of treachery, betrayal, deception, from the start. It begins innocently enough with the old man's mention of his "tricks" as a compensation for his waning physical strength. Although this means simply his craft, his skill and intelligence as a fisherman and man's principal claim to superiority over other animals, the word itself has a sinister and negative connotation which Hemingway deliberately plays against its surface sense. The same word is repeated a few pages later, and here Hemingway establishes as the corollary for man's tricks the cruelty and unpredictability of the sea, nature, and the unknown agency ("they") which makes some creatures "too delicately" for survival. From this point on in the story recurrent emphasis is given to deception, betrayal, and treachery, especially man's treachery. It was "treachery" to pursue the great marlin in the deep water beyond the usual range of fishermen, as it is "unjust" to kill him. Santiago's left hand behaves traitorously throughout much of the combat with the fish. Though men hunt fish for food, Santiago concludes that they are unworthy of their prey. And once the old man has conquered the fish, the mode of conquest becomes a cause for shame. "I am only better than him through trickery and he meant me no harm," Santiago thinks as he begins the voyage home with his dead fish-brother. The connection between trick and treachery, between intelligence and sin, is now unmistakable.

In consequence, the return to shore can be compared to Santiago's penance for his crime, though full expiation is not possible because the fish is dead. The sharks, evil in themselves, assume the ironic function of moral agents: they inflict the necessary punishment. Their appearance comes sufficiently as a suprise to intensify the story's action, yet it has been foreshadowed. Subconsciously we have been waiting for them. In the novella's opening pages sharks are associated with vile smells; they are mentioned again, twice, on the voyage out, and once more after Santiago has hooked the marlin. Both their participation in the action and their moral function are specifically given when, late in the second day of the combat, Santiago says, "If sharks come, God pity him and me." And, finally, their appearance produces in him the same response as one suffering the tortures of crucifixion: in answer to the boy's question at the story's close, "How much did you suffer?" Santiago answers, "Plenty."

At last, regardless of profound symbolism and fascinating ambiguities, we must know the old man; we must share in his experience. The chief method by which Hemingway joins us to him—even more, by which we enter into him—is the masterly use of that narrative mode called "selective omniscience." In this mode, properly employed, the artist retains the objectivity and freedom of the omniscient, third-person, outside narrator, but takes advantage of the immediate and intimate responses—the "I am there" sense—of the first-person, inside narrator. The writer achieves this through careful selectivity and consistent focus upon one (or a few) of his characters, subtly integrating his voice and vision with theirs. Although Hemingway did not invent this mode, he refined it early in his career and used it with peculiar skill. Furthermore, he is able to avoid detection in his shifts from third-person to first-person narration, or, to say it another way, avoid discordance in his various narrative voices, by using essentially the same linguistic structures, the same level of language and diction, that his characters would naturally employ. Interior monologue thus becomes almost indistinguishable from outside narration. It is a technique that Scott Fitzgerald, for all his superb talent, never wholly mastered. Although a complete study of Hemingway's use of this technique would require more space than available here, a brief explanation is essential.

With a single exception (when we dip quickly into the mind of the boy), the third-person mode is scrupulously maintained during the book's first twenty pages which treat events on shore. We know the contents of Santiago's thoughts by Hemingway's statement of them but we do not share in them directly. However, once Santiago is alone and rows out to sea we enter into his mind with increasing frequency, sometimes moving from outside to inside with the traditional Hemingway cues, "he thought," "he said," sometimes gliding over directly from third person to first person. In other words, we get to know Santiago better when we have him alone. The initial instance of Santiago's voiced thought is indicated by quotation marks; after that the author uses no typographical markers except for what is actually spoken aloud. Thus to the reader third-person and first-person narration seem visually the same, as they do aurally. Likewise, the seams of the narrative, the transitions in voice, are kept from intruding upon the reader's attention. For example, here is a typical passage:

The fish moved steadily and they travelled slowly on the calm water. The other baits were still in the water but there was nothing to be done.

"I wish I had the boy," the old man said aloud. "I'm being towed by a fish and I'm the towing bitt. I could make the line fast. But then he could break it. I must hold him all I can and give him line when he must have it. Thank God he is travelling and not going down."

What I will do if he decides to go down, I don't know. What I'll do if he sounds and dies I don't know. But I'll do something. There are plenty of things I can do.

He held the line against his back and watched it slant in the water and the skiff moving steadily to the northwest.

This will kill him, the old man thought. He can't do this forever. But four hours later the fish was still swimming steadily out to sea, towing the skiff, and the old man was still braced solidly with the line across his back.

Surely the passage appears simple enough and wholly characteristic of Hemingway, yet this seemingly transparent and artless prose employs, in sequence, four distinct narrative modes. It begins with third-person narration, but with the writer occupying the same point in time, space, and outlook as his character. It then shifts to direct utterance, set off by conventional punctuation and introduced by a conventional phrase. Next, however, there is a passage of interior monologue without any cues, followed immediately by another brief passage of outside narrative, followed in turn by a passage which integrates cued interior monologue and third-person narration.

Even in this kind of purely rational analysis of narrative technique, which allows nothing for the momentum of previous action, for the reader's already initiated identification with the protagonist, or for the rhythms of the language (note the repetitions in the passage, and the use of parallelism and balance in the sentence constructions), Hemingway's craft impresses us as remarkably right, totally congruent to its subject. It has been said before but it cannot be said too often: no one has written better about such things than Hemingway.

What is true of The Old Man and the Sea is true at large. Who does not know Hemingway's writing? Yet who can profess to understand exactly how it is made, or unriddle the secrets of its special magic? We want to know more, for at its best, as in The Old Man and the Sea, it partakes of the miracle of enduring art: that it can never be exhausted by critic or reader, but that it renews itself and its audience perpetually.

John Bowen Hamilton (essay date 1972)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 6758

SOURCE: "Hemingway and the Christian Paradox," in Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature, Vol. XXIV, No. 3, Spring, 1972, pp. 141-54.

[In the following essay, Hamilton examines the central, unifying symbols in The Old Man and the Sea—in particular the image of the fish, a Christian symboland arguesthat at the heart of the novella is the Christian paradox of man's search for God and God's simultaneous search for man.]

Little of the attention given to The Old Man and the Sea has given adequate consideration to one feature: the great fish as the central, organic, symbolic center of the novel, from which hitherto unseen meanings radiate. The idea of the fish as an organic symbol has validity for Hemingway not only historically but intellectually, his anti-intellectual pose to the contrary notwithstanding. This interpretation of the novel is supported by Hemingway's religious stance both in statement and practice, and is consistent with his established artistic method and his order of apprehension of experience as revealed in his fiction: experience first, and second, understanding.

This reading, with the fish as the organic, symbolic center, reveals the meaning of the novel in several important ways. First, one can see implicit in the novel an ironic paradox in both Hemingway's and Christian thought: the inseprability of suffering and Grace. The implicit, never explicit, statement of that paradox is characteristic of Hemingway's established symbolic usage. Second, a significant development in Hemingway's ethical thought is revealed since this reading provides an answer to the confrontation with nada, an intermittent preoccupation with Hemingway, artistically epitomized by "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." Finally, this reading of the novel is an oblique, ironic commentary on Hemingway the man: he found in the art of fiction what was denied him in life, the paradox being that his greatest art came from transmuting experience into fiction; yet in the physical part of his experience, and perhaps in the psychic as well, lay one major factor that was to contribute substantially to his death. Yet, perhaps after all, he has been like Santiago, only defeated and not destroyed.

No one was fooled, least of all Hemingway himself, by his coy ambiguity about symbols, as he expressed it in the 1958 interview with George Plimpton, or in the self-attributed statement to an old Cuban fisherman that symbolism was "a new trick of the intellectuals"; furthermore, he had stated his position earlier, and explicitly, in his famous iceberg metaphor in Death in the Afternoon.

The many perceptive essays resulting from The Old Man and the Sea are understandably often preoccupied with Santiago, as either character, symbol, or both; he is, after all, the Old Man. Santiago, however, again to state the obvious, is preoccupied also—with the great fish. The novel is replete with allusions to the fish, some considerably less than seven-eighths submerged which, in the light of Hemingway's life and method, are as unmistakeable as many readers have found the Christ-parallels with Santiago to be.

Hemingway is a singularly appropriate writer to consider in terms of a usable past, which made available to him the traditional rituals and myths of Christianity. Included in that tradition is the well-documented appearance of fish carvings and drawings, as distant in time as the early Christian catacombs, and as recent as panels, drawings, bas reliefs and other forms in many modern churches, Catholic and Protestant, all used as Christ-symbols. It is uncertain which came first, the fish symbol or the acronym, Ichthus (usually written with the Greek letters iota chi theta upsilon sigma, spelled in English Ichthus and translated "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior"); the editors of the New Catholic Encyclopedia say that it cannot be determined; it is unnecessary to do so. However, it is inconceivable for one as widely read and travelled in fishing and Christian circles as was Hemingway (a self-confessed "very dumb Catholic" in his own words, given to artistic understatement and keeping most of his symbol "under water") not to have become familiar with the fish as a God-Man symbol. Nor is it conceivable that a "dumb Catholic" given to turning experience into fiction, and whose memory was extraordinarily retentive and disciplined when he wished it to be, would fail to remember major and often repeated detail from the Mass of his church, from friends, Protestant and Catholic, and from conversation with illiterates and intellectuals.

Another of Hemingway's calculated ambiguities besides his anti-intellectualism was one which at times became almost an ambivalence: his religious stance. It is unnecessary to document whether Hemingway decided to "run as a Catholic." The important features of the factual record Baker has established in the new biography, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, are clear. Baptized in the First Congregational Church in Oak Park in 1899, he married his first wife, Hadley, a "non-believer," in a country church in 1921; his second wife, Pauline, in a Catholic service in the Paris Church of Passy; marriages three and four were civil ceremonies in 1940 and 1946. No good reason exists to doubt seriously Hemingway's own statement to his sister Sunny of his conversion to Catholicism at or about the time of his marriage to Pauline—regardless of either his self-applied label of "dumb Catholic" with more faith than knowledge or intellect, or his playing down of personal religious formalism because he did not wish to be known as a Catholic writer, primarily, it seems, for artistic reasons. After a period of religious disillusionment following the Spanish Civil War, he summarized, in 1945, his religious position as going from a fear-ridden devotion in 1918 to a religion of "humanism," much later, founded on the basis of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Later, in 1955, he reasserted his Catholicism, stated he could still go to Mass, though he had become "hardened" to the point of being unable to pray for himself. Finally, he told another Catholic convert, Gary Cooper, a hunting and fishing companion, that he, like Cooper had become a convert to Catholicism and that he still "believed in belief." Thus the usable past.

The usable past is in The Old Man and the Sea, not only in the basic story originally published in Esquire in April, 1936, but combined with the actual references in the novel is the foundation for the great fish as the central, organic, symbolic center. In the beginning of the novel, however, references seem to be merely to "a big fish," or merely barely apt metaphors, like the description of the scars on Santiago's hands as being ". . . as old as erosions in a fishless desert." One might even ask why such a metaphor at all since in realistic terms fish do not occur, except as fossil forms, in deserts anyway. Why such a poor or obscure metaphor? After Santiago refers to himself as "a strange old man," Manolo asks if Santiago is strong enough for a truly big fish; Santiago replies, "I think so. And there are many tricks." Later as they talk about the lottery, Manolo, leaving, gently reminds Santiago, "Keep warm old man. Remember we are in September." Santiago answers, "The month when the great fish come. Anyone can be a fisherman in May." No reason is present to speculate that Hemingway may have remembered that the Feast of James the Younger, cousin to Jesus, falls in May; September is also simply a good month for fishing in those waters. Later at sea on the first day out, as the sun rises higher, Santiago watches the man-of-war bird at his aerial tracking and the flying fish fleeing the dolphin, he says, "My big fish must be somewhere." Still watching and waiting, he sees other sea life around him, the turtles, the Portuguese man-of-war, and the always wheeling and circling sea birds; but, his first catch, a ten-pound tuna, is only for bait. He turns his mind resolutely away from the beloved baseball; it is a distraction. "Now is the time to think of only one thing. That which I was born for." Soon, he feels it a hundreds fathoms down tugging at the baited hook. Shortly, the great fish begins to pull man and boat.

It is here that the first hint appears which could indicate a reversal of Mark Schorer's statement, in his essay on Santiago, "With Grace Under Pressure," that the novel is a parable of a man catching a fish. Here in conjunction with other, later details, the story begins to become a subtle parable of a fish catching a man, the apotheosis of fishers of men—leading to the great paradox. "'I wish I had the boy," the old man said aloud. 'I'm being towed by a fish and I'm the towing bin.'" Four hours later, Santiago reflects, '"It was noon when I hooked him,' he said. 'And I have never seen him.'" "I wish I could see him only once to know what I have against me."

As the novel continues, following the first contact with the great fish, the identification of fish and symbol becomes clearer. However, it would be less than just to the novel to treat it as anything but a seamless fabric, of the kind Hemingway labored so hard to produce. Not just the remarks noted above, and those that follow, isolated from the context, but the configuration established by all of them is what reveals the meaning of the great fish, the Ichthus. A major aspect of Christian doctrine is the idea that (before the term "Christian" existed) it was God who sought man, through the Incarnation. Francis Thompson had expressed the idea in the Nineteenth Century in quite another kind of metaphor as "the Hound of Heaven.") In this connection to recall the quotation just cited about Santiago's memory of the time the fish was hooked, noon is the traditional though not consistently the scriptural hour of crucifixion. One must also remember what Joseph Waldmeir pointed out in a previous interpretation, "Confiteor Hominem : Ernest Hemingway's Religion of Man," that throughout the novel a symbolic shift is continually in progress. Indeed, to force a one-for-one correspondence on what Waldmeir calls a religious allegory would be to attempt what was abhorrent to Hemingway, and what was once passed off as an ill-concealed joke about the sharks and the critics. Here, while symbols shift from Christ-figure to old fisherman, from marlin to Ichthus, the identification of the fish and the emergence of the paradox of the inseparability of suffering and Grace proceed together. The continuing text of The Old Man and the Sea bears evidence, moreover, that Hemingway was doing what he said he did about art in the interview with George Plimpton. Asked by the interviewer, ". . . as a creative writer what do you think is the function of your art? Why a representation of fact, rather than fact?" Hemingway replied, "From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of."

F. I. Carpenter in his chapter on Hemingway in American Literature and the Dream described the process in these terms:

A brief, immediate experience, observed realistically, is described first as it occurred "in our time"; the protagonist is intensely moved, but remains confused, so that the meaning of it all seems nothing, or "nada." But this immediate experience recalls individual memories of other, similar experiences, or historic memories of parallel experiences in the history of other nations, or mystical, "racial" memories. And these "mediate" experiences are suggested by "flashbacks," or by conversations, or by the suggestion of recurrent myth or ritual patterns. And the fragmentary remembrances of similar experiences, by relating the individual to other people, places and times, suggest new meanings and forms. Finally, this new awareness of the patterns and meanings implicit in the immediate, individual experience intensifies it, and gives it a new "dimension" not apparent at the time it actually happened.

This new "dimension" (the word was suggested by Hemingway in The Green Hills of Africa) is Carpenter's description of what Hemingway called "the fifth dimension that can be gotten" in prose.

One recurrent myth or ritual pattern available to Hemingway was in his usable religious past. Scripture, Catholic or Protestant, is filled with the idea that while man forever seeks, but never this side of mortality finds, his God, it is God who seeks man and finds him through the Incarnation. Inexplicable though the heart of the Christian religious experience of the Incarnation is, one aspect of it seems clear: in man's search for religious experience, the crucial discovery he makes is this: through the God-Man (symbolized here by the Ichthus) God has involved himself with man, and thus man sees that if he suffers, so too does God suffer, and understands man's suffering; thus, the paradox emerges, that suffering and Grace are inextricable. So it is that Santiago's isolated individualism and human pride as a fisherman drive him beyond his limits, too far out, to rediscover the oldest human—and Christian—values: love, humility, courage, self-respect, compassion, pity, and endurance; so it was with Sophocles, Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Clemens, Faulkner—and Hemingway, as Malcom Cowley observed many years ago in his introduction to The Portable Hemingway.

To return to the novel and the central, organic symbol, the great fish, as the light of the first day darkens, as Santiago wishes for the boy, he sees the friendly porpoises. "They are our brothers like the flying fish." Then Santiago ". . . began to pity the great fish he had hooked. He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought."

A few moments later when Santiago again wishes for Manolo while he feels the strength of the great fish through the line, Hemingway has Santiago speak a curious, puzzling sentence, followed by others which depend on the first one for the meaning of those that follow. The first sentence is, "When once, through my treachery, it had been necessary to him to make a choice, the old man thought." He continues, "His choice had been to stay in the deep dark water far out beyond all snares and traps and treacheries. My choice was to go there to find him beyond all people. Beyond all people in the world. Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either one of us."

I suggest that the whole passage, and especially Santiago's sentence fragment, is clear if one supposes that Hemingway has simply and wisely —Santiago simply, because he is uncomfortable thinking clearly on such matters—Hemingway has simply and wisely omitted one logical main clause before the subordinate fragment; the clause he omitted might have been something like this: "(This is when the religious experience began) When once, through my treachery, it had been necessary to him to make a choice." Other passages below support this idea. In Christian thought there were two choices; the first was God's to make man free to accept or reject his God's command. In turn, man, anthropos, chose to reject, to seize divine knowledge of good and evil for himself. The second choice, again God's in response to man's treachery, was to involve himself with man in suffering and death through the Incarnation, to seek out man who had once rejected him. A few moments later Santiago seems to anticipate the inevitable end of the experience: "'Fish,' he said softly, aloud, 'I'll stay with you until I am dead.'" Again foreshadowing the tragic end to man's search for his God via the God-Man, Santiago says, "Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends."

Soon, however, he realizes the great fish suffers too, that he feels it: "'You're feeling it now, fish,' he said. 'And so, God knows, am I.'" Yet, something strange bothers Santiago as he contemplates the mysterious calm of the fish he has hooked: "But he seems calm, he thought, and following his plan. But what is his plan, he thought. And what is mine? Mine I must improvise to his because of his great size. If he will jump I can kill him. But he stays down forever. Then I will stay down with him forever."

If the great fish will only make himself visible, tangible, within the limits of human vision, Santiago can conquer him. But it is not just yet to be so. But when it happens Hemingway writes a passage unusually full of metaphor for a writer whose style is alleged to be so bare and unadorned. Santiago is to remember this moment, later, with a particular emphasis. Now, though, as the fish jumps the first time, Hemingway writes,

The line rose slowly and steadily and then the surface of the ocean bulged ahead of the boat and the fish came out. He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides. He was bright in the sun and his head and back were dark purple and in the sun the stripes on his sides showed wide and a light lavender. His sword was as long as a baseball bat and tapered like a rapier and he rose his full length from the water and then re-entered it, smoothly, like a diver and the old man saw the great scythe-blade of his tail go under and the line commenced to race out.

Now that Santiago has at last seen the great fish, his anxiety, instead of being relieved, grows. Many commentators have noted Santiago's "lazy religiosity" expressed through the promise to say ten Our Fathers and Hail Marys and to make a pilgrimage, later. This is consistent with the shifting symbols; it is Santiago as man, anthropos, and Santiago as the Cuban fisherman, fishing for Ichthus, and for marlin, who prays, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen." Then he adds, "Blessed Virgin, pray for the death of this fish. Wonderful though he is."

Wonderful though the fish is, Santiago knows what he himself must do.

"I'll kill him though," he said. "In all his greatness and his glory."

Although it is unjust, he thought. But I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures.

It is just after sunset of the first day that Santiago begins to realize his true relationship to the fish. "The fish is my friend too,' he said aloud. 'I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him.'" Killing the fish, the tangible, shinging great fish, with the purple stripes on his sides is a possible thing; killing is at least within the pitifully human limits of human ability and comprehension. Thus Santiago adds, "I am glad we do not have to kill the stars." A moment later Santiago reflects, "How many people will he feed, he thought. But are they worthy to eat him? No, of course not. There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behaviour and his great dignity." Santiago's thoughts are at least suggestive of parts of the familiar Protestant Prayer of Humble Access following the consecration: "We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat. . . and drink . . . that our sinful bodies may be made clean . . . and our souls washed. . . ." (The Oxford American Prayer Book [N.Y., 1950], Commentary by Massey H. Shepherd, Jr.). This is the passage used in the Protestant Episcopal service, the substance of which is fairly familiar to most other Protestant denominations. This prayer does not appear in the Catholic Missal, but a similar passage does. The Priest-Celebrant says, "Let not the sharing of your body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I [who] am unworthy make bold to receive, become my judgment and condemnation. But through your goodness may it be my safeguard and a healing remedy both of soul and body: . . ." (The New Saint Andrew Bible Missal. Prepared by a Missal Commission of Saint Andrew's Abbey [New York: Benziger Bros., 1957]). It is also conceivable that submerged beneath Santiago's question "How many people will he feed" was the memory in Hemingway's mind of a homily delivered during the Mass, on the parable of the loaves and the fishes.

Santiago is beginning to understand the experience now, at his own level of understanding, because he has felt it, in his back, in his treacherous left hand, in his aching body, in his hunger, his thirst, and his loneliness. Still, persist he must, and now states the tragic and inexplicable paradox that he must kill his brother, the great fish, that man must kill his God: "I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers."

By the third day the great fish has begun to circle and the final struggle is to come. Santiago is afraid that his prey will escape him, that the fish will throw the hook. As the fish strikes the wire leader, Santiago thinks of his own pain, and the pain of the fish. "I must hold his pain where it is, he thought. Mine does not matter. I can control mine. But his pain could drive him mad." The words suggest perhaps dimly the great human cry, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?" The great unbearable pain of the final agony of death.

When the fish is harpooned, Santiago goes for the heart, not the head. As the fish is circling, ever more slowly, the identification of man and fish, anthropos and Ichthus, is reinforced as Santiago says, "'Fish,' the old man said. 'Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me too?'" When the climactic harpooning comes, Hemingway writes, "The old man dropped the line and put his foot on it and lifted the harpoon as high as he could and drove it down with all his strength, and more strength he had just summoned, into the fish's side just behind the great chest fin that rose high in the air to the altitude of the man's chest. He felt the iron go in and he leaned on it and drove it furher and then pushed all his weight after it." The moment of death is vivid. "Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff." The first part of the passage suggests in the movement of the sentences and concentration on physical sensation the coup de grace at the crucifixion, with the iron spear driven into the side below the chest; the French phrase expresses, quite incidentally, a bitterly ironic play on the term grace. The second part, the vision Santiago sees of the final agonized leap of the fish, suggests something like the transfiguration (preceding the crucifixion in time) with the fish hanging, almost suspended, in the air above the old man's head.

The entire passage illustrates clearly the shifting in symbolic statement, this one a shift in time rather than identity. Both paragraphs, however, reinforce, by what they suggest, the identity of the symbols, man and fish, killer and killed, man and God-Man, anthropos and Ichthus.

Now, as Santiago sees the fish lying dead in the water, he notes again the color, the strange appearance. "The fish had turned silver from his original purple and silver, and the stripes showed the same pale violet colour as his tail. They were wider than a man's hand with his fingers spread and the fish's eye looked as detached as the mirrors in a periscope or as a saint in a procession." Somehow, Santiago cannot let go of the vision of the great leap of the great fish into his sight; on the disastrous return trip, he recalls the moment when the sudden, flashing leap from the water, the sudden vision, had come: "At one time when he was feeling so badly toward the end, he had thought perhaps it was a dream. Then when he had seen the fish come out of the water and hang motionless in the sky before he fell, he was sure there was some great strangeness and he could not believe it. Then he could not see well, although now he saw as well as ever." Now come the sharks. "The shark was not an accident. He had come up from down deep in the water as the dark cloud of blood had settled and dispersed in the mile deep sea." The description of the shark is as vivid as that of the great fish. Santiago kills the first one and hope returns. He reflects that it is silly not to hope. "I am a man," he says, "but not unarmed."

At this crucial point, Santiago begins the long colloquy with himself on the meaning of what he has done. It is a passage that illustrates more clearly than the preceding examples what I have referred to as Hemingway's order of apprehension, experience first, then understanding. In its entirety it amounts to a statement of the cruel paradox of love and killing and life and death and sin, inextricably intermingled ever since the God-Man, the Ichthus, was killed. As the conversation with himself proceeds, Santiago reminds himself that what he has done is a sin. He tries to dismiss the deadly abstraction. Enough problems exist without taking up sin. "Do not think about sin," he thought. "There are enough problems now without sin. Also I have no understanding of it." But the idea persists; DiMaggio and the radio cannot drive it out of his consciousness: ". . . he thought much and he kept on thinking about sin. You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, is it not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

'You think too much, old man,' he said aloud."

The ravenous, destroying sharks continue their bloody work. Not wanting to see, nevertheless he looks again at what was his great fish. Now, understanding the experience, he says the first time what he is to say twice more, "'I shouldn't have gone out so far, fish,' he said. 'Neither for you nor for me. I'm sorry, fish.'" It was bad, for man and fish, for anthropos and lchthus, to have gone out so far—or to echo what seems to me to be Baker's clear implication. to try to reconcile the temporal and the eternal. God must, through the God-Man, die in "going so far out" to seek the man he has given free choice of acceptance or rejection; man, as mortal, must die in going too far out, beyond all people, to seek out his God. Both must suffer a death.

The second time Santiago considers the idea of "going out too far," the metaphysical dilemma seems too much for him. "'Half fish,' he said. 'Fish that you were. I am sorry that I went too far out. I ruined us both. But we have killed many sharks, you and I, and ruined many others. How many did you ever kill, old fish? You do not have that spear on your head for nothing.'" Finally, on the third day early in the evening with the phosphorescence shining in the sea and the strange coppery sweet taste in his mouth, Santiago reflects once more, "And what beat you, he thought. 'Nothing,' he said aloud. 'I went out too far.'"

The story proceeds to the end at the everyday level of fisherman and interdependence, as Clinton Burhans has suggested, of Santiago and Manolo, and as it does so, the experience is practically completed. So, almost, is the understanding. Santiago sees that the lights on the Terrace are out; everyone is in bed. He has now only to unstep the mast, stumble and climb, bone weary, up the hill and go to sleep. Then, wakened once he tells Manolo he knows how to care for his wounded hands, but adds, "In the night I spat something strange and felt something in my chest was broken." Now he goes back to sleep and dreams, not of the fish or the sea or the sharks or the ever circling birds, but of his boyhood memory of the lions playing on the beach.

The experience is nearly complete. But not quite. At his best, Hemingway does not waste his endings. The last episode with the party of tourists at the dockside cafe is the final and ironic statement of the inexplicable mystery of the experience. The woman tourist seeing the skeleton and the great tail at the side of Santiago's boat in the water asks an attending waiter, "What's that?" Misunderstanding her question the waiter tells her that a shark had done the damage to Santiago's catch. Now the misunderstanding is misunderstood, the irony is complete. The woman's reply is that of the outsider to the experience, the uninvolved. It is also an extraordinarily simple yet subtle statement, consistently Hemingway, that no one without the experience can understand its full meaning.

She says, "'I didn't know sharks had such handsome, beautifully formed tails.' 'I didn't either,' her male companion said." Meanwhile Santiago lies in cruciform sleep with manolo sitting quietly by and watching over him; Manolo, Emmanuel; it is he who has been sent to watch over him. He, watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps.

The great symbols, man and fish, man and God-Man, have been joined. They are bound together, each seeking the other, each seeming to kill the other each suffering the other's suffering in a dialog of life and death, of man and God, a dialog on the tragic inevitability of involvement, on man's search for his God while God, eagerly, lovingly, and at least in Christian eyes redemptively, seeks out man—this is the Christian paradox.

What Wilbur T. Urban in Language and Reality has called the symbolic consciousness has been at work. It recognizes, says Urban, that the symbol taken literally in fiction, but taken another way (the symbolic way) has truth; the symbolic consciousness is always dual—operating to use symbols both as truth and as fiction. Bern Oldsey in his "The Snows of Ernest Hemingway" has succinctly summarized the method here when he says that Hemingway's symbols are "situationaly determined and ironically controlled."

Perhaps none but Hemingway himself could, or did, settle the personal religious question of whether he decided, once, "to run as a Christian"; but one question of literary art Hemingway answered and put there, truly, as he would say, for us to see: whatever the answer to religious speculations, however much of God is or is not in his works, however consistent his religiosity was or was not, he was a knowledgeable, consciously thinking artist and craftsman above all. As he wrote in Death in the Afternoon, "If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water." In The Old Man and the Sea Hemingway has through artistic use of a symbol, the great fish, relevant at all levels, given unity to the work as a whole, and great dignity and enriched meaning to all aspects of the novel. This reading gives a new, fresh insight into this novel which has as much relevance for modern man, caught in his own existential trap, as Oedipus did for Sophocles's audience, struggling in his way out of his spiritual dilemma. Hemingway joined the company of the thought-divers, as Emerson called them, deep diving men who find in art the means to tell other men where they have been.

Ample critical opinion and biographical evidence exist as to where Hemingway had been: in battle and in bed; in love, and out; in drinking bouts with friends and in lonely places by himself. Praise and understanding of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is essentially unanimous, whether from a writer with a particular thesis, such as John Killinger in Hemingway and the Dead Gods, or from a relatively dispassionate biographer like Baker, who says that short story ". . . was autobiographical only in the sense that it offered a brief look into the underside of Ernest's spiritual world, the nightmare of nothingness by which he was still [in 1933] haunted." If The Old Man and the Sea is read in the sense I have proposed, both Santiago as character and the novel as a whole are circumstantial but ethically and artistically satisfying evidence of Hemingway's discovery of an answer to the same spectre which haunted Sartre and Unamuno, and which Hemingway so superbly confronted in artistic form in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place."

The old waiter, without a wife, one of Hemingway's sleepless men, knows because he has felt it, the loneliness of the old man who comes each night, seeking respite from darkness and despair through drink in a clean, well-lighted place, with only the shadows of the leaves of the trees against the wall outside to remind him of the shadows in his soul; with brandy as an anodyne against the memory of suicide, the final despair, the unforgiveable sin, from which "plenty of money" will not buy absolution. The old waiter's parody of the Lord's Prayer is the appropriate vehicle to express the despair which joins him to the old man; his parody substitutes existential despair, nada — nothingness—for every meaningful concept; it expresses the terror of the underside of the spiritual world of both the old waiter and the old man, who must keep seeking clean, well-lighted places until the darkness is dispelled by day, and they can sleep.

The story has had so much critical attention and been so widely reprinted that one need only point out what has not received attention in this context, the relevant concepts which the old waiter's parody of the Lord's Prayer eliminates by substituting nada for them. As found in the Missal and in the Protestant Bible, and without the final clause "for thine is the kingdom and glory forever," which is non-scriptural, those concepts, perhaps over-simplified, are these:

Our Father who are in heaven the Fatherhood of God
Hallowed be Thy name the sacred nature of the implied man-God relationship
Thy kingdom come implicit faith in a divinely ordained order
Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven acceptance of divine will, the omnipresence of God, and the existence of a hereafter
Give us this day our daily bread man's physical dependence on God's physical order of life-sustenance
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors forgiveness by God of man for wrong-doing, and a reciprocal forgiveness by man of man for wrongdoing
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil Existence of a choice between good and evil, and thus necessarily existence of both good and evil to choose between
(The prayer being spoken by Jesus implies in context the humanity and the divinity of Jesus)

If one contemplates the obliteration of these concepts, the substitution of nada for them, then the human and spiritual horror of the old waiter's parody, and the terror of the old man who sought out a clean (good?), well-lighted place, is present in all its deadly meaning. Without these concepts, what is left—physically, spiritually, theologically—but annihilation, nada?

On the other hand, if one accepts the multiple meanings of The Old Man and the Sea already proposed, as well as this one which is complementary and not contradictory, and, if "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" can be read as an artistic statement of the confrontation with nada, then The Old Man and the Sea seems to restore sanity, order, and meaning to the kind of world in which "only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built," as Bertrand Russell described it in "A Free Man's Worship" in 1903 when Hemingway was but a child of four. It is the "unyielding despair" which haunts the old man and the old waiter—as well as other of Hemingway's characters who have been called sleepless men.

Thus it seems to me that Hemingway has in many of his works and in one short story in particular recapitulated at least one of the gravest personal, ethical, and spiritual problems of modern man, and in the sense I have proposed, The Old Man and the Sea can be read as an artistically expressed reaction to it. Hemingway's answer to "the firm foundation of unyielding despair," nada, can I think, be seen in The Old Man and the Sea, in the tragedy of an old man who almost unknowing discovered in a great fish the great paradox of suffering and Grace; who, enduring almost intolerable pain, experienced the awe, the mystery of existence in a few moments of insight into the loneliness of the hostile forces on a cruel and unyielding ocean; who thought he knew he must struggle alone, flying the "flag of permanent defeat" at his mast, but discovered an answer in the terrible depths of the sea, la mar, the unyielding Mother of Life as man knows it; he found it in a union with his own past, and the company of a boy who may have been the one "sent"—sent to remind him of his own past, and to give him love that expected nothing in return, and to heal the unseen wounds of his spirit.

If the wounds of Santiago's spirit can be understood as symbolized by the scars on his hands, "old as erosions in a fishless desert," they bear a kinship to the Great Fish which serves, as Wilbur Urban has put it, as an insight symbol.

The peculiar character of such symbols lies in the fact that they do not point to or lead to, but they lead into. They do not merely represent, through partial coincidence, characters and relations; they are . . . a vehicle or medium of insight. But while the merely intrinsic symbol only represents, the insight symbol makes us see. . . . The essential element . . . is the notion of an ideal or spiritual world, insight into which is givenonly through the sensuous. [Italics supplied]. . . . The notion of God as father is not merely a descriptive symbol, but one by means of which we are given not only pictorial knowledge about, but actual insight into the nature of spiritual relations.

This is precisely the function which Santiago's scarred hands, his aching body, Manolo, the sea, and the great fish—the Ichthus —serve: leading Santiago into, giving him insight into the nature of a spiritual relationship. In going out too far, Santiago gained insight into an inescapable paradox.

Ernest Hemingway's own personal and tragic paradox was the fact that felt and understood experience was the source of his art; yet, in an incessant, brutally punishing, seemingly compulsive, and often nearly deadly search for that experience, he wore down the body and spirit he was so proud of, until his resources of body and mind, finally exhausted, ended with suicide, what for him may or may not have been the unforgiveable sin of Despair; the medical records do not so indicate. The old man is finally at rest.

Joseph M. Flora (essay date 1973)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1971

SOURCE: "Biblical Allusion in The Old Man and the Sea" in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. X, No. 2, Spring, 1973, pp. 143-47.

[In the following essay, Flora argues that The Old Man and the Sea is Hemingway's "parable of practical Christianity," as Santiago finds his greatest reward in being humble, enduring, launching into the deep, and having faith, hope, and love.]

From the beginning of his career to the end, Ernest Hemingway made important use of the bible in his fiction. Critics of The Old Man and the Sea have long been aware of biblical cadences and parallels.1 However, no one has commented on two important biblical passages that Hemingway appears to have used with great deliberation in The Old Man. Attention to one of these is useful for resolving a controversy about the protagonist; attention to both helps to clarify Hemingway's theme.

One critical disagreement over the work surrounds the question of whether Santiago went "too far out" and thus sinned.2 Several references to going far out sandwich the central story of the fishing episode. Early in the story, Santiago informs the boy, Manolin, that he is going "far out," where most of the fishermen do not like to go. Hemingway repeats the phrase with some variation, creating a certain biblical cadence thereby. After the devastation of his great fish by the sharks, Santiago brings the earlier determination to go "far out" back to mind as he accuses himself repeatedly: "I shouldn't have gone out so far, fish."3 His final words before he comes into harbor are put in the same terms: "And what beat you, he thought. 'Nothing,' he said aloud. 'I went out too far.'" (p. 120)

His final statement has a simplicity that negates his earlier judgement that he had sinned in killing the marlin. By the careful framing of his story in terms of going far out, Hemingway is, I think, doing something quite different from calling the old man to appreciate the community ashore, as some critics have thought. Rather, by repetition of "far out," Hemingway calls to mind a specific Christian challenge in terms of a New Testament account of Jesus. Santiago's name (Spanish for Saint James) reminds us that Hemingway named his protagonist for one of the twelve disciples, most of whom were fishermen. Saint Luke records the story of the calling of these men in terms that bear important similarities to Hemingway's tale. On a certain day Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen had also had a time of fishing with "no luck." Jesus had been preaching from Peter's boat to a crowd on the shores of Lake Gennesaret:

Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.

And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their net brake.

And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:

And so was James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not: From henceforth thou shalt catch men.

And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. Luke 5:4-11

There is not, of course, a one-to-one parallel between this account and the events of The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway was not that kind of writer. Nevertheless, it does not seem unlikely that having named his protagonist for one of the men involved, Hemingway looked again at this story, itself a memorable parable of the Christian calling—full of challenge and promise: "Launch out into the deep." To make the big catch it is necessary to reject the easy and to go "far out."

Appropriately, the twentieth-century Santiago is alone as he accepts the challenge of the Master. Not even Manolin can go with him. By himself he must do "the thing that I was born for" (p. 50). He is also on a larger body of water which has threats greater than those from Gennesaret, but this too is appropriate for the image of the modern Santiago. His need also seems more urgent. In Luke's account, the fishermen were at most tired and discouraged after a fruitless night's work. But Santiago has gone eighty-four days without success. He is old (again unlike James of Luke's Story), and his skiff reflects what life had done to him: "The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat" (p. 9). But to such men, Christianity has always promised victory with the challenge of launching out into the deep. Ironically, the victory in both Luke's account and Hemingway's makes the characters more humble. Simon Peter, apparently speaking for the other disciples as well, says, "I am a sinful man." Santiago takes a similarly humble position: "If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?" (p. 105). But in neither case is the sinning or not sinning the point.

By emphasizing Santiago's role as one who accepts the challenge of Jesus, we guard against making too much of the parallel at the end of the novella between Santiago and Jesus. It is true that we are pointedly reminded of Jesus' crucifixion at the end of the work, but this likeness should be seen in terms of discipleship. Santiago becomes more like the Christ because he has dared to launch out into the deep. He thereby experiences tremendous victory—but also great loss. The Old Man and the Sea is a striking illustration of what is probably one of Frederic Henry's best thoughts in A Farewell to Arms: "It is in defeat that we become Christian."4 Significantly, the young priest of that novel fails to grasp the truth of Frederic's observation. The Church does not give to Hemingway's characters the direction many of them crave. The story of Santiago is an ironic counterpoint to the story of Simon Peter and the other fishermen. It is not that Christianity is irrelevant to man's needs; it is just that Hemingway came increasingly to believe that man must do what he can do alone.

In addition to counterpointing the action of his story with the biblical account of the fishermen, Hemingway has skillfully produced a verbal texture that recalls one of the most famous of New Testament passages, St. Paul's treatise on love in I Corinthians, Chapter 13. The chapter concludes: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." Hemingway has Santiago cherish the same triumvirate and in the same order. Almost immediately Hemingway presents Santiago and the boy together as an embodiment of faith. Speaking of his father, Manolin says, "'He hasn't much faith.' 'No,' the old man said, 'But we have. Haven't we?' 'Yes,' the boy said." Both the boy's and Santiago's dreams of lions in Africa symbolize this faith. As faith moves into the realm of action, hope becomes an important element. About the hope so necessary in pursuit Hemingway observes of Santiago as the old man prepares for his trip: "His hope and his confidence had never gone. But now they were freshening as when the breeze rises" (p. 13). Later the sharks sorely try that hope, but Santiago thinks of the great DiMaggio, who with his painful bone spur that has hampered his baseball playing serves to symbolize the hope active in conflict. So Santiago rallies: "He watched only the forward part of the fish and some of his hope returned." "It is silly not to hope, he thought. Besides I believe it is a sin." (pp. 104-105)

Santiago is a compelling character because with his faith and hope, love is closely interwoven: "most people are heartless about turtles because a turtle's heart will beat for hours after he has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, I have such a heart too and my feet and hands are like theirs" (p. 37). Already an important part of the old man, love emerges as the growing part of him, the part that is deepened in the climactic death of the marlin. Santiago's love for the fish is established early: "Fish," he said, "I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends" (p. 54). The fish possesses precisely the virtues of Santiago himself, and in the struggle Santiago achieves an at-one-ment with his "victim"; "Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come and kill me. I do not care who kills who" (p. 92). Time is arrested in love as the fish ("which is my brother") dies: "Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all the skiff (p. 94). As he prepares to take the fish ashore, Santiago reflects: "I think I felt his heart." (p. 95)

In The Old Man and the Sea Hemingway presents a parable of practical Christianity. The theology of Christianity may no longer be valid, but—as Santiago's life illustrates—a practical Christian experience may yet be the best course open to man. To be humble, to endure, to launch out into the deep, to have faith, hope, and love—these achievements are still the most rewarding.5The Old Man and the Sea illustrates the essence of Christian discipleship and does so in specifically biblical terms.


1 See especially Carlos Baker, Hemingway: The Writer and Artist, 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), pp. 320-327. For a statement of the importance of the Bible to Hemingway, see Alexander R. Tamke, "Jacob Barnes Biblical Name: Central Irony in The Sun Also Rises," The English Record (1967), 2-7.

2 See Clinton S. Burhans, "The Old Man and the Sea: Hemingway's Tragic Vision of Man," American Literature, 31 (1960), 446-455. Reprinted in Ernest Hemingway: Critiques of Four Major Novels, pp. 150-155 and in Hemingway and his Critics, ed. Carlos Baker (New York: Hill and Wang, 1961), pp. 259-268. Delbert E. Wylder also emphasizes (wrongly) Santiago as sinner in Hemingway's Heroes (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969), pp. 199-221. For a useful summary of disagreement about The Old Man and the Sea as well as a pointed refutation to Behrans see Bickford Sylvester, "Hemingway's Extended Vision: The Old Man and the Sea, PMLA, 81 (1966), 130-138.

3 Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, Scribner Library ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952), p. 110. References to the novelette are included in text hereafter. "Far out" references also occur on pp. 14, 28, 34, 40, 41, 50, 115, 116, 120.

4 Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929, Scribner Library ed., 1957), p. 178.

5 Hemingway emphasizes each of these virtues. By the several references to endurance he also reminds us that the Jesus who admonished some humble fisherman to "launch out into the deep" also stressed the necessity of endurance: "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). See also Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13.

Sam S. Baskett (essay date 1975)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 8158

SOURCE: "Toward a 'Fifth Dimension' in The Old Man and the Sea," in The Centennial Review, Vol. XIX, No. 4, Fall, 1975, pp. 269-86.

[In the following essay, Baskett provides a detailed analysis of the symbolic detail in The Old Man and the Sea—from biblical allusions to Santiago's aura of "strangeness"which he says contributes to Hemingway's "fifth dimensional prose," or writing that "communicates the immediate experience of the perpetual now."]

Although the protagonist of The Old Man and the Sea vows "to make a pilgrimage to the Virgen de Cobre if I catch [this fish],"1 it is unlikely, since "In the night I spat something strange and felt something in my chest was broken" (p. 138), that he will live to keep his promise.2 In a sense, however, Hemingway kept it for him, donating his Nobel Medal to the Shrine of our Lady of Charity of Cobre, Patron Saint of Cuba,3 a pilgrimage, it would seem, not necessarily in recognition of a Christian victory, but of a literary victory—the fictional achievement he had ambiguously formulated in Green Hills of Africa. "The kind of writing that can be done. How far prose can be carried if anyone is serious enough and has luck. There is a fourth and fifth dimension that can be gotten."4

What Hemingway may have meant by this statement, and indeed whether he had a precise meaning in mind, has been the subject of considerable speculation, particularly in regard to a fifth dimension. The most convincing explanation of the term has been offered by F. I. Carpenter, who understands Hemingway's "fifth dimensional prose" as his attempt "to communicate the immediate experience of 'the perpetual now.'" In Hemingway's "best fiction,"

A brief, immediate experience, observed realistically, is described first as it occurred "in our time". . . . this immediate experience recalls individual memories of other, similar experiences, or historic memories of parallel experiences in the history of other nations, or mystical, "racial" memories. . . . And these fragmentary remembrances of similar experiences, by relating the individual to other people, places and times, suggest new meanings and forms. Finally this new awareness of the patterns and meanings implicit in the immediate, individual experience, intensifies it, and gives it a new "dimension" not apparent at the time it actually happened.5

Carpenter describes in some detail how this "radical intensification of experience" results in "an ecstasy transcending the traditional limitations of time and self in For Whom the Bell Tolls, but he concludes that it was not until The Old Man and the Sea that "the idea became at last incarnated and the mysticism completely naturalized." Surprisingly, since he saw Santiago's story as Hemingway's most successful effort in this direction, Carpenter was content to leave his statement without substantial development or documentation.6 If his judgment is accurate, however, the particulars of "how far prose can be carried" in The Old Man and the Sea —the devices Hemingway used to carry it—should illuminate more fully the achievement in what Faulkner called simply, "His best."7 Accordingly, I would like to consider some of the ways by which Hemingway provides a "radical intensification" of Santiago's experience and thus directs The Old Man and the Sea toward the highest literary goal envisaged by the author, a "fifth dimension."


This intensification is prepared for by repeated statements which unmistakably invest the old man and his world with an aura of strangeness. He is a "strange old man" (p. 15) with "strange shoulders, still powerful although very old" (p. 19), who fishes "Beyond all people in the world" (p. 55) where he must prove again the strangeness he has proved a thousand times before (p. 73). The light is "strange" (p. 38), the fish is "wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is" (p. 53). Remembering the fish "with his death in him" (p. 104), "he was sure there was some great strangeness and he could not believe it" (p. 109). These statements are reinforced by others throughout the book. The old man "liked to think about all things he was involved in" (p. 116), and he touches again and again upon the question of the strangeness in which he moves, beyond the "clenched surface"8 of the novel.

Manolin is the one character who has a significant appreciation of Santiago's difference. "There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you'" (p. 25). The two times that the boy addresses the old man by his Christian name—"Santiago" occurs only three times in the novel—he is asking to continue the relationship, not merely of learning boy to functioning man, but of novice to master. "'Santiago. . . . I could go with you again'" (p. 10) are his first words. Santiago recognizes the boy's "faith," but he declines, saying he is no longer lucky, although he does accept the substitute "offer" of a beer "on the Terrace" (p. 11). The earth, implied in this name, is "pleasant and sunny" for the time being, since the wind is in the right direction to keep away the smell from the shark factory; and the boy makes another offer. '"Santiago. . . . Can I go out to get sardines for you for tomorrow? . . . I would like to serve in some way'" (p. 12). The special quality which the boy recognizes in Santiago is implicit in these remarks; but this quality is gradually being obscured by the inescapable fact of Santiago's aging. Thereafter, the boy no longer asks to serve a master, but takes charge to protect a loved but weakening man. It is not until the very end that the reverential tone beyond solacing affection is again introduced: "'You must get well fast for there is much that I can learn and you can teach me everything. How much did you suffer?'" (pp. 138-39) There is affectionate compassion in this remark, but there is also Manolin's awareness, emphasized by the apparent non sequitur, that the "everything" involves suffering in a dimension beyond the skillful fishing that the boy has already learned. "'It is what a man must do'" (p. 28), Manolin says on getting up when Santiago awakens him. But Manolin moves toward the understanding that to be the "strange old man" that Santiago is, a "man" must do more.

The "normal" (p. 11) people "down the worn coral rock road" (p. 139)—the old man is "Up the road, in his shack" (p. 140)—have even more difficulty in seeing the special quality of the old man, now that he is no longer able to be "Santiago El Campeón" of the hand game. The "tourists" are pilgrims of the sort who cannot tell a shark from a marlin. The boy's father, whether one of the fishermen who made "fun" of the old man's bad luck, or one of those who were "sad" (p. 11), "'hasn't much faith.'" Moreover, he is so lacking in understanding that he judges by quantity rather than quality of experience. He considers McGraw to be the best manager "'Because he came here the most times,' the old man said. 'If Durocher had continued to come here each year your father would think him the greatest manager'" (pp. 24-25). Even Martin, the charitable owner of the Terrace, is more concerned with the physical fish than the old man. "'What a fish it was. . . . There has never been such a fish.'" Then he adds casually, moving even further away from true cognizance of the dimensions of the old man's exploit, '"Those were two fine fish you took yesterday too.'" "'Damn my fish"' (pp. 135-136), returns Manolin, whose name translates "God with us," his words effectively separating the superficial, even "damned," concerns of the world of the Terrace from the "everything" "Up the road" in the old man's shack.

Thus the explicit remarks of Santiago and Manolin, together with the imperceptiveness of the others, provide abundant suggestion that the old man is somehow more than "normal." His difference is also underscored by what in effect becomes his name: he is rarely the man, but almost always, over two hundred times, the old man. The last eight times Manolin addresses him, it is as "old man." The third and last time he is referred to as "Santiago" it is made clear that he was the old man when he was not an old man: the negro "had the old man, who was not an old man then but was Santago El Campéon, nearly three inches off balance. But the old man had raised his hand up to dead even again" (p. 77). In a number of instances, "oldness" is specifically related to "strangeness." His "strange shoulders" are "very old." The fish is "wonderful and strange and who knows how old." He wishes that he could show the fish "what sort of man I am. . . . Let him think I am more man than I am and I will be so." A little later, "But I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures. 'I told the boy I was a strange old man,' he said. 'Now is when I must prove it'" (pp. 70-73). Manolin expressly brings all of these related qualities together when following Santiago's early statement, "'I am a strange old man," he responds with another apparent non sequitur that links oldness, strangeness, the natural, the more than natural: '"But are you strong enough now for a truly big fish?'" (p. 15) Later, when Santiago is fishing "Beyond all people in the world," he also unites diverse dimensions in a triple analogy which illuminates the nature of his person and his vocation, an analogy to the fish, to man, and to the "more man than I am," the strange old man he wills to be. "You were born to be a fisherman as the fish was born to be a fish. San Pedro was a fisherman as was the father of the great DiMaggio" (p. 116).

The some two hundred references to Santiago as "the old man" have the cumulative effect of suggesting that he is preternaturally old. Moreover, in the passage just quoted, there is the implication that the old man's struggle acquires meaning from its relation to the struggle of others outside his immediate acquaintance, his country, his vocation, his time, and, through the overtones of the New Testament, his natural dimensions. There are a number of similar passages throughout The Old Man and the Sea which seem designed to extend the implications of Santiago's experience by the use of what might be called unnatural connections. His scars are "as old as erosions in a fishless desert" (p. 10). Just how old are such erosions and why raise the question, in "natural" circumstances, of the fishlessness of a desert? There is no rational answer, but if the scars are as old as the time it has taken to convert a sea with fish into an eroded, fishless desert, the impression has been conveyed that these are more than natural scars. He has proved his strangeness "a thousand times" and now he must again. Such proof seems more than can be expected from one man, an implication reinforced by the millennial echo. The mingling of different dimensions is provocatively suggested by the double simile, "the fish's eye looked as detached as the mirrors in a periscope or as a saint in a procession" (p. 107)—the World War II submarine in the water and in the air, the saint of and not of the world. Santiago feels "that perhaps he was already dead," and twice he assures himself sequentially that he "knew he was not dead" (pp. 128-29), if only from his pain. This blurring of the distinction between life and death is expressed most vividly when "the fish came alive with his death in him." The fish also appears suspended in time and space. "He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff." Significantly, the previous sentence calls attention to the multiple dimensions of what appears in retrospect as "some great strangeness" (p. 109), for the fish shows "all his great length and width," but more than that, "and all his power and beauty" (p. 104). The experience of the dimensions of a fish that will "keep a man all winter" (p. 122) is intensified by yoking that experience with an appreciation of his "power and beauty," an order transcending mere length and width.


In this manner, by various direct Statements and by "poetic" similes and images, Hemingway has made the visible a little hard to see. This suggestiveness of something beyond the immediate eye is closely related, however, to the natural experiences which are happening or have happened to Santiago.9 Less immediate to him are several clusters of allusions to traditional accounts of the mystical experience of others. The most striking, both in number and in implication, are the many references to Christ, what has been called the "non-Christian use of Christian symbolism."10 The Christian resonance of Santiago's struggle would seem to have been so widely discussed as not to require recapitulation. Two major clusters of Biblical allusions have not been recognized, however. They concern the dream of the lions and the reverberations of the old man's apostolic name.

When Santiago wonders why the lions are "the main thing that is left," he answers himself, "Don't think, old man. . . ." His strangeness, his essential quality, is not to be comprehended by thought; it simply is. And so the lions have remained a somewhat personal allusion, more difficult for the reader to enter fully than, say, the traditional allusions, although by now a number of helpful interpretations have been offered. Among the most satisfactory are the different but complementary readings by Carlos Baker and Arvin Wells, who have shown how the lions do function as one of the "main things" of the book. Briefly, Baker sees the lions as having a multiple role. They "carry the associations of youth, strength, and even immortality." Also, "The planned contiguity of the old man with the double image of the boy and the lions pulls the story of Santiago, in one of its meanings, in the direction of a parable of youth and age." Moreover, the repeated references to the lions contribute to the "rhythm" which is based on "stress-yield, brace-relax alternation."

For the boy and the lions are related to one of the fundamental psychological laws of Santiago's—and indeed of human—nature. This is the constant wavelike operation of bracing and relaxation. The boy braces, the lions relax, as in the systolic-diastolic movement of the human heart.11

Arvin Wells suggests that the lions in coming out from the jungle to play on the golden and white beaches "have put aside their majesty and have grown domestic and familiar," indicating

a harmony between the old man and the heroic qualities which the lions possess and the giant marlin possessed and which the old man has sought to realize in himself. Most simply, perhaps, they suggest an achieved intimacy between the old man and the proud and often fierce heart of nature that for him is the repository of values.12

In sum, both Baker and Wells point to a vision of harmony in which the lions play a part. But still, in a work in which so much of the symbolism is traditional rather than personal, why are the lions "the main thing that is left," even to the final sentence of the book? The significance of the lions, as a central symbol of the old man's "strangeness"—a strangeness that transcends his personality, his individual sense of the universe—is most apparent in the sequence of three dreams on the second night after he has hooked the marlin. He first dreams of "a vast school of porpoises that stretched for eight or ten miles and it was in the time of their mating" (p. 89)—a dream of birth, of life, of the sea of the title.13 "Then he dreamed that he was in the village on his bed and there was a norther and he was very cold and his right arm was asleep because his head had rested on it instead of a pillow"—a dream of the old man and his inevitable natural death, as suggested by the metaphors of coldness and sleep, the malfunctioning of his "good" arm, the anticipation of the final conversation with Manolin, the "heavy brisa" (p. 138), and by the final lines of the book. The third dream follows. "After that he began to dream of the long yellow beach and he saw the first of the lions come down onto it . . . and then the other lions came . . . and he waited to see if there would be more lions and he was happy." He is happy for this is the dream reconciling the separate dreams of life and death, a dream of his faith in an ultimate harmony. Certainly this is a harmony of the old man and nature, of youth and age, of bracing and relaxing, but beyond such reconciliations, a dream of complete harmony consonant not only with the old man's experience and understanding, but also with Isaish's prophecy of a time when "it shall come to pass . . . That the Lord shall set his hand. . . . to recover the remnant of his people . . . (Isaiah 11:11).

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;

And shall make him of quick understanding, in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears. . . .

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fading together; and a little child shall lead them.

And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . .

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11: 1-3, 6, 7, 9).

The two visions of harmony are clearly not identical: in Santiago's, only the lions play "like young cats" (p. 27) in the presence of the boy Santiago and his love for Manolin—he loved the lions "as he loved the boy"; whereas in Isaiah, a little child leads other animals that "shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain"14 as well as "the young lion." Hemingway's Biblical allusions are rarely strained into exactness, however, and there is indeed a general resemblance between the two pictures of "a peaceable kingdom"15 which has, in each instance, materialized out of a situation where fear and discord might have naturally prevailed. Given Hemingway's well-established knowledge of the Bible,16 the resemblance could scarcely have escaped his attention, even if he did not initially fashion Santiago's dream from that knowledge; and in any event, the loose parallel between the old man's "main thing" and the much larger traditional dream serves to carry Santiago's lions to a dimension beyond the idiosyncratic and the immediate. Two additional echoes of Isaiah in The Old Man and the Sea add weight to the supposition that this Biblical reinforcement and extension of Santiago's dream is intentional. Immanuel, of which Manolin is a derivative, is the prophetic name by which the humanity of the Messiah was revealed to Isaiah (7:14). In this connection, it is interesting to observe again that the lions and the boy are drawn together in an expression of love: "They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy." Moreover, Isaiah's prophecy concerning the "root of Jesse" has bearing on the extension of Santiago's immediate experience, for that "root" was to eventuate in Christ and his disciple, who was possibly his kinsman, the namesake of the old man.

That Santiago is Spanish for Saint James and that Hemingway's character bears a kind of resemblance of the apostle was early established. Baker has pointed up Hemingway's interest in the connection between the two in an informative and discerning statement which also serves to keep before us the fact that Santiago is not a Christian saint in any conventional meaning of the term—here, as throughout, the Biblical overtones are greatly secularized.

For many years prior to the composition of The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway had interested himself in the proposition that there must be a resemblance, in the nature of things, between Jesus Christ in his human aspect as the Son of Man and those countless and often nameless thousands in the history of Christendom who belong to the category of "good men," and may therefore be seen as disciples of Our Lord, whatever the professed degree of their Christian commitment.

Baker thus associates the old man with his namesake as one of those relatively "nameless" "good men" who yet share the "category . . . of disciples." Melvin Backman goes somewhat further: "the old man is more richly endowed than most primitives: bearing the name of Saint James, who was fisherman and martyr, he strangely unites the matador and the crucified."17 As Hemingway has attempted to enrich the implications of the old man's experience, he has perhaps drawn more on the background of Santiago's namesake than has been appreciated. The Biblical record of Saint James may be quickly summarized. He and his brother John were fishermen, sons of a fisherman, who were called by Jesus to become fishers of men. Considered, with Peter, closer to Christ than the other apostles, they witnessed the Transfiguration on the Mount. They accepted Christ's challenge to "be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with." James was with the other disciples who saw Christ after the Resurrection and presumably was with those who "worshipped him" rather than the "some" who "doubted." And he was martyred "with the sword" by Herod in 44 A.D.

Hemingway has adapted, with varying degrees of explicitness, aspects of each of the above incidents of Saint James's discipleship: the "baptism," the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and James's martyrdom, key experiences in the life of the Apostle that serve to intensify crises in Santiago's secular struggle. Matthew gives the story of the mother of James and John requesting of Christ that her sons might sit on his right and left hand in his kingdom.

But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, we are able.

And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with . . . (Matthew 20: 22-23).

Much earlier in A Farewell to Arms, as many have observed, Hemingway had used the rite of baptism to suggest the change in Fred Henry's life. In The Old Man and the Sea, the imagery is again explicit.

Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all the skiff (p. 104).

Immediately following, "The old man felt faint and sick and he could not see well" (p. 104), but he calls himself to the task. "'Get to work, old man,' he said. He took a very small drink of water" (p. 106). He is now able to reach the fish which

had turned silver from his original purple and silver, and the stripes showed the same pale violet colour as his tail. They were wider than a man's hand with his fingers spread . . . (pp. 106-07).

The entire passage thus not only contains reminiscences of Christ's challenge of baptism to James and John but also images somewhat suggestive of a transfiguration. Wells has noted "The transfiguration that is at the heart of the story," but he emphasizes that it "is no Christian mystery; it is 'in the manner of it,' fundamentally and essentially pagan." Yet, he adds, "This is not to say that there isn't something of the Christian saint about Santiago," indicated by his true humility and his Franciscan concern with the small bird. More pointedly, the "pagan" manner includes a variation of aspects of Matthew's account of the Transfiguration, which suggest additional implications to the experience Santiago is undergoing. These aspects include color, the cloud, the fear and consequently impaired vision of the disciples in the face of the mystery they are encountering, and the promise of healing.

And [Jesus] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. . . .

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise and be not afraid.

And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. (Matthew 17: 2, 5-8).

The imagery used to describe the "great strangeness" Santiago encounters is at once in keeping with the state of mind of the three disciples and with the natural circumstance in which the old man finds himself. As soon as he has cleared the harpoon line following the death of the fish, "and let it run slowly through his raw hand," he sees that

the sea was discolouring with the red of the blood from [the fish's] heart. First it was dark as a shoal in the blue water that was more than a mile deep. Then it spread like a cloud. The fish was silvery and still and floated with the waves.

The old man looked carefully in the glimpse of vision that he had (p. 104).

When the fish is tied to the skiff, Santiago reflects,

At one time when he was feeling so badly toward the end, he had thought perhaps it was a dream. Then when he had seen the fish come out of the water and hang motionless in the sky before he fell, he was sure there was some great strangeness and he could not believe it. Then he could not see well, although now he saw as well as ever.

Now he knew there was the fish and his hands and back were no dream. The hands cure quickly, he thought. I bled them clean and the salt water will heal them. The dark water of the true gulf is the greatest healer that there is (p. 109).

Thus the "transfiguration" witnessed by Santiago, although impressive—"he could not believe it"—remains natural. And such healing as he will experience will come from the "cloud" of "the dark water of the true gulf," not the voice of God announcing the advent of His Son.

The echo of Saint James's martyrdom is both more explicit and more conjectural since the connection largely depends on the reading of the express sword imagery used to describe the big Mako shark—recalling Saint James's execution by Herod "with the sword" (Acts 12:2)—although the motifs of the matador and the crucified are also significant here. Everything about the shark suggests cutting as he is described:

His back was as blue as a sword fish's and his belly was silver and his hide was smooth and handsome. He was built as a sword fish except for his huge jaws which were tight shut now as he swam fast, just under the surface with his high dorsal fin knifing through the water without wavering Inside the closed double lip of his jaws all of his eight rows of teeth were slanted inwards. . . . They were shaped like a man's fingers when they are crisped like claws. They were nearly as long as the fingers of the old man and they had razorsharp cutting edges on both sides (p. 111).

Although the description is of a shark attacking a fish, the suggestion of the martyrdom is strengthened by the human qualities given the shark and by Santiago's transference of the attack to himself. "I cannot keep him from hitting me but maybe I can get him"; and later, "When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit" (pp. 112-13. Italics added).

Yet another possible Jacobean reinforcement of Santiago's experience is implicit in a passage constituting a variation on the theme of Christ's appearance to the disciples after the Resurrection: "And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted." (Matthew 28: 17) The essential theme of this final passage of the book following the old man's return after three days is the possible resolution of conflicting "worship" and doubt. This scene has been carefully prepared for in the initial exchange of Manolin and Santiago when the boy offers to go with him again, although it has been eighty-four days since he has caught a fish. He reminds Santiago that earlier he had gone eighty-seven days without fish before catchiung "big ones" every day for three weeks.

"I remember," the old man said. "I know you did not leave me because you doubted."

"It was papa made me leave. I am a boy and I must obey him."

"I know," the old man said. "It is quite normal."

"He hasn't much faith."

"No," the old man said. "But we have. Haven't we?" (pp. 10-11)

Santiago, like Saint James, does have faith, even after eighty-four days of failure; he is not one who doubted. Nor is the boy, at least as he attempts to appear to Santiago. "Yes," he answers immediately and makes the "offer" of a beer. "'Why not?' the old man said." Then, showing his understanding of the boy's brave front of faith in the face of doubt in the old man's remaining strength—perhaps a fiction he is going through every day—Santiago adds gently, "'Between fishermen.'" The issue of faith and doubt in Santiago's ability to continue to function as a fisherman, which was resolved once before after eighty-seven days, is once more at hand.

This scene lays the base for Manolin's attitude toward Santiago on his return, and the two scenes are connected by Hemingway's apparently arbitrary manipulation of days. Santiago, without fish for eighty-four days, hooks the marlin on the eighty-fifth day, brings him to the boat at noon on the eighty-seventh day, goes through the suffering with the sharks, and returns after midnight of the eighty-seventh day without fish. Returning "in the dark . . . he felt that perhaps he was already dead" (p. 128), and he thinks about those who may have "worried." "There is only the boy to worry, of course. But I am sure he would have confidence. Many of the older fishermen will worry. Many others too, he thought" (p. 127). The faith, on whatever level implied by the conversation between Manolin and Santiago, that had been tested by eighty-seven fishless days before, must be tested now, after another eighty-seven days, when the old man returns. Faith, despite fishless days, is Santiago's goal—and perhaps the "everything" that Manolin believes he can learn from him (p. 139)—hence the scars that "were as old as erosions in a fishless desert" (p. 10). The motif of the mystical Resurrection has been translated into Santiago's return from the sea after three days. But informing the final conversation between Manolin and the old man are the issues expressed by the disciples toward the Resurrection—in what sense has there been a reappearance? Both Santiago and Manolin are resolved not to doubt. Despite Santiago's acknowledgement that he has been beaten and despite Manolin's tears which indicate his awareness of the impending death, they both contemplate the future opened up, their shared faith will have it, by the return.

These naturalized echoes of aspects of the mystical experience of Saint James are characteristically only vaguely evocative of the Biblical passages. In particular, the scenes involving general implications of the Resurrection are as loosely suggestive of Christ as they are of Saint James. Yet the significance of these loose allusions lies in their provocative vagueness as they serve to intensify the sense of awe implicit in Santiago's realization of "some great strangeness and he could not believe it." With other aspects of the novel they function to elevate a story of an attempt to catch a fish into something beyond Hemingway's initial 1936 account, a telling that remained "in our time."18


The dimensions of Santiago's struggle are augmented by one other aspect of his name. In 1927 Hemingway spent the last two weeks in August in Santiago de Compostela, which he called "the loveliest town in Spain."

He watched the small hawks hunting in the deep shadows at the top of the nave of the cathedral and was amused when a peasant woman hurried up to him and asked where she should go to eat the body of Jesus. "Right over there, lady," said Ernest delightedly.

Two summers later he was back for an even longer visit. Although he complained about the level of the trout streams in the mountains, he was much affected by his stay. In September, after visiting Chartres, he wrote that it had seemed "'a pretty cold proposition' to one who had spent most of August near the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela."19

Given these two extended visits and his appreciative awareness of the Cathedral, Hemingway must have been entirely familiar with the stories of the journey of Saint James to Galicia following his martyrdom, the miraculous discovery of his relics in the ninth century, the proclamation of the Apostle as the Patron Saint of all Spain by Alfonso II, and the subsequent miracles performed against the Moors in which in one battle the Saint, having undergone a kind of resurrection, single-handedly slew sixty thousand Moors, eventually becoming known as Santiago Matamores, "the Moor-slayer." In the conquest of New Granada, the Spanish were accompanied by the Saint, many of the galleons bearing his name on their bows. "Santiago" was the war-cry of the Spaniards used against the Indians, and the Apostle was even seen in battle on horseback. Cortez rallied his forces in Mexico with "Santiago y a ellos" (Saint James and at 'em").20 There would seem to be little of this war-like Saint, so different from the Biblical Saint James, in the Cuban fisherman, except for the dreams of "fights" (p. 27), the memory of the hand contests, and his implacable determination to kill not only the sharks but also the great fish. It is worth noting, moreover, that Santiago is the Patron Saint of Spain and that the old man in a most literal sense is directly related to the successes against the Moors and on the Spanish Main under the aegis of Santiago Matamores.

But the Spanish version of the Apostle is not solely militant. He is also the Pilgrim whose sanctuary has been the goal of such masses of pilgrims that their progress along the network of routes from all of Europe as well as England to Compostela was said to resemble the stars of the Milky Way. Dante, in fact, writes in the Vita Nuova that "in the narrow sense, none is called a pilgrim save he who is journeying towards the sanctuary of St. James of Compostela or is returning therefrom." After the sixteenth century there was a decline in the prestige of Santiago de Compostela, and the place of the relics seems to have been lost sight of. In 1884, however, Pope Leo XIII issued an Apostolic Letter confirming the rediscovery of the relics and the validity of the Spanish Jacobean story; and since that date the pilgrimages "have grown in popularity not only in Galicia, but also throughout the Catholic World." In 1940, Pope Pius XII stated that after the Tabernacle, Palestine and Rome,

there is perhaps no place where all through the centuries such a number of devout pilgrims have gathered as the historical capital of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, where according to an ancient tradition rest the relics of the Apostle St. James.

Again, in 1948, the Pope

recalled the ancient rites of Compostela, saying that so far from being relegated to a historical memory the pilgrimages to St. James had been made a reality by the faith of the young people of today: "And thus it had to be; because if the pilgrim was an indispensable figure on the chess board of the mediaeval world; if the pilgrimage had then the noble function of consolidating the people's faith, of drawing together the most divergent nations, of relieving the unfortunate and comforting all, surely amid the vast sorrows and sufferings of the present hour they will continue to be a blessing for the world.

The devout pilgrims who have come to the Patron Saint of Spain, then, have sought communion with a victim who has passed beyond suffering, rather than support from the violent Moorslayer and Indian killer of previous eras. Starkie describes Santiago's statue at the Gate of Glory "which for the past hundred years has been the Portus Quietis of countless pilgrims after their weary tramping along the Jacobean road." In contrast to the majestic, impressive statue of Christ, "At the feet of our Lord sits St. James the Apostle leaning on a tau-staff. His throne rests on the backs of lions, but under his bare feet is green grass, and in contrast to the remote majesty of the Saviour, he is benign in expression."

Santiago is indeed "richly endowed" with the Biblical name of Saint James as Backman has observed, and in both there can be seen the "strangely united" motifs of the matador and the crucified; but most immediately he bears the name of the Spanish Saint James, Santiago de Compostela, Moorslayer and Pilgrim, who even more explicitly than the Biblical Saint combines these motifs:

The matador represents a great force held in check, releasing itself in a controlled yet violent administering of death. The crucified stands for the taking of pain, even unto death, with all of one's courage and endurance so that it becomes a thing of poignancy and nobility.


In sum, then, although it may not be possible to say with finality that Hemingway meant by "a fifth dimension" the communication of "the perpetual now," it is possible to point to a number of rather dramatic albeit deeply imbedded devices in The Old Man and the Sea by which the author suggests "another intensity" in which the old man moves. The Biblical and Spanish reverberations of his Christian name, the allusion to Isaiah's vision of harmony, the direct and indirect rhetorical suggestions of "strangeness" are some of the ways by which the prose carries Santiago's experience beyond "the captive now"21 of Hemingway's early heroes. But Hemingway's technique in pointing toward the ultimate dimensions of Santiago's experience is not always this dramatic. Perhaps his simplest device to imply the full nature of that experience is one that also adds weight to Carpenter's thesis that Hemingway was attempting to communicate "the perpetual now." That device is the word now, repeatedly used in contexts that extend it beyond the temporal limitations of the immediate moment. Carpenter has called attention to the passage in For Whom the Bell Tolls when the hero generalizes concerning the ecstatic union with Maria he has experienced with the resultant substitution of "the value of intensity . . . for that of duration." Robert Jordan speculates:

I suppose it is possible to live as full a life in seventy hours as in seventy years; granted that your life has been full up to the time that the seventy hours start and that you have reached a certain age. . . .

So if your life trades its seventy years for seventy hours I have that value now and I am lucky enough to know it. . . . If there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise. . . . Now, ahora, maintenant, heute.

The "now" of the seventy hours22 of a "very old" man is praised less directly, more subtly and more extensively in The Old Man and the Sea than in For Whom the Bell Tolls. The word now is used some sixty times in a short book. Well over half of the usages emphasize the word by its position at the beginning of a sentence; over a quarter by its position at the beginning of a paragraph. Far from an unobtrusive neutral adverb, in Hemingway's handling the word becomes, although still unobtrusive so carefully is it woven into the text, almost a refrain signalling the immediate yet far-reaching dimensions of the old man's present experience. The meaning of the term is never pointed to, as in For Whom the Bell Tolls. The more subtle cumulative effect builds throughout the story, but individual provocative instances in which the word seems to carry substantive as well as adverbial connotations may be cited.

Then he could not see well, although now he saw as well as ever.

Now he knew there was the fish and his hands and back were no dream (p. 109).

Now, he said to himself. Look to the lashing on the knife. . . . Then get your head in order because there still is more to come (p. 121).

Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is (p. 122).

But in the dark now and no glow showing and no lights and only the wind and the steady pull of the sail he felt that perhaps he was already dead (p. 128).

Now it is over, he thought (p. 130).

He knew he was beaten now finally . . . (p. 131).

He was past everything now . . . (p. 132).

Now (Manolin said) we must make our plans. . . . Now we fish together again." (p. 137) (Italics added)

As evidenced in some of the instances above, the refrain is reinforced by a similar emphasis on another adverb of time, then, often occurring in the same context as now, a total of some fifty usages, with over four-fifths of these beginning a sentence. On one page, "Then the fish came alive. . . . Then he fell into the water. . . . Then (the blood) spread like a cloud" (p. 104). The effect of this subdued but nonetheless insistent contrapuntal emphasis on then and now is to blend the two together, to bring the outside to the center, to extend the immediate moment beyond itself.

Contrasting the original two-hundred-word "On the Blue Water" with The Old Man and the Sea, Baker observed, "What makes the difference is the manner of the narration." I have called attention to certain distinctive aspects of that manner which serve to carry the prose of the finished work of art from the limited, three-dimensional world of the anecdote. To his praise of that work as Hemingway's "best," Faulkner added, "This time, he discovered God, a Creator." Whereas previously Hemingway's "men and women had made themselves. . . . this time he wrote about pity: about something somewhere that made them all"—the old man, the fish, the sharks. Faulkner concluded, "It's all right. Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further." Such "discovery" as Hemingway made in The Old Man and the Sea, however, is integrally related to that skillful "touching"—"tricks" Santiago might have called it—Hemingway's craft in suggesting, without ever leaving the three dimensions, another dimension, which Faulkner recognized in his own terminology.


1 Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (New York: Scribner's, 1952), p. 71. Subsequent references are in the text.

2 See Bickford Sylvester, "'They Went Through this Fiction Every Day': Informed Illusion in The Old Man and the Sea." Modern Fiction Studies, 12 (Winter 1966-67), 473-77. To the convincing evidence cited by Sylvester as indicative of the approaching death, I would add that the last two times Manolin addresses Santiago as "old man," he in effect gives a requiescat. "'Lie down, old man. . . . Rest well, old man'" (pp. 138-39). Only these two times is "old man" set off from the rest of Manolin's address by a comma, a detail adding a further note of finality after he learns that "something . . . (is) broken" in the old man's chest. See pp. 19, 20, 26, 29, 30, 138, 139.

3 Leo J. Hertzel, "Hemingway and the Problem of Belief," The Catholic World, 184 (October 1956), Editor's Note, 30.

4 Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa (New York: Scribner's, 1935), pp. 26-27.

5 Frederic I. Carpenter, "Hemingway Achieves the Fifth Dinension," in Hemingway and His Critics, ed. Carlos Baker (New York: Hill and Wang, 1961), pp. 193 ff. Carpenter traces the definition of "the fifth dimension" as "the perpetual now" back to P. D. Ouspensky in 1931. He notes that Ouspensky, "a mystic, was an admirer of Bergson and of William James," and that all were concerned with "the difference between psychological time and physical time." Moreover, Gertrude Stein, who had been a pupil of James, "had adapted [these ideas] for literary purposes." The strongest evidence, however, that Hemingway had followed this pattern of ideas is "internal."

6 Carpenter notes generally that "the exact techniques of fishing make real the occasional mysticism of The Old Man and the Sea. . . . Santiago . . . performing realistically the ritual techniques of his trade, goes on to identify the intensity of his own suffering with that of the great fish he is slaying" (pp. 200-01).

7 William Faulkner, "Review of The Old Man and the Sea," Shenandoah, 3 (Autumn 1952), 55.

8 Nathan Scott finds Hemingway "at bottom, a 'spiritual writer,' for the drama being enacted just beneath the clenched surfaces of his fiction is that of the soul's journey in search of God." Ernest Hemingway (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1966), p. 40.

9 Following Hemingway's comment about "a fourth and fifth dimension" in Green Hills of Africa, Kandisky says, '"But that is poetry you are talking about.'" Hemingway rejoins, "'No. It is much more difficult than poetry. It is a prose that has never been written. But it can be written, without tricks and without cheating. With nothing that will go bad afterwards'" (p. 27). Carlos Baker has observed that "The Dichtung in Hemingway might be provisionally defined as the artist's grasp of the relationship between the temporal and the eternal," Hemingway. (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press), p. 290.

10 Arvin R. Wells, "A Ritual of Transfiguration: The Old Man and the Sea," The University Review, 30 (Winter 1963), 100.

11 Baker, Hemingway, pp. 308 ff.

12 Wells, p. 101.

13 An earlier reference to a male and a female porpoise around the boat anticipates this dream. "'They are good,' he said. 'They play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish'" (p. 53). This scene of harmony and love is interrupted, however, by his memory of the hooking of a female marlin whose mate remained with her until she had been killed and hoisted aboard. "That was the saddest thing I ever saw with them, the old man thought. The boy was sad too and we begged her pardon and butchered her promptly" (p. 55).

14 In this context, perhaps the "holy mountain" has some bearing on "the great brown mountains" (p. 27) of Africa down from which the young lions come into Santiago's vision. The echo also extends vaguely, but provocatively, it might be suggested, back to Green Hills of Africa in which Hemingway declared his belief that prose could be carried to "a fifth dimension," as was noted previously.

15 Isaiah's vision was the subject of repeated pictures by Edward Hicks (1780-1849), whose widely known works gained him the title, "Painter of the Peaceable Kingdom." See Alice Ford, Edward Hicks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1952).

16 During high school, Marcelline Hemingway Sanford has reported, she and her brother entered a Bible reading contest. "We passed a detailed test on the Bible reading and we both learned a lot." At the Hemingways (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962), pp. 134-35.

17 Melvin Backman, "Hemingway: The Matador and the Crucified." Modern Fuction Studies, 1 (August 1955), 11.

18 Baker states that Santiago's story was "outlined" in "On the Blue Water," published in Esquire, April, 1936. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story (New York: Scribner's, 1969), p. 339.

19 Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, pp. 186, 203-05.

20 Walter Starkie, The Road to Santiago (London: John Murray, 1957), pp. 16 ff.

21 Sean O'Faolain, The Vanishing Hero (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1956), p. 142.

22 In addition to the fact that Santiago's age, since he is "very old" yet still strong, might approximate the Biblical three score and ten, his experience at sea lasts for approximately seventy hours. He leaves with the other fishermen and returns somewhat before that time of morning, after midnight and after "the lights of the Terrace were out" (p. 133) three days later.

James Barbour and Robert Sattelmeyer (essay date 1975)

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SOURCE: "Baseball and Baseball Talk in The Old Man and the Sea," in Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual, 1975, pp. 281-87.

[In the following essay, Barbour and Sattelmeyer argue that baseball and baseball talk in The Old Man and the Sea serve as the boy Manolin's initiation into adulthood and establish a course of heroic action in the novella, as the struggles of baseball player Joe DiMaggio and Santiago are shown to be emblematic of humanity.]

Since the education and range of reference of so many of Hemingway's characters seem to come chiefly from the newspaper, he presents us with the curious problem of a modern novelist who increasingly requires historical annotation. This is especially true of his references to the world of sport, where the names of yesterday's heroes may evoke only bewilderment. For foreign readers and for Americans whose minds are uncluttered with old earned-run and batting averages, Hemingway's many baseball references, in particular, warrant explanation.1 This is certainly true of The Old Man and the Sea where baseball forms the inner stitching of the story. As Philip Young notes, "Baseball stars are the heroes of this simple man [Santiago]; their exploits are the incidents, and the pennant races the plots of his mythologies."2 But the old man's heroes are now obscure: Sisler, Luque, Gonzales, and perhaps even McGraw have faded from popular memory; DiMaggio alone endures, but the heroic significance of his bone spur, to which there are repeated references, has been forgotten. These figures, their exploits, and Santiago's conversations about the game need to be examined within the framework of the old man's struggle with the sea.

Superficially "baseball talk" serves as a kind of masculine small talk in The Old Man and the Sea. Santiago and Manolin pass the time during supper talking about the pennant race in the American League; later the old man recalls that the conversations were a way of whiling away the hours "at night or when they were storm-bound by bad weather."3

How baseball functions on this level can best be seen in an earlier Hemingway story, "The Three-Day Blow," where the conversation serves to relax Nick Adams and his friend Bill (it performs much the same function that whiskey does later in the story) and to introduce Nick's cynical mood:

"What did the Cards do?" [Nick asks.]

"Dropped a double-header to the Giants."

"That ought to cinch it for them."

"It's a gift," Bill said. "As long as McGraw can buy every good ball player in the league there's nothing to it."

"He can't buy them all," Nick said.

"He buys all the ones he wants," Bill said. "Or he makes them discontented so they have to trade them to him."

"Like Heinie Zim," Nick agreed.

"That bonehead will do him a lot of good."

Bill stood up.

"He can hit," Nick offered. The heat from the fire was baking his legs.

"He's a sweet fielder, too," Bill said. "But he loses ball games."

"Maybe that's what McGraw wants him for," Nick suggested.

"Maybe," Bill agreed.4

Like any kind of "in" talk, that of baseball has its own vocabulary with words such as "doubleheader" (now a part of the idiom) and "bonehead."5 Problems for all but the most knowledgable baseball historians are posed in the cryptic remarks about Heinie Zimmerman, third baseman of the New York Giants, who had a reputation for making mental errors ("that bonehead"). Bill's reference is to the final game of the 1917 World Series, when Zimmerman had a runner trapped between third and home; rather than throw the ball, he held it and chased Eddie Collins of the White Sox across home plate for the run that opened up the game for the American League team. Because of his poor judgment the boys believe he won't do McGraw (manager of the Giants, 1902-32) much good. Perhaps, they conjecture, McGraw, who had a reputation as a gambler, acquired him to lose games—a remark reflecting the general suspicion about baseball that resulted from the fixed World Series of 1919.6

While this kind of talk, without the baseball slang, occurs in The Old Man and the Sea, conversations between Santiago and Manolin generally have a more serious function. Because "baseball talk" is shared by young and old, it is a means whereby the young demonstrate their ability to participate in an adult environment, while the adults may use baseball as an object lesson with appropriate analogies to life. Thus, baseball conversations are similar to rites of passage ceremonies: they serve as initiation talks in which Santiago is the teacher, Manolin the pupil, and baseball a topic through which desirable attitudes and behavior are taught.

Santiago's conversations reflect the simple fidelity that is so basic to his character—one has to trust one's team. The first talk, before Manolin goes to get the cast net and sardines, concerns the pennant race in the American League:

"When I come back you can tell me about baseball."

"The Yankees cannot lose."

"But I fear the Indians of Cleveland."

"Have faith in the Yankees my son. Think of the great DiMaggio."

"I fear both the Tigers of Detroit and the Indians of Cleveland."

"Be careful or you will fear even the Reds of Cincinnati and the White Sox of Chicago." (p. 18)

The old man's wise pronouncements about the pennant race are the product of his experience: he trusts in skill, strength, and endurance. He believes in the New York Yankees because they are the best team and have the best player, DiMaggio. In the end, skill is more important than chance and will win out ("The Yankees cannot lose"). It is chance, however, that is more evident in the daily scores, and it is these results that trouble Manolin:

"Tell me about baseball," the boy asked him.

"In the American League it is the Yankees as I said," the old man said happily.

"They lost today," the boy told him.

"That means nothing. The great DiMaggio is himself again."

"They have other men on the team."

"Naturally. But he makes the difference." (pp. 22-23)

The lesson Santiago teaches the boy is clear: if one does not trust what he knows to be true (that the Yankees are best), he will be overcome by fears—even by ones that are unfounded, such as fears of the inferior Chicago White Sox or of a team not even in the same league like the Cincinnati Reds.7 The old man's later struggle with the sharks exemplifies this lesson. He trusts to his skill and copes with adversity as it occurs: after killing the first dentuso, he tells himself, "Don't think, old man. . . . Sail on this course and take it [the struggle with the sharks closer in] when it comes" (p. 114).

Santiago's observations about the probable winners in the American and National Leagues are astute. (Of course, he is a prophet after the fact, for The Old Man and the Sea was written in January and February of 19518 and focuses on the baseball season of 1950.) Making his predictions in September, the final month of the baseball season, Santiago correctly anticipates the winner of the American League and expertly qualifies his prediction in the National League. The New York Yankees won the pennant in 1950 and went on to win the World Series in four games. The Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians finished second and fourth, three and six games behind the Yankees. The Chicago White Sox (whom it would be foolish for Manolin to fear) finished thirty-eight games out of first place.9 Of the National League Santiago said, "In the other league, between Brooklyn and Philadelphia I must take Brooklyn. But then I think of Dick Sisler and those great drives in the old park" (p. 23). The old man remembers Sisler for the home runs he hit in the old Tropical Park while playing winter ball in Havana. (Sisler led the Cuban Winter League in home runs in 1945-46; in a two day period he hit four home runs, one of which was the first ball to be hit completely out of the stadium.)10 The old man's fears about Brooklyn's chances are realized, for in the final game of the 1950 season against Brooklyn, Sisler hit a home run in the tenth inning to win the game and the National League title for the Philadelphia Phillies.

The old man and the young boy also discuss baseball managers. Santiago believes the best manager was not the great John J. McGraw of the New York Giants, who was also part owner of the Oriental Park racetrack in Havana:

"Tell me about the great John J. McGraw." He said Jota for J.

"He used to come to the Terrace sometimes too in the older days. But he was rough and harsh-spoken and difficult when he was drinking. His mind was on horses as well as baseball. At least he carried names of horses at all times in his pocket and frequently spoke the names of horses on the telephone."

"He was a great manager," the boy said. "My father thinks he was the greatest."

"Because he came here the most times," the old man said. "If Durocher had continued to come here each year your father would think him the greatest manager."

"Who is the greatest manager, really, Luque or Mike Gonzales?"

"I think they are equal." (pp. 24-25)

That the greatest managers in the eyes of Santiago and Manolin be two Cubans is appropriate. Both Mike Gonzales and Adolpho Luque managed in the winter leagues in Latin America. During a period when third-rate talent often filled the managerial ranks in the major leagues the two Cubans who had such a keen knowledge of the game11 were relegated to coaching duties, Luque with the Giants and Gonzales with the Cardinals (where he served as interim manager in 1938 and 1940—a total of twenty-two games12). An unwritten law prevented the two from managing in the majors. As a player Gonzales caught for seventeen years in the big time, but it was Luque who truly excelled. He pitched for more than twenty years in the majors until he was forty-four (he won a World Series game at the age of forty-three): he had a total of 193 victories and was reputed to have the best curve ball in the game.13

But Joe DiMaggio is Santiago's hero. Unlike the others, DiMaggio has no association with Cuban baseball. However, the ball player has much in common with the old man: both are associated with fishing (DiMaggio's father was a fisherman, as Santiago mentions on page sixty-eight): both are strong men, although each has a physical weakness (Santiago's unreliable left hand cramps and DiMaggio has a bone spur in his heel); and each has had a recent streak of bad luck (Santiago has gone eighty-four days without a catch14 and DiMaggio missed almost half of the 1949 season because of his extremely painful heel).

Santiago refers repeatedly to DiMaggio's bone spur (pp. 75, 107, and 114). But the references are only the tip of the iceberg. Unstated but understood by the old man is the great centerfielder's courageous recovery. On June 28, 1949, with the season almost half over, DiMaggio joined the Yankees in Boston for a series against the league-leading Boston Red Sox. What followed was incredible. Not having faced major league pitching in more than eight months, DiMaggio proceeded to bat .455 in the three-game series, hitting four home runs and batting in nine runs.15 Little wonder that the old man tells Manolin, "he makes the difference."

DiMaggio's achievement in the face of pain and adversity provides a precedent for Santiago. DiMaggio overcame his difficulties to lead the Yankees to the pennant. The old man demonstrates the same indomitable will and courage. Betrayed by his old body as he attempts to preserve his fish in a shark-infested sea, the old man takes encouragement and resolve from the achievement of his hero. In staying with the fish and again in killing the first shark the old man thinks of the example set by the great Yankee center fielder: "I wonder how the great DiMaggio would have liked the way I hit him in the brain? It was no great thing, he thought. Any man could do it. But do you think my hands were as great a handicap as the bone spurs?" (p. 114)

The final function of baseball in The Old Man and the Sea is to establish a course of heroic action. Baseball heroes—and particularly the gifted DiMaggio—demonstrate what is great in man: his skill, his endurance, and, most of all, his courage. The same qualities are apparent in the old man. In their struggle and in their victory DiMaggio and Santiago are emblematic of humanity. Thus, baseball hero and humble fisherman demonstrate the possibility of human achievement. In a thoughtful moment Santiago muses, "I wonder what a bone spur is. . . . Maybe we have them without knowing it" (p. 107). Perhaps we do. Considering our metaphorical bone spurs, perhaps all accomplishments are heroic.


1 Roger Asselineau's error indicates the problems inherent in Hemingway's references to sport: in the two-volume Pleiade edition of Hemingway's works, he erroneously identifies Frankie Frisch, the Hall of Fame second baseman, as "a celebrated agnostic." The pitfalls for literary scholarship seem endless, for George Monteiro, who exposes Asselineau's mistake in "Hemingway's Pleiade Ballplayers" (Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual 1973, 299-301) is himself in error in spelling Frisch's name "Fritsch" and in consenting to Asselineau's assumption that the events of "The Three-Day Blow" transpired in 1916. Nick's reference to Heinie Zimmerman as a "bonehead" places the story sometime after the 1917 World Series when the third baseman pulled his well-publicized mental error.

2Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966) p. 103.

3 (New York: Scribners, 1952), p. 43. References will be taken from this edition and cited parenthetically within the text.

4The Nick Adams Stories (New York: Scribners, 1972), p. 207.

5 For an excellent account of baseball jargon and its currency in the American language see Tristram P. Coffin's chapter "Baseball Talk" in his book, The Old Ball Game: Baseball in Folklore and Fiction (New York: Herder and Herder, 1971), 51-75.

6 The disillusionment with baseball is mentioned by Bill Smith (Bill in "The Three-Day Blow") in an interview with Donald St. John: "[Hemingway] liked to follow baseball in those days but it was hard for him to become passionate about anything he couldn't do well himself. And I think he was disillusioned, like all the rest of us, by the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919, the first summer he was back from the war"—"Interview with 'Bill Gorton'," in Bertram D. Sarason, ed., Hemingway and the Sun Set (Washington: NCR, Microcard Editions, 1972), p. 171.

7 Another version of why Hemingway included the Cincinnati Reds in the conversation is given by Richard A. Davidson in "Carelessness and the Cincinnati Reds in The Old Man and the Sea," Notes on Contemporary Literature, 1(1971), 11-13.

8 Carlos Baker in Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story (New York: Scribners, 1969, pp. 489-490) notes that Hemingway began writing after the Christmas holidays of 1950. "By January 17th, his manuscript stood at 6,000 words, about a quarter of the whole." On February 6th he wrote to a friend that he had been averaging about a thousand words a day and "by February 17th it stood virtually finished."

9The Baseball Encyclopaedia (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 368.

10 Samuel E. Longmire, "Hemingway's Praise of Dick Sisler in The Old Man and the Sea," American Literature, 42 (March 1970), 96-98.

11 'Gonzales, an excellent appraiser of talent, was used frequently by the Cardinals as a scout. He is credited with the oft-quoted phrase that has doomed many a promising prospect, "Good field, no hit."

12Baseball Encyclopaedia, p. 2216.

13 Luque's exceptional ability is supported by the veteran baseball writer Bob Broeg, who picked him as one of five pitchers on an all-star team of National League players from 1919-1937 (The Sporting News, 1 February 1975, 32).

14 Robert Broadus reports that Hemingway selected eighty-four as a number that would break Zane Grey's record eighty-three consecutive days without a catch ("The New Record Set by Hemingway's Old Man," Notes & Quotes, 10 n.s. [March 1963], 152-153).

15 Joe Reichler and Ben Olan, Baseball's Unforgettable Games (New York: Ronald Press, 1960), pp. 167-168. For DiMaggio's own account see "It's Great To Be Back," Life, 27 (1 August 1949), 66-70 ff.

G. R. Wilson, Jr. (essay date 1977)

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SOURCE: "Incarnation and Redemption in The Old Man and the Sea," in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 14, No. 4, Fall, 1977, pp. 369-73.

[In the following essay, Wilson asserts that the time spans mentioned in The Old Man and the Sea refer to the sacred Christian mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption, which reinforce the mythic dimension of the story.]

That the heroic fisherman of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea carries a heavy burden of Christ symbolism has been widely recognized, but critics have disagreed markedly about the extent to which this identification functions in the novella and about how this symbolism is finally to be interpreted. In addition to the well annotated references to the crucifixion itself and to the other events of Passion Week, the author has, however, provided some helpful clues quite early in the book—clues that previous commentators seem to have overlooked and that may contribute to some clarification of this critical problem.

As the novella opens, we are told that Santiago "had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish," and, in the second sentence, we learn that during "the first forty days a boy had been with him."1 If we add to this eighty-four day period the three days covered by the book's action, we get a total of eighty-seven days. Shortly thereafter, the boy recalls, "'But remember how you went eighty-seven days without fish and then we caught big ones every day for three weeks'" (p. 10). In this way, Hemingway establishes two separate time spans of eighty-seven days that are important in the old man's life. The "forty days" and the three days covered by the novella's action are clear references to the Fasting in the Wilderness (and thus to Lent) and to Christ's Passion, respectively, and have been so noted by nearly every critic to address himself to this aspect of the work, but, since this author's choice of details is rarely capricious, one wonders immediately about the possible significance of the two eighty-seven-day spans.

If one pursues the hint of the reference to forty days and looks carefully at the Christian liturgical calendar, it appears that Hemingway may have had something quite definite in mind when he selected this number. Two particular periods in the church year suggest the figure. The first is the entire Christmas Cycle from the first day of Advent, 27 November, to the last day on which Septuagesima Sunday can fall, 22 February; the second is from Ash Wednesday to Ascension Thursday, a period that constitutes all but the last ten days of the Easter Cycle from Lent through Paschaltide. While these correspondences may, of course, be merely coincidental, it seems unlikely; we know that Hemingway was familiar with the liturgical calendar, and the basic fact that he chose to make such heavy use of Christian symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea argues against coincidence. At any rate, the implications of these correspondences might well be worth exploring.

The first of these two time spans in the old man's life, the eighty-seven days followed by the three fruitful weeks, suggests the liturgical Mystery of the Incarnation. During this period, in terms of Christian myth, the liturgy commemorates Christ's assumption of his earthly life and the establishment of his claim as the Son of God. Similarly, it is during this time span in Hemingway's parable that Santiago establishes his claim to heroic stature in the eyes of the boy Manolo and becomes, in fact, the hero incarnate. We can see, for example, in the dialogue concerning doubt and faith that immediately follows the mention of this time span (pp. 10-11) the existence of a master-disciple relationship between the old man and the boy, as Carlos Baker, among others, has pointed out.2 In citing specifically three weeks during which the old man and the boy "caught big ones every day" (p. 10), Hemingway may well be alluding to the three years of Christ's public ministry during which he was both a fisher of men himself and an instructor to his disciples in how to be fishers of men, a role paralleled by Santiago in his instruction of Manolo. Furthermore, the way in which Christ established his divinity among the faithful was by performing miracles, and, similarly, Manolo's faith in Santiago seems clearly to be founded on the apparent miracle of three weeks' bounty after the long barren period.3 A later reference, also tied to a discussion of faith that immediately precedes it, identifies this eighty-seven-day span as a "great record" (p. 19) in the eyes of the boy, just as Christ's life on earth, as attested in the Gospels, constitutes a great record in a different sense of the word. And when, to the boy's comment, the old man responds, "'It could not happen twice'" (p. 19), he underlines the unique nature of his incarnation as hero.4 Finally, the importance of all this is to be found in the theological concept that only through the Incarnation of Christ, through his assumption of human form, can his eventual sacrifice have redemptive value for mankind; were he only divine, the Passion could have no human meaning because it would involve no sacrifice. Similarly, Hemingway seems clearly to be establishing Santiago's "great record," which concluded with three triumphal weeks' bounty, to render more meaningful the second eighty-seven-day span, which is to end with three days of agony and apparent defeat.

If the first time span suggests the Mystery of the Incarnation, then the second span, that including the eighty-four days that the old fisherman has gone without taking a fish plus the three days described in the novella, would seem correspondingly to suggest the Mystery of the Redemption. The many symbolic details linking Santiago (and the marlin, for that matter) with Christ and the crucifixion have, of course, already been noted by various critics5 and need not be rehearsed here. It is important, however, to recognize that the focus of this second span is limited; as indicated above, we are here concerned with that period of the liturgical calendar beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Ascension Thursday. This period includes the mortification and death of Christ, the instruction of the disciples in the meaning of Christ's sacrifice by his repeated appearances during the forty days following Easter, and two of the three mysteries that are subsumed in the Paschaltide Season—the Resurrection and the final Ascension into Heaven; it does not include the third mystery, that of the Descent of the Holy Ghost, which is not celebrated until Pentecost, ten days later.

If we look at The Old Man and the Sea with this in mind, it may clarify several matters. First, the old man, like Christ, achieves a triumph in apparent defeat. While Christ's triumph is over physical death, Santiago triumphs over the dentuso and the galanos which, though they destroy the great marlin, cannot diminish the heroism that has led to the union of man and nature climaxing the battle between fisherman and fish. In addition, Santiago is able, again like Christ, to return to his disciple with the evidence of the hero-deed that he has accomplished. This is necessary in order to make clear the significance of that deed for all men, a significance that is, of course, expressed in the novella's theme of tragic affirmation: "'But man is not made for defeat. . . . A man can be destroyed but not defeated'" (p. 114). The redemption that Santiago brings back to the world is to be found in a recognition of the deep resources of human strength made possible when man is properly attuned to his world, a strength that the old fisherman has painfully and heroically exemplified. And, although this message is not yet widely comprehended, (as underscored by the tourists at book's end) just as Christ's message was not grasped outside the faithful few, the disciple perceives completely the significance of the old man's final adventure. That it is, in fact, his final adventure, that Santiago is about to die when we last see him, although disputed by some critics, seems supported by the fact that this second eighty-seven-day period ends on Ascension Day, for, just as the Ascension is the crowing event of Christ's earthly ministry, so Santiago's sojourn in the world must be concluded once he has imparted his message of redemption. Finally, the omission of the celebration of Pentecost suggests that the redemption postulated by Hemingway in his parable is an entirely human one requiring no infusion of a mysterious outside force to be operative. That is to say that the period here paralleled is one that focuses only on the incarnate member of the Trinity, and, correspondingly, the suggestion seems to be that the hero is important because he displays the grandeur of which man is capable without the help of any external or mystical power, save that embodied in his comprehension of the union with nature that he has achieved.

Finally, it might be helpful to remember that Christ is one avatar of the figure whom Joseph Campbell calls "the hero with a thousand faces," and Santiago, obviously, can also take his place in that particular pantheon. A comparison of the events of The Old Man and the Sea with Campbell's summary of the pattern of his so-called monomyth6 reveals a close correspondence. The hero sets out with the aid of a helper (Manolo), crosses the threshold of adventure, ("'I went out too far,'" says Santiago [p. 133]) and meets a trial that can take many forms including the brother-battle, dragon-battle, crucifixion, and a night-sea journey, all of which can be seen as applying in some way to the old fisherman. The adventure culminates again in several possible ways, one of which is a sacred marriage, closely analogous to the union established between man and marlin at the conclusion of Santiago's epic battle ("'I have killed this fish that is my brother,'" he says [p. 105]). The hero must endure tests (the sharks) before his return to the world to which he brings some sort of boon, in Santiago's case the knowledge that man, who can be destroyed, cannot be defeated.

The liturgical gloss of incarnation and redemption outlined above is important because it strongly underlines this mythic dimension of The Old Man and the Sea —the dimension in which the book's power resides. Contrary to those critics who would minimize this work, the Christian symbolism is not simply a pat overlay attempting to give weight to an otherwise mundane story, but rather it constitutes the basic technique by which Hemingway presents his view of man as a coherent and intrinsically important part of the cosmos in which he must find value. This vision of man goes far beyond that revealed in Hemingway's earlier work. In place of the code hero, who accepted a nihilistic universe more or less passively and whose only effort was to try to come to terms with that dark vista through some personal accommodation, we have here the hero incarnate, who achieves meaning, not only personally but universally, by a full commitment to his world and through an intimate relationship with that world's creatures. Only because of this unity with nature can Santiago exercise, indeed expend, his strength and endurance as a man to achieve his final symbolic but meaningful triumph in the face of literal disaster, a triumph that carries a redemptive message for all who share the human condition. In the effective artistic communication of that redemptive message lies the brilliant achievement of The Old Man and the Sea.


1 Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952), p. 9. Subsequent page references will be made parenthetically.

2 Carlos Baker, Hemingway: The Writer as Artist, 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 305.

3 It is possible that the allusion to three weeks functions in yet another way; the Sunday after the first three weeks of Lent is Laetare Sunday, on which the particular miracle commemorated is the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, certainly an appropriate conjunction.

4 Santiago is, of course, both right and wrong about this. It does not happen twice because he makes his huge catch on the eighty-fifth day, just as he had foreseen in purchasing the lottery ticket. On the other hand, the eighty-seven-day period does, in fact, play itself out without any tangible benefit to Santiago, just as before. Whether this ambiguity has anything to do with the doctrine of the Second Coming would seem to be doubtful.

5 For a checklist of criticism on The Old Man and the Sea see Modern Fiction Studies, 14 (1968), 361-363.

6 Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1956 [first publ., 1949]), pp. 245-246.

Charles Taylor (essay date 1981-82)

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SOURCE: "The Old Man and the Sea: A Nietzschean Tragic Vision," in Dalhousie Review, Vol. 61, No. 4, Winter, 1981-82, pp. 631-43.

[In the following essay, Taylor rejects previous assessments of the novella as a parable of sin and punishment, asserting instead that the old man's struggle can be seen in terms used by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzscheas an affirmation of life in the highest manner, as a recognition that to do what "must be done," a human being should "go far out," as Santiago has.]

In studying The Old Man and the Sea one finds a very comforting consistency. From the initial reading two elements distinguish Santiago and his adventure from Hemingway's earlier heroes. Many have noted the positive character of Santiago's struggle, its natural context in direct contrast to the forced, artificial violence of bullfights and safaris. Santiago is also the only hero who, as Melvin Backman says, ". . . is not left alone, at the end of the story, with death or despair."1 The life of Santiago is closer to the one most of us live; we can see ourselves in him and thus find encouragement for our own struggles.

When we turn to the commentators we find additional agreement. The Old Man and the Sea is seen as Hemingway's tragic vision, attention is paid to its essentially Christian morality. Such interpretations make much sense. Beginning with the meaning of Santiago's name—the fisherman who became an apostle and finally a martyr—commentators have pointed out the many explicit and implicit Christian themes. Backman calls Santiago the "Matador and the Crucified."2 Clinton Burhans emphasizes primarily "the sin into which men inevitably fall by going far out beyond their depth, beyond their true place in life."3 Keiichi Harada argues along very similar lines; though he suggests that Santiago's 'going out too far' is better seen as hybris rather than sin in the Christian sense, he still considers Santiago responsible and one who "has to pay the price of his glory."4 Carlos Baker in reading the story as a parable synthesizes these points well: "It is not necessarily a Christian victory. Yet it is clear that Hemingway has artfully enhanced the native power of his tragic parable by enlisting the further power of Christian symbolism."5 One need not present an exhaustive survey in order to see not only that there is fundamental agreement among the interpretations but also that they are consistent with our own view of the world in which we live.

In the face of the transparent intelligibility seen in the established 'meaning' of The Old Man and the Sea one has to be skeptical about a 'new' interpretation. The discussion to be presented here, nevertheless, is precisely that, a new reading. The roots of these thoughts come from two perspectives—a radically different notion of tragedy, and, more deeply, a radically different philosophical understanding of reality. The radical nature of these ideas needs to be emphasized. The goal here is not to provide greater clarity within the accepted interpretations nor is it to provide more security for the Weltanschauung upon which these studies have been built. The intent is, rather, to sketch an alternative meaning and message of Hemingway's great parable.

Our discussion of The Old Man and the Sea begins with the philosophy of Nietzsche. Throughout his career Nietzsche was fascinated with tragedy, primarily Greek tragedy. His concern could be interpreted as normal for anyone trained as a professional philologist; but this thought does not go deep enough. The problematic character of Nietzsche's notion of tragedy is apparent in the very first book he published after becoming a professor at Basel. The Birth of Tragedy was supposed to justify Nietzsche's having been appointed a professor before he completed his doctoral dissertation; instead, the book was denounced by his fellow philologists. The reasons for this confrontation have only in the past few years become completely clear. The Birth of Tragedy was not intended to advance the field of philology; it was, on the contrary, the beginning of Nietzsche's criticism of all of western philosophy from Plato to the present—Nietzsche's primary categories are ontological.

The Birth of Tragedy is also the most complete development of Nietzsche's notion of tragedy, the proper place for us to begin. Nietzsche, himself, provides us with the best suggestions about approaching the book. In 1889 he wrote Ecce Homo, an intellectual autobiography with critical discussions of most of his previous books. One of the first things he tells us about The Birth of Tragedy is,

The two decisive innovations of the book are, first its understanding of the Dionysian phenomenon among the Greeks: for the first time, a psychological analysis of this phenomenon is offered, and it is considered as the root of the whole of Greek art. Secondly, there is the understanding of Socratism: Socrates is recognized for the first time as an instrument of Greek disintegration, as a typical decadent. 'Rationality' at any price as a force that undermines life.6

In order to understand Nietzsche's notion of tragedy and then to look at Santiago in those terms we have to examine the concept of the Dionysian and come to understand the argument that rationality can be a force that undermines life.

Let's begin with the Dionysian. Another passage in Ecce Homo tells us that the two 'decisive innovations' of The Birth of Tragedy are not at all 'accidentally' found in the same book.

Saying yes to life even in its strangest and hardest problems; the will to rejoicing over its own inexhaustibility even in the sacrifice of its highest types—that is what I called Dionysian, that is what I understood as the bridge to the psychology of the tragic poet. Not in order to get rid of terror and pity, not in order to purge oneself of a dangerous affect by its vehement discharge—Aristotle misunderstood it that way—but in order to be oneself the eternal joy of becoming, beyond all terror and pity—that joy which includes even the joy in destroying.7

The ideas here are crucial. The Dionysian, says Nietzsche, is the 'root of the whole of Greek art' and especially the highest form of their art, tragedy; the Dionysian is most importantly an affirmation of life—'even in its strangest and hardest problems.' Thus the Dionysian is directly contrasted to the rationality of Socrates that negates, denies life inside the cave.

There is another point to be made here. Nietzsche clearly juxtaposes his notion of tragedy to that of Aristotle. Aristotle saw the primary effect of tragedy as catharsis, 'the vehement discharge of terror and pity'; tragedy is a means of purging oneself, of getting rid of negative aspects of life. One could say that for Aristotle certain aspects of life are to be avoided; tragedy is a vehicle for this rejection. Nietzsche calls this a misunderstanding of tragedy. For him such a denial is a product of weakness,

This ultimate, most joyous, most wantonly extravagant Yes to life represents not only the highest insight but also the deepest, that which is most strictly confirmed and borne out by truth and science. Nothing in existence may be subtracted, nothing is dispensible—those aspects of existence which Christians and other nihilists repudiate are actually on an infinitely higher level in the order of rank among values than that which the instinct of decadence could approve and call good. To comprehend this requires courage and, as a condition of that, an excess of strength: for precisely as far as courage may venture forward, precisely according to that measure of strength one approaches the truth. Knowledge, saying Yes to reality, is just as necessary for the strong as cowardice and the flight from reality—as the 'ideal' is for the weak, who are inspired by weakness.8

Here we have the opposition again, the affirmation of life in tragedy contrasted to the denial of life.

Having seen these basic ideas, let us turn to The Birth of Tragedy itself to see how Nietzsche develops them. His argument begins with an analysis of the Art deities of the Greeks—Apollo and Dionysus, a discussion which seems quite typical, precisely what one would expect. He calls Apollo and Dionysus a duality, and, clearly, Apollo's art of sculpture and Dionysus' art of music seem to be a perfect model of the platonic dualistic thinking that is found throughout western culture. Nietzsche further supports the dualistic interpretation by using two contrary psychological categories—dreams and intoxication—to give us our first picture of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, and by presenting his thoughts in obvious reference to Schopenhauer's 'World as Will,' 'World as Representation.' The initial picture is, thus, of the Apollonian representing an individuated, clear, fully revealed, unchanging world that is knowable and good while the Dionysian represents a world where individuality is destroyed, a 'primal unity' where everything changes and knowledge is impossible. Contradiction and suffering characterize the Dionysian.

Within the initial discussion of the Dionysian, however, Nietzsche also begins to indicate his rejection of Plato's dualistic thinking. An obvious conclusion to the preceding distinction would be to call the Apollonian good, desirable, and the Dionysian, evil, undesirable. While accepting this on one level Nietzsche also suggests a second element of the Dionysian,

Either under the influence of the narcotic draught, of which the songs of all primitive men and peoples speak, or with the potent coming of spring that penetrates all nature with joy, these Dionysian emotions awake, and as they grow in intensity everything subjective vanishes into complete self-forgetfulness. . . . Under the charm of the Dionysian not only is the union between man and man reaffirmed, but nature which has become alienated, hostile, or subjugated, celebrates once more her reconciliation with her lost son (Prodigal Son), man. . . . Now, with the gospel of universal harmony, each one feels himself not only united, reconciled, and fused with his neighbor, but as one with him, as if the veil of maya had been torn aside and were now merely fluttering in tatters before the mysterious primordial unity.9

Through the Dionysian we gain access to the 'mysterious primordial unity,' an access that involves destruction of the Apollonian world of individuation. In destroying the Apollonian veil of maya we disclose not only contradiction, suffering and pain but we also see the unity at the core of existence. Insight into the Dionysian is both terrifying and joyous. Here we begin to see Nietzsche's view of the world. We cannot separate the world into parts as Plato would have us believe, we cannot talk of good without bad; rather, we must come to see Being as a unity that is radically ambiguous. As we shall see more clearly Nietzsche's interest in tragedy stems first of all from his realization that in their tragedies the Greeks looked at the world precisely in this manner.

Having presented the Apollonian and Dionysian in their abstract form Nietzsche proceeds to discuss the appearance of these artistic energies in ancient Greece. The discussion begins once again with a dualistic perspective; it is easy to point out the Apollonian in Greek Art; Nietzsche emphasizes Doric art. The Dionysian is for a long time seen not as Greek, but only as barbarian. When the Dionysian does appear in Greece there is a reconciliation with the orderly Apollonian that takes much of the destructiveness from the Dionysian; when it appears in Greece the Dionysian becomes an artistic phenomenon for the first time. Even after the development of the Dionysian Greek the Apollonian remained the dominant force.

Nietzsche takes a crucial step in discussing the Apollonian understanding of the Dionysian,

With what astonishment must the Apollonian Greek have beheld him (the Dionysian Greek)! With an astonishment all the greater the more it was mingled with the shuddering suspicion that all this was actually not so very alien to him after all, in fact, that it was only his Apollonian consciousness which, like a veil, hid this Dionysian world from his vision.10

From this point on the inversion from dualistic Platonic thinking to Nietzsche's own perspective is explicit and consistent. The Dionysian and Apollonian are not a duality, says Nietzsche; rather, the Dionysian tells us of the true nature of the world, it is not clear, distinct, knowable, but rather a radically ambiguous unity. The Dionysian says that life is necessarily suffering, pain, eternally changing; the Apollonian in the clarity of its images hides this chaotic reality from our view.

We can see this covering over of the Dionysian in the world of the Olympian gods,

The Greek knew and felt the terror and horror of existence. That he might endure this terror at all, he had to interpose between himself and life the radiant dream birth of the Olympians. The overwhelming dismay in the face of the Titanic powers of nature, the Moira enthroned inexorably over all knowledge, the vulture of the great lover of mankind, Prometheus, the terrible fate of the wise Oedipus . . . all this was again and again overcome by the Greeks with the aid of the Olympian middle world of art; or at any rate it was veiled and withdrawn from sight. It was in order to be able to live that the Greeks had to create these gods from a most profound need. Perhaps we may picture the process to ourselves somewhat as follows: out of the original Titanic divine order of terror, the Olympian divine order of joy gradually evolved through the Apollonian impulse toward beauty, just as roses burst forth from thorny bushes. How else could this people, so sensitive, so vehement in its desires, so singularly capable of suffering, have endured existence, if it had not been revealed to them in their gods, surrounded with a higher glory?11

Thus we must see the Apollonian as a creation, a necessary creation that enables us to continue living after having learned the true nature of reality. Here Nietzsche speaks of 'enduring' life, suggesting resignation. As we shall see, in turning now to tragedy itself, Nietzsche argues that the Greeks actually achieved in tragedy an affirmation of life far beyond resignation.

The analysis of tragedy follows the same path we have just seen. Nietzsche begins with the traditional picture of the Apollonian elements of tragedy—the clear image of the tragic hero on the stage. There seems to be nothing Dionysian about the action of the play itself. We find the key, says Nietzsche, when we pay attention not to the action on the stage but rather to the tragic chorus. Greek tradition says that tragedy began with the tragic chorus, in fact originally was nothing but chorus—originally there was no Apollonian hero at all! Nietzsche points out that no one had adequately explained the tragic chorus and proceeds to criticize the accepted interpretations of his day. For Nietzsche, the tragic chorus is first of all a Dionysian chorus—tragedy begins with Dionysian wisdom.

Perhaps we shall have a point of departure for our inquiry if I put forward the proposition that the satyr, the fictitious natural being, bears the same relation to the man of culture that Dionysian music bears to civilization. Concerning the latter, Richard Wagner says that it is nullified (Aufgehoben) by music just as lamplight is nullified by the light of day. Similarly, I believe, the Greek man of culture felt himself nullified by the satyric chorus; and this is the most immediate effect of the Dionysian tragedy, that the state and society and, quite generally, the gulfs between man and man give way to an overwhelming feeling of unity leading back to the very heart of nature. The metaphysical comfort—with which, I am suggesting even now, every true tragedy leaves us—[is] that life is at the bottom of things, despite all the changes of appearances, indestructibly powerful and pleasurable. . . .12

Here we see the positive aspect of Dionysian wisdom; it begins with the awareness of the unity of all existence—that 'nothing can be subtracted.' The Dionysian knows that all things are destroyed, that everything changes; sees in this the indestructible creative power of life and rejoices in that power.

We can, then, contrast Dionysian wisdom with Platonic wisdom. Plato too saw this world as forever changing and tried to make the world of becoming intelligible, but realized that one cannot truly know such a reality. Since this world is not rational or knowable there must, says Plato, be another world that is rational, orderly, and therefore knowable and good. At the core of Plato's philosophy is the equation, knowledge is virtue and virtue happiness. In contrast to Dionysian wisdom Plato says much of reality can 'be subtracted' or at least corrected—the Philosopher who has climbed out of the cave and acquired knowledge can then go back into the cave and create order. We can, through this contrast, better understand the idea that Socrates was for Nietzsche an 'instrument of Greek disintegration.' Socrates believed that the ever-changing world of becoming could be escaped, needed to be transcended, to the perfect unchanging world of true Being outside the cave. Nietzsche's Dionysian wisdom says quite the opposite; it says that we cannot escape change: any orderly reality we may see is merely an illusion we create for ourselves in the process of living, it is a 'reality' that will necessarily change. For Nietzsche the Dionysian sees an ever-changing world, chooses to participate in this 'process' and thereby affirms existence in the highest manner possible. Plato in affirming a separate unchanging reality ends up negating the reality in which we live, the only reality for the Dionysian. Implicit in Plato, says Nietzsche, is a negative attitude towards life, Nihilism.

We can make a further step here. Nietzsche speaks of Aufhebung as the first creation completed by Dionysian tragedy; we have to use this concept carefully. Nietzsche does follow Hegel's thinking here in the sense that he means a negation, destruction of the illusion of individuality, and a subsequent preservation in a new 'transcendent' reality, the feeling of unity with all of life. This new 'reality' is transcendent if the sense that it is closer to the truth but not in the sense that it represents a separate perfect unchanging reality. The truth it approaches is the radical ambiguity of existence.

The final question we have about tragedy then is the production of the Apollonian drama on the stage out of this Dionysian wisdom. For Nietzsche a necessary element in all dramatic art is the ability to see oneself in a transformed mirror image; this aesthetic phenomenon is created by the Dionysian.

The Dionysian excitement is capable of communicating this artistic gift to a multitude, so that they can see themselves surrounded by such a host of spirits while knowing themselves to be one with them. This process of the tragic chorus is the dramatic protophenomenon: to see oneself transformed before one's own eyes and to begin to act as if one had actually entered into another body, another character. . . . Such magic transformation is the presupposition of all dramatic art. In this magic transformation the Dionysian reveler sees himself as a satyr, and as a satyr, in turn, he sees the god, which means that in his metamorphosis he beholds another vision outside himself, as the Apollonian complement of his own state. With this new vision the drama is complete.13

Thus we see that there are two steps involved in the creation of tragedy. First there is the destruction of the order and distinctions that characterize everyday reality; one is able to see more deeply, more truthfully into existence—the Dionysian revelers see themselves as satyrs. The satyr chorus then has a second vision which is the actual drama on the stage—only the satyr chorus is able to see, the Apollonian element can only be interpreted from its Dionysian origins.

The last step is the most important, to see the content of the Apollonian.

In the light of this insight (about the magic transformation) we must understand Greek tragedy as the Dionysian chorus which ever anew discharges itself in an Apollonian world of images. Thus the choral parts with which tragedy is interlaced are, as it were, the womb that gave birth to the whole of the so-called dialogue, that is, the entire world of the stage, the real drama. In several successive discharges this primal ground of tragedy radiates this vision of the drama which is by all means a dream apparition and to that extent epic in nature; but on the other hand, being the objectification of a Dionysian state, it represents not Apollonian redemption through mere appearance but, on the contrary, the shattering of the individual and his fusion with primal being. Thus the drama is the Apollonian embodiment of Dionysian insights and effects and thereby separated, as by a tremendous chasm, from the epic.14

The drama itself, then, is, as Nietzsche says, epic in nature, the action we see is clear, intelligible, but the truth that is expresses is that of Dionysian wisdom, the radically ambiguous nature of existence. The crucial idea here is that the drama does not represent Apollonian redemption through appearance. Nietzsche's word here is Erlosung, which in the most literal sense means release and is properly translated as redemption or salvation. Implicit in this 'release' is the possiblity of separation, of returning to Platonic dualistic thinking; it is precisely such a release that Nietzsche rejects. Here he points out that the tragic is separated from the epic by a tremendous chasm. In the epic one indeed finds a fully transparent existence; in the tragic one is able to see clearly, or as clearly as possible, the ambiguity of existence.

The concept of redemption/salvation leads us back to Santiago. As we have seen, the message of the parable of Santiago is that he 'went out too far'; Santiago committed a sin for which he must pay—at least this is the traditional reading. What is important to see in this interpretation is that it makes everything intelligible and clear: Santiago committed a sin for which he was punished and then forgiven, he was released from further guilt for having gone out too far. The clarity in this parable is rooted in the Platonic dualistic thinking of Christianity. If we freely choose 'to go out too far' we can only be released from our sins by the grace of a God existing in a separate reality. In reading the tragic parable we, the spectators, experience another aspect of this transparent existence. As Aristotle has told us we are spectators removed totally from the action 'on the stage'; the effect of the drama is the catharsis that allows us to get rid of, be released and separated from the evil, suffering and pain of life and return safely to our security. Nietzsche would suggest that this security and transparency are illusory.

We can begin our Nietzschean interpretation of Santiago by pointing out that Santiago, in going so far out, was participating in and therefore affirming life in the highest manner possible. Santiago is tied to the Dionysian throughout the book. In the beginning he says, "I am a strange old man" (p. 14); Santiago knows that life itself is strange, he pays attention to the ambiguous.15 From the time he gets into his boat and heads 'far out' his own understanding of life begins to appear more and more clearly. He thinks of the birds:

Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly, dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices are made too delicately for the sea. (p. 29)

He thinks of the sea as feminine, expressing his love, and acknowledges the 'bad things,' the hatred which he sees as necessarily tied to any true love. The others who have power boats, those who can separate themselves from the sea, consider it masculine, an enemy or contestant: they either win or lose in the struggle with the 'other.' For Santiago the sea is Dionysian, it gives and withholds great favors. The same contradiction is seen in the Portuguese man-of-war: "The iridescent bubbles [of the Portuguese man-of-war] were beautiful. But they were the falsest thing in the sea . . ." (p. 36). Santiago, then, thinks of himself, the sea, the birds and the creatures of the sea in terms of one of the two fundamental categories of the Dionysian—the insight into the radical ambiguity of existence.

Santiago also pays much attention to the second basic category of the Dionysian—the unity of all existence. The ideas of solidarity and interdependence are seen throughout the book. An early example of this unity is seen in Santiago's thoughts of turtles:

Most people are heartless about turtles because a turtle's heart will beat for hours after he has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, 1 have such a heart too and my feet and hands are like theirs. He ate the white eggs to give himself strength. He ate them all through May to be strong in September and October for the truly big fish. (p. 37)

Soon after hooking the marlin Santiago begins to focus on their equality; both are 'strange,' both know how to make their fight:

Then he began to pity the great fish he had hooked. He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought. Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely. Perhaps he is too wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush. But perhaps he has been hooked many times before and he knows that this is how he should make his fight. He cannot know that it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man. But what a great fish he is and what he will bring in the market if the flesh is good. He took the bait like a male and he pulls like a male and his fight has no panic in it. I wonder if he has any plans or if he is just as desperate as I am? (pp. 48-49)

When the tired warbler lands on his boat Santiago apologises for not being able to take the bird home by saying he is with a 'friend.' Thoughts of unity predominate until the last of the marlin is devoured by the sharks.

Nietzache argues that every true tragedy, by creating the Dionysian feeling of the unity of existence, leaves the spectator with the 'metaphysical comfort' that life in spite of all changes is indestructibly powerful and pleasurable. Santiago's thoughts about killing the fish disclose this feeling clearly. Early in his battle with the marlin he says, '"Fish, I love and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends'" (p. 54). After having seen his fish Santiago becomes even more aware of what he demands of himself.

' . . . Christ, I did not know he was so big. I'll kill him though,' he said. 'In all his greatness and his glory.' Although it is unjust, he thought. But I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures. 'I told the boy I was a strange old man,' he said. 'Now is when I must prove it.' (p. 66)

Santiago shows us 'what a man can do and what a man endures' when he kills the marlin, that which he most deeply loves and respects. In this process we see the strength and abilities of both Santiago and the marlin, and in them begin to understand the profound pleasure one experiences in 'proving oneself.'

Having presented the Dionysian elements of Santiago, let us return to the Apollonian question of sin. The traditional explanation in its simplest form is that Santiago went out too far, his pride led him into sin, and he was punished for this through the sharks' devouring his fish. Nietzsche's notion of tragedy suggests quite the contrary; it says that only in going so far out was Santiago fully able to prove himself 'a strange old man.' If Santiago had stayed close in, he could never clearly have shown what we can do and what we can endure. The most obvious point of the demand to go out so far for Santiago is that the farther out he went the more his deepest thoughts about himself and his life occupied his thinking. Though he says he must try 'not to think but only to endure' (p. 46), Santiago nevertheless has a paradoxical leisure that allows for thinking. Inseparable from his most profound thinking occurring 'out so far' is the fact that Santiago proves himself: he does what he must do 'out there'; he kills the fish because he is a fisherman.

We see the necessity of going out so far in the value Santiago places upon himself and the things he encounters. In the village, involved completely with all the people, he is made fun of or pitied, he is humble, his sail "look[s] like the flag of permanent defeat" (p. 9). As he goes out into the sea Santiago realizes more and more who he is and what he is doing; he respects himself and the world he lives in most fully when he kills the marlin. After securing the fish to the side of his boat Santiago identifies with the marlin more than he separates himself from him:

With his mouth shut and his tail straight up and down we sail like brothers. Thus his head started to become a little unclear and he thought, is he bringing me in or am I bringing him in? If I were towing him behind there would be no question. Nor if the fish were in the skiff, with all dignity gone there would be no question either. But they were sailing together lashed side by side and the old man thought, let him bring me in if it pleases him. I am only better than him through trickery and he meant me no harm. (p. 99)

The dignity of both remain after their battle: they bring each other back.

This direct proportion between being out so far and demonstrating and understanding one's value can also be seen in the sequence of shark attacks that destroy the marlin. The first shark that attacks is a Mako shark. It is seen as noble and powerful like Santiago and the marlin.

He was a very big Mako shark built to swim as fast as the fastest fish in the sea and everything about him was beautiful except his jaws. His back was as blue as a swordfish's and his belly was silver and his hide was smooth and handsome. He was built as a swordfish except for his huge jaws which were shut now as he swam fast, just under the surface with his high dorsal fin knifing through the water without wavering. . . . This was a fish built to feed on all the fishes in the sea, that were so fast and strong and well armed that they had no other enemy, (pp. 100-101)

The Mako is beautiful, fast, powerful, intelligent and very deeply respected by Santiago; he has no fear and he comes alone. He is the largest dentuso Santiago has ever seen. After he kills this first shark Santiago's deepest thought is expressed; "'But man is not made for defeat. . . . A man can be destroyed but not defeated'" (p. 103).

The respect that Santigo feels for the Mako is tied to the fact that it happens farthest out.' The character of the second attack 'closer in' dramatizes the value of distance for Santiago. The second attack is made by two brown, shovel nosed, stupid galanos. The galanos are not brave; one attacks from underneath while the other watches from the surface. The third attack was by a single galano: "He came like a pig to a trough if a pig had a mouth so wide you could put your head in it" (p. 111). The final attacks come in the night; these 'closest in' attacks have the least value: "In the night sharks hit the carcass as someone might pick up crumbs from the table" (p. 119). This sequence underscores the necessity of going out so far, the value of the heroic individual taking the greatest risks in order to achieve the greatest fulfillment.

We can see, then, that a Nietzschean reading of Santiago's adventure does not consider Santiago guilty, it does not say he has done something wrong, it is not predicated on a dualistic vision in terms of which one can decide absolute right and wrong. What we truly learn, says Nietzsche, is that life simply is not so clear and intelligible; we learn that in order to do what must be done, to prove ourselves we must go out so far, alone with the realization that we may return without our fish; perhaps it is even likely that we will return "destroyed but not defeated." Santiago proves himself in killing the marlin; that he does not bring him in matters next to nothing in comparison. Santiago will go out fishing again, realizing the need to 'prove himself again, the need to participate in life and affirm it in the highest manner possible by going far out.

The final step to be made here is to realize that in presenting an alternative to the traditional interpretation of Santiago's sin we also have a non-Aristotelian spectator. It is quite possible to see Santiago as a transformed mirror image of ourselves. In reading of his battle with the marlin and the subsequent events we see things at a distance from our own lives and can see truly that one can be "destroyed but not defeated." When looking at the "destruction" in our own lives it is difficult to see anything but the negative. Santiago has the same difficulty, he is able to carry on and prevent defeat by thinking of DiMaggio and his bone spur; Santiago sees in DiMaggio his own transformed mirror image. Santiago says that DiMaggio "makes the difference," and he does, but not for the simplistic reason that he plays for the benefit of his teammates. What makes the difference is that DiMaggio keeps playing in spite of his bone spur, and that Santiago goes far out to fish conscious of the risks involved, and will go out again. In this light the drama is the "Apollonian embodiment of Dionysian insights," and we are not impartial observers; rather, we only understand when we see ourselves in Santiago and realize that his existence and ours is the same, demands the same.


1 Carlos Baker, ed., Hemingway and His Critics, New York, 1961, p. 255.


3Ibid., p. 261.

4Ibid, p. 275.

5 Carlos Baker, Hemingway: The Writer as Artist, 3rd ed., Princeton, 1963, p. 319.

6 Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. and ed. by Walter Kaufmann, New York, 1968, p. 727.

7Ibid., p. 729.

8Ibid. p. 728.

9 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, pp. 36-37.

10Ibid., p. 41.

11 Ibid., pp. 42-43.

12Ibid., p. 59.

13Ibid., p. 64.

14Ibid., pp. 64-65.

15 Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, (New York, 1952), p. 14. All subsequent references will use this edition, only page references will be given, in the text.

Wolfgang Wittkowski (essay date 1983)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 10080

SOURCE: "Crucified in the Ring: Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea" in The Hemingway Review, Vol. III, No. 1, Fall, 1983, pp. 2-17.

[In the following essay, Wittkowski contends that Santiago's struggle and suffering are patterned after that of the bullfighter and Christ on the Cross, and further that the ideal of the fighter-athlete in the novella encompasses and takes the place of the ideal of Christ.]

When The Old Man and the Sea appeared in 1952, Philip Young wrote that it was a metaphor for life as a fight and man as a fighter. It was a metaphor for which Hemingway indicated his deep respect and enlists ours through the enhancing use of Christian symbols.1 That was the impression of most readers then and probably is still today. However, in 1956 Carlos Baker gave a new twist to the critical discussion of the story, one which had far-reaching consequences. He stated that the religious associations attest to a Christian mentality which in the course of the story's development supplants the fighter ethos of the old man.2 This encouraged several critics to point out Santiago's insight into the tragic limitations of humanity and the consequent victory for a democratic and interpersonal way of thinking.3

The basis for and main thrust of such interpretations were religious argumentation, arriving at the non plus ultra that Santiago's actions were in fact an imitatio Christi.4 To be sure, the critical results were often more modest, for in Hemingway's works, and especially in the case of Santiago, the central image of the killer stands along side that of the sufferer,5 and Hemingway's Catholicism and ethical thought lack the dimension of transcendence.6 One critic, Julanne Isabelle, felt that Hemingway, in good Augustinian fashion, was concerned with the relationship of the individual soul to God, but Isabelle nevertheless shares the same objections as the others. In the final analysis she too ascertains no more than that the writer and his heroes do not deny God, even though they often claim to want no part of religion.7 Baker observes that "consciousness of God is in his [Hemingway's] books." With this both unquestionable and modest result he too was finally satisfied, conceding that the story's Christian symbolism as he understands it does not tally, for Santiago maintains his fighter's pride in the end (Artist, p. 319). In making this concession Baker undermined the theses upon which his own interpretation and the entire resulting Christian and moral meaning of Hemingway's works rise or fall, namely, that Santiago's pride changes into humility and love. Baker had arrived at this view by concluding that humility and love would have to remain when pride disappeared, a fact he saw confirmed by the sentence: "He took all his pain and what was left of his strength and his long gone pride and he put it against the fish's agony."8 This statement reveals not the loss of pride, but rather the opposite. Baker evidently misunderstood Hemingway's particular manner of expression. Such paradoxical hyperbole is extremely characteristic and significant for all his work. On one occasion it is said that Santiago acted "with all his strength, and more strength he had just summoned" (The Old Man and the Sea, p. 103). And prior to this he says of the marlin and himself: "Let him think I am more man than I am and I will be so" (p. 71). Personal and human limitations in general are conceded, but only to serve as a foil for the will to exceed such limitations and bring a heightened awareness of being able to overstep them by conjuring as if out of nowhere the necessary strength, both physical and spiritual. The latter is above all the pride of the fighter and the killer. The ability to summon up his strength fills Santiago with the intense pride of a man in command of himself—as a demiurge. (Demiurgic, meaning half-god and smaller world-creator, has served in Europe since the 18th Century as a synonym for Prometheus/promethean, dramatizing artistic and existential autonomy.) Such likeness with God pervades the same similarity Hemingway attributed to the proud killer and provides for the mutual enhancement of both. Yet the result is scarcely an imitatio Christi, but rather a meaning quite apart from Christ.

Let us look somewhat more closely at the rhetoric, the paradoxical hyperbole, attending this attitude. It occurs whenever Santiago considers the seriousness of his situation. When he cannot open his cramped left hand he avers: "If I have to have it, I will open it, cost whatever it costs" (pp. 66-7). He will not admit his exhaustion and he even claims: "I feel good" (pp. 71 and 82). On three separate occasions he declares he will stay with the marlin "forever" (pp. 58, 64, 66). And toward the end of the battle we read: "I must get him alongside, he thought. I am not good for many more turns. Yes you are, he told himself. You're good for ever" (p. 102). When he scarcely knows how he will continue the battle with the sharks he says: "I'll fight them until I die" (p. 128).

With the strong exaggerations of all these utterances Santiago attempts to bolster his confidence so severly put to the test. This is the "psyching" speech used by fighters in the ring, whose manner of metaphor is familiar to all readers of Hemingway.9 Santiago's "faith" (pp. 11, 18), "hope" (p. 115), and "confidence" (pp. 29, 76, 78) are not to be equated with Christian faith and hope. Santiago's belong to the fighter-ethic, which has been stylized and intensified to the pathos of the demiurgic self-creator again and again in Santiago. Santiago evokes the meaning of his remembered victory in hand-wrestling solely for the purpose of "giving himself more confidence." Back then he had been called "The Champion," "Santiago El Campeón." The rematch he had won easily by breaking his opponent's "confidence" while gaining himself the demiurgic proud confidence "that he could beat anyone if he wanted to badly enough" (p. 76).

Confrontation and victory in competitive sport serve here as the model, the ideal, and ultimately the metaphor. The same holds true for the baseball games whose results Santiago studies carefully and sorely misses when out to sea. The superlative champion he simply calls "the great DiMaggio," just as Manolin, his partner in these dialogues, reverently says "Jota" instead of J. when speaking of "the great John J. McGraw." During the battle with the fish the thought of his idol is a source of inspiration, satisfaction, and even a sense of obligation for Santiago: "I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio."9a After his victory over the marlin, he remarks: "I think the great DiMaggio would be proud of me today." And when he has finally killed the Mako shark, he muses: "I wonder how the great DiMaggio would have liked the way I hit him on the brain?"

The fully conscious pride of the fighter and killer is unmistakable. Though it is also combined with humility and modesty, the seeming humility of comparing oneself with stronger persons and not with weaker ones does not destroy pride, but ennobles it. This humility, Santiago emphasizes, is "not disgraceful" and denotes "no loss of true pride" (p. 14). For him humility is not a primary virtue. It must adapt itself to pride, that is, subordinate itself to it.

On one occasion Manolin calls Santiago "the best fisherman," a title at first rejected by Santiago. That Jesus, too, was so named suffices for pushing Baker to construe the old man's modesty as Christian humility (Artist, p. 300). That still does not work, however, for Manolin then repeats his assertion and this time Santiago accepts it: "Thank you. You make me happy." For all their humble intent, Santiago's subsequent reservations maintain this pride. He hopes that no fish will be strong enough to refute Manolin's opinion ("prove us wrong"), an opinion which he himself shares: "I may not be as strong as I think. . . . But I know many tricks and I have resolution" (p. 25). This he proves throughout the story.

Critics believe that along with "humility," the Christian virtue of "gentleness" could bridle pride. Santiago says to himself: "Rest gently now against the wood and think of nothing." Then "the old man rode gently with the small sea and the hurt of the cord across his back came to him easily and smoothly" (p. 73). One critic believes that "suffering and gentle and wood blend magically into an image of Christ on the cross."10 Perhaps there exists here an "abstract relationship of words" of the kind that fascinated Hemingway,11 possibly even between "cross" and "across," just as surrounding this passage there are several specific allusions to Christ. At the same time these images commingle with the typical traits of the fighter. More appropriate to a fighter than to Christ is the admonition not to think, which occurs more often than the corresponding exhortation to think about only that which is encouraging. Shortly before this, the central concept of suffering finds its expression in the boxing notion of "taking it," an expression implying the willful acceptance of suffering: "he took his suffering" (p. 71).12 "Wood" and "comfortably" occur in close proximity. This is also the immediate meaning of "gentle" in the sentence cited. It calls to mind on the one hand Christ on the Cross, yet at the same time the fighter, too, who sits down, leans against the ropes and relaxes between rounds.

Such double associations of Christ and the fighter are encountered more and more frequently. Their meaning needs to be clarified. "Gentleness" in the Christian sense of suffering is, of course, never found in Santiago. His relationship with Manolin, the sea, and some animals could indeed be described as "gentle." But this does not justify the comparing of Santiago with Saint Francis, for Santiago only loves certain people and animals, while despising and detesting others. He also possesses "gentleness" as an adjunct to his cardinal virtue, that of a Spaniard's chivalrous pride. Several variations of this he manifests in his feeling of shame when pretending he has nets, a place to wash, and a meal; in his ability to receive gifts with honor; in his polite attentiveness toward his benefactor and companion during the meal; and in his chivalrous gesture of giving away the head and sword of the marlin to those who helped him a little though he himself had lost everything. Santiago is not "gentle" like Jesus, but rather like the fighters Ole Andreson, Robert Jordan and Richard Cantwell, who are called "gentle," but still do not feel as Christians do. The chivalrous character of his "gentleness" in particular calls to mind the wounded matador, who in spite of his "suffering" remains "gracious . . . completely calm and very gentle and courteous" toward the bystanders.13

As in the case of "humility" it is wrong to interpret "gentle" in Christian terms simply because this word may be used in a Christian sense and because there are textual associations with Christ. In a non-Christian context these words could evoke a totally different and even diametrically opposed meaning, namely one of antithesis and secularization. After all, both words designate values that are completely of this world and, as ever, aligned with pride. It is through pride that Santiago's ethos clearly gains its unity and cohesion. It is its core. Referring to his pride Santiago repeatedly restores the unity and order of his will in the face of contrary inclinations. Therein lies the victory in his defeat. He is all the more able to gain this victory because those tendencies are integral to his fighter's code. That in turn is possible only because he applies this code to everything he does, and because, inversely, he views his every act as something to which the code is directly applicable, namely, a fight. Moreover, this fight is analogous to the combat of competitive sports and not to the battles of, say, work and everyday life.14

To catch the marlin and defend it against the sharks is important for the fisherman. But risking his life to do so and continuing the battle when it has become purposeless and even reckless, leading to a disintegration of physical being ("Something in my chest was broken") certainly does not serve a man's livelihood but is solely the fulfillment of the fighter's code. Santiago regards his profession as the arena in which he wants to establish and maintain mastery in the struggle for victory or defeat. Accordingly, he understands his body not as the end result of his profession but as a mere means. Like an athlete, he forces himself to eat and sleep, although he likes neither. In May he drinks the bad-tasting shark liver oil and eats turtle eggs in order to be strong in the fall for the large fish. He trains body and mind, controls them, uses them with great economy, risking his body without reservation only if necessary. If his body does not satisfy his demands, then he hates it and despises it. He endures his suffering like the heavily bleeding Antonio Ordonez, who, when his brother comes to lead him from the ring, is infuriated and repulses him with the words, "And you call yourself an Ordonez" (DS I, p. 109).

The jesting conversations with the boy concern the odds of the baseball teams and then of the fisherman. During the actual struggle with the marlin Santiago reassesses his prospects again and again, attempting to improve them. He must show the boy "what a man can do and what a man endures" (p. 73). This endurance characterizes the demiurgic person, but "the good performance, the good show" is the concrete realization of this attitude. The matador wants to put on a good show, just as Jack Brennan feels that is the least he can do, although he knows full well he will lose his title (SS, p. 316). Santiago yearns too to give his performance in front of spectators, in front of his pupil, his model and idol, and his fellow fishermen. Since this is not possible, he performs for an invisible forum, the one to which the matador also feels obliged, namely, the historical and suprahistorical sphere of the championship fight.15 His struggle becomes a testimony of self and the experience of his own championship. Finally, and not to be overlooked, Santiago stages his performance for the great marlin.

It was within the relationship of Santiago and the marlin that critics thought they had uncovered a decisive transformation from pride to love and humility in Santiago, a cessation of the previous coexistence of pride and love, of the greatest sin and the greatest virtue. Such was Baker's thought, and he saw in it a "philosophical crux" (Artist, p. 317). But there is no reason to do this. It is part of the ritual of the fighter that opponents demonstrate good friendship at every opportunity. The matador, whose chief virtue according to Hemingway is pride, loves the bulls, precisely because he must kill them. And in spite of the ofttimes deadly rivalry between matadors they help each other in the arena, where the "closest brotherhood there is" prevails.16

Santiago addresses the fish as "brother":

You are killing me, fish. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who. (p. 102)

The fighter's priorities, the validity of his code begins to weaken. But victory here for the Christian values of love and mercy would contradict what must follow. All emotions opposing the decision to kill are rejected.17 This is all the more possible as respect for one's opponent and ultimate union with him are integral to the fighter's code. They confer nobility and warmth upon the will to victory, and give it precedence. Thus Santiago rejects as well every impulse of opposing emotions:

Now you are getting confused in the head, he thought. You must keep your head clear. Keep your head clear and know how to suffer like a man. Or a fish, he thought. (p. 102)

Santiago calls the fish "brother" as an equal, ideal opponent and sharer in hsi destiny. Between them there exists the same lonely bond as between boxers in the ring or between matador and bull: "Now we are joined together . . . And no one to help either of us." They are bound in a lonely way "beyond all the people of the world" (p. 102). Furthermore, what transpires between Santiago and his fish can be understood only by the few who, together with them, belong to what Hemingway loved to call the secret order of the initiated. The writer stresses the communion, the very kinship of these two in their combative and demiurgic mode of existence. This is what is meant when Santiago calls himself "a strange old man" and the marlin "old fish" and says of the marlin that it behaves "strangely." As an attribute "strange" is regularly accompanied and clearly circumscribed by words such as "strong," "powerful," and "endure" (pp. 15, 19, 73). In one instance such words refer to the fish, another time to fish and fisherman. He marvels at how the marlin battles, and when he thinks that the fish "decides to stay another night" (p. 72), even though that scarcely seems possible, he concedes to the animal the demiurgic self-determination which characterizes the expression of his own will.

In such union and kinship with his opponent, it is no wonder that Santiago feels compassion for the fish between rounds, and when the pride of his victory has faded, compassion remains. It is the experience of the matador with an especially good bull, and it is Santiago's also. However, this is not evidence of a change in attitude on his part. Nor is his battle against the sharks.

I killed the shark that bit my fish. And he was the biggest dentuso that I have ever seen. I wonder how the great DiMaggio would have liked the way I hit him on the brain? . . . But you enjoyed killing the dentuso. "And I killed him well." (pp. 113 and 116)

This is not a man filled with Christian charity, as Baker maintains (Artist, p. 317), but one with the pride and self-esteem of the fighter and killer. Certainly, this pride is founded to some extent upon pity and pain for the marlin, and ennobled by it, yet: "When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit" (p. 113). "The sharks did not hit him again" (124). "I cannot keep him from hitting me" (112). "Come on Galanos" (118 ff.).

Beyond attesting to communication between fish and fisherman these sentences reveal that above and beyond the now dead marlin, is a struggle between the man and the sharks. Santiago himself sees it as such. It again becomes important for him to fulfill the code of the fighter, to demonstrate the axiom: "A man can be destroyed but not defeated." In this he identifies with his dead opponent. And speaks to him: "But we have killed many sharks, you and I, and ruined others. How many did you kill, old fish?" This is how his final thoughts and words to the fish must be interpreted. Beyond any and all Christian feelings he is bound to the fish in antagonism toward the sharks and in the pride of the fighter and the killer.

This ethos outlives all other feelings mentioned. In the end, it is not a question of the marlin or the sharks, but simply of the fact that the old man has been defeated. It is his last thought upon returning and his first one after his sleep of exhaustion: "They beat me. . . . They truly beat me" (p. 136). He adds: "We must get a good killing lance and always have it on board" (p. 138). Just as before, he will go far out on the ocean to fight and kill.

This should put to rest all speculations concerning a change of attitude on Santiago's part. Critics did not try to deduce such a change so much from the context, as from a number of individual utterances by the fisherman. After the sharks have begun to mutilate the carcass of the marlin, Santiago expresses his sorrow at having killed the marlin; he has gone out too far from shore. This most likely implies that he has been robbed of his prey, that his opponent, whom he has learned to respect and love, has been shamefully dispoiled. He did not want that. Had he known this in advance, he would not have gone out so far and would not have killed the marlin. Considered more carefully, it was really no longer possible to relinquish the marlin once the fish had struck and pulled the boat out to sea. Santiago could only have cut the line, thereby delivering the animal to an equally sad fate, for the marlin had a hook in its mouth and could not eat. Nor would that have been legitimate within the code of the fighter. On the other hand, Santiago's unhappiness about what has happened, and about the marlin, are legitimate. Though objectively beside the point, his laments do give voice to pity and regret, both of which are appropriate here. On the other hand feelings of regret, sin, and guilt are not necessarily implied but they could be, and Santiago's thoughts really do move more or less clearly in this direction. To be sure, he noticeably disapproves of or ignores such sentiments along with their religious and moral implications every time and exhorts himself to continue fighting, to endure. At the close of the story Santiago still thinks and acts contrary to those ideas. This leads the reader to a significant conclusion, namely that Hemingway conjures up such impulses expressly to undermine them and render them powerless in the end. This is in keeping with Hemingway's increasingly secular use of "humility" and "gentle," and is admittedly much more provocative, something one would hardly expect of a simple fisherman. But it is something one would readily expect of the author talking over his character's shoulder. A close look at Santiago's discussions with himself is therefore warranted.

After the attack of the first shark Santiago wonders whether it might not have been sinful to kill the fish. Then he consoles himself: "then everything is a sin. . . . You were born to be a fisherman as the fish was born to be a fish." He next remarks: "You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and sell for food. . . . You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman" (p. 116). Critics have construed his mention of pride as self-reproach. Though Santiago being a fisherman is an obvious justification for his chosen course, pride is not set in opposition to it. The same holds true for pride that is thus played off against the idea of sin. One can scarcely ignore that Hemingway coolly yet emphatically declared that pride, the cardinal virtue of the matador (i.e., of the killer), was a Christian sin.18

Those who give the story a Christian and moral interpretation are thus correct that allegiance to the code of the fighter and a feeling of sin are mutually exclusive. But they overlook the fact that the concept of sin remains wholly foreign to Santiago and his code:

Do not think about sin, he thought. There are enough problems now without sin. Also I have no understanding of it.

I have no understanding of it and am not sure I believe in it. . . . Do not think about sin. It is much too late for that and there are people who are paid to do it. Let them think about it. (pp. 115-16)

This is frivolous and even cynical. Hemingway is extending to the clergy his often documented contempt for the "uninitiated" who comment on art, war, and battle as a matter of routine and profit. It is also an anti-Christian polemic when Hemingway gives the impression that Santiago busies himself with the question of sin more for the sake of amusement, as a substitute for a radio or some reading material (p. 116). Santiago's non-committal and mildly comical relationship to God and the saints is similarly worth noting. To be sure, he asks for their help, but only because his operating principle is to leave no stone unturned and no means untried. He relies far more upon himself. The figures of his faith are relics of his religious inheritance, just as the pictures in his cabin are "relics of his wife"; "I am not religious," he says. But, when Santiago does want to involve himself more deeply in matters of consequence, the simple fisherman is dependent upon the traditional concept of sin:

You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

"You think too much, old man," he said aloud.

But you enjoyed killing the dentuso, he thought (p. 116).

As with the iceberg, beneath the surface of these awkward sentences lies the mass of Hemingway's philosophy of killing. The explanation ends abruptly, of course, for nothing can be accomplished through the concept of sin. After all, one is dealing with the axiom that one kills the opponent one respects and loves with enjoyment and pride. Killing, Hemingway says, is a feeling we cannot share with anyone.19 This "moment of truth" deepens the isolation from one's fellow man and intensifies the communion with an opponent as noble as the marlin. It also intensifies the awareness of being alive to the extent of believing oneself immortal and akin to God because of that immortality—just as the matador is God-like because he exercises the divine privilege of "administering death" ( DIA pp. 213, 233).

These may be dramatizations. However, we are dealing with an artist and man who knows precisely what he means. He opens his bullfighting book with the laconic observation that from a Christian point of view the Corrida is unjustifiable (DIA, 1) and as a bullfighting enthusiast, he has nothing in common with that viewpoint. We are already familiar with his remark that pride is a Christian sin and a heathen virtue. These are less disguised objections to the Christian ethic.20 Beyond the self-awareness of the matador they constitute an ethical sphere that is to stand in marked contrast to Christianity and on equal footing with it.

Such is the thrust of Santiago's discussion of sin. When he justifies his actions, the underlying idea is that an elite of great fighters and killers is united by the adherence to a common code which transcends individual worldviews. If possible, this is an even greater challenge to Christianity. Though deduced logically from the pride of the fighter and killer, from the pride of the demiurgic person, it is more than this. It is what Hemingway, with his flair for and delight in dramatic confrontation, calls the dark side of pride, the "pride of the devil" (DS II, p. 77).

Thus Santiago's discussion of sin gives those who would interpret the story in Christian and moral terms little room for critical satisfaction. The story is much the same in Santiago's thoughts about happiness:

Maybe I'll have the luck to bring the forward half in. I should have some luck. No, he said. You violated your luck when you went too far outside.

"Don't be silly," he said aloud. . . . "You may have much luck yet." (p. 128)

That he might have forfeited happiness and earned punishment through hubris is quickly dismissed. Though he appears to at first, it is questionable whether Santiago ever actually views events in such moral terms. From now on "luck" is for him something akin to practical success. By having taken such a great risk, he does not believe he has lost the moral right to success at all, but rather that he has won it. He has forfeited "a lost harpoon and a broken knife and two bad hands, and eighty-four days at sea. They nearly sold it to you too" (p. 129). It is not a matter of crime and punishment, but one of risk and gain, of an "exchange of values." "You paid some way for everything that was any good" (SAR, p. 148). Santiago has paid, but the value he expected and was entitled to expect, was withheld from him. The shadow does not fall upon him, but upon the opposing side, whatever it is called—destiny, the order of the world, God. All moral and religious values are thus supplanted by another value. Hemingway did this expressly in The Sun Also Rises, where he played off the idea of an exchange of values against the idea of "retribution or punishment."21 Here he does it again over the shoulder of the old man, though only by innuendo. The voice of remorse turns out to be—as in the discussion about sin—a hidden challenge to the Christian and moral way of thinking, the "pride of the devil."

This sheds further light on Santiago's final "out too far." At the end of his journey he asks himself what actually was the thing that beat him and replies: "Nothing . . . I went out too far" (p. 133). That is a very simple truth, as the ultimate defeat shows. He ventured out too far to save his victory. But there are undertones of self-reproach here. "Nothing" appears to emphasize that he himself and he alone was to blame. To be sure, it also can mean: I myself made the mistake that brought about defeat and brought me to my destiny. Whether Santiago means to accuse himself or to justify his choice and acceptance of destiny is impossible to say. However, one does learn that Santiago will again go out far from shore and kill. The conversation the next day confirms that the sentence was at least intended as justification too. When Santiago laments he has been conquered, Manolin answers: "He didn't beat you. Not the fish," Santiago replies: "No. Truly. It was afterwards" (pp. 136-7).

Thus it is not now and never was really a question of crime and punishment, but one of victory and defeat, of applying the fighter's model. This Santiago does, and he does it arbitrarily. The fight with the marlin is kept separate from the fight with the sharks. The defeat in the latter does not count. Santiago remains champion. For the battle with the sharks does not correspond directly to the model of sport confrontation. On the other hand, in the fight with the sharks, Santiago still adheres to the fighter's code and ethos. He thus fulfilled his ethos so completely as to bring about his defeat. Moreover he demonstrated the way in which this ethos can be applied to fighting the sharks as well as to catching the marlin, and thus, in principle, to all endeavor. He determines demiurgically that his own misfortune is to take place and be judged "on his own terms."

The "as if," the imaginative arbitrariness with which life is seen in terms of sport combat and the sport's code has been called "quixotic gesture, quixotic pride."22 Critics justifiably pointed to the Existentialists. Santiago and his author also create through their actions an unbridgeable gap between themselves and the masses ("beyond all people"). But in so doing they do not leave their proper place in the order of things, in fact they assume it. It is not the purpose of their actions to set themselves apart from all other people. They make their own choice simply to demonstrate their ability to do so;23 they do it because they attribute the highest possible value to their chosen ethos and style of existence and because in the case of success they are not isolated but rather united in the secret order of the initiated.

This tendency to reduce and stylize existence to this fighter-in-the-ring model is easy to recognize in Hemingway's own life. It may be at work in his preference for the short story, in his habit of first conceiving novels as short stories, then as a connected sequence of individual scenes;24 and equally so in his characters. Superficially they can be divided into fighters or sufferers, but they are actually two sides of the same coin.25 They all have to defend themselves, to fight and to suffer: Nick, Jake, Brett, Catherine, Henry, Maria. And it is more so for Harry, Jordan, Cantwell, and, above all, for the men in the ring, the boxers Ole Andreson, Jack Brennan, Steve Ketchel; and the matadors Maera (DIA), the rivals in "The Dangerous Summer," the "kid fighter" in In OurTime (chap. 9), Manuel ("The Undefeated"), Pilar's former lover (FWBT, chap. 14), Belmonte and Romero (SAR).

Within the narrow confines of their fictional world these heroes also withdraw into a small special sphere which they can easily maintain. Their situations and behavior more or less resemble those of the fighter in the ring, whether actually or only in their own perceptions of things. Both are the case with Santiago, and one sees what he gains from them. Santiago's fundamental feelings of "Geworfensein" (being cast out into existence) and "Dennoch"26 (nevertheless) are transcended by the pride of having been set upon his life's course by virtue of the fighter's code which he has himself chosen. While everyday life was complicated for him, here he knows what moves against him and what he must do. Whether he wins or loses, he knows his worth and his place among his competitors, and his place in history. This gives his existence meaning, certainty, and unity. He proceeds with that "complete and respectful concentration on his work which marks all great artists" both in and out of the ring. At the climax of the fight he acts with the controlled rage that drives the very greatest and best of fighters "to go way past the impossible."27 By visualizing himself as a prize fighter in competition, set apart from the masses in the shadows beyond the ropes, he gains distance from and control over himself and "heroics" and "drama" as fascinating stylistic components of his existence.28

Because such a perspective is subjective, arbitrary, and imaginative, it has to be constantly revived to endure. Santiago does this by calling to mind such fight models as the baseball games, Joe DiMaggio, and his own mastery in the "hand game." For Hemingway, the tragedy of a King Lear, a bull, or a boxer going down silently fulfills the same function.29 Hemingway considered it indispensable to see several good fights a year: "If you quit going for too long a time, then you never go near them. . . . That would be dangerous" (Ross, p. 20). Though shortly before his death, visitors found him broken, a crumbling ruin of his former self, the autographed picture of a world boxing champion hung on the wall, and the TV guide was opened to the Saturday-night fights.30

Even at the end he found inspiration and comfort in the model after which he had stylized his existence. It is possible that the cultivation of his own personality was the eccentric experiment of a nervous and anxious person, but in the final analysis it was successful. The face became the mask.31 Around 1950 Hemingway seemed to sense this in himself; he relaxed. Whereas he had at one time rather mournfully said that the world breaks and kills everyone,32 now, with a sharp touch of humor and irony, he called life temporary avoidance of death and persons who had managed to escape it once more "un-killed characters." He had lived long enough with death to hope confidently for "the grace of a happy death" (ARIT p. 240). Cantwell's death, which as Young prophesied, anticipated and shaped Hemingway's own death,33 suggests that, as in the case of the matadors, "grace" is the perfected, controlled pose. The calm smile in the face of death, and the demiurgic, devilish pride of an autonomous man are the factors which finally take on meaning in the fighter-in-the-ring model, in words with which Hemingway uncovers in advance the meaning of his own death:

"Only suckers worry about saving their souls. Who the hell should care about saving his soul when it is a man's duty to lose it intelligently, the way you would sell a position you were defending, if you could not hold it, as expensively as possible, trying to make it the most expensive position that was ever sold. It isn't hard to die." (Ross, p. 30)

It is reported by Ross that he opened his mouth, laughed, first silently, then aloud, and concluded: "No more worries . . . It takes a pretty goodman to make any sense when he's dying."

How, though, can the analogies between Santiago and Christ accord with a fighter's ideal compounded to the point of demiurgic autonomy and the pride of Lucifer? Again and again—though critics would not like to concede this today—Hemingway plays off his own values against Christian ones. With obvious delight and enjoyment he dramatized this as a dangerous and risky endeavor, and elevated it to the level of a devil's rebellion. He was still playing with this idea at the very end in "The Dangerous Summer," and he played with it shortly before the Santiago story, in Across the River. In the latter work there is a purely fictional secret society. Its leader is called "The Revered One," an analogy to the title "Reverend." But it is said that he will roast in hell; for this reason the religious authorities forbid a public burial (ARIT, pp. 57, 61). Cantwell too will end up in hell where his special guards will refuse admission to unwelcome contemporaries; "and I don't even believe in hell," he says (p. 250).

It appears to be less a matter of belief than of delight in decorative gesture when Hemingway prays for the matadors but not for himself because that would be egoistic (DS II, p. 76). Further evidence are his disrespectful prayer parodies,34 his remarks on bullfighting cited above, or his observation on the fatally wounded matador that as long as they think the man has an immortal soul the doctors will try to keep him alive, even when "death would seem to be the greatest gift one man could give another" (DIA, p. 220). Hemingway gave himself this gift, and the question of whether he lacked belief in immortality or respect for it is a moot point.

Nonetheless, direct attacks on Christianity are relatively infrequent in his works. On the other hand, he frequently secularizes religious concepts in order to juxtapose them with occurrences and characters from his own value system, thereby "sanctifying" the latter. Sexual union and killing afford mystical ecstasy "that is, while momentary, as profound as any religious ecstasy" (DIA, p. 206). Injuries and sufferings which a dangerous life entails and which must be accepted as compensation for killing and injuring signify "castigation" and effect "purgation."35 Killing is a pre-Christian "extra-sacrament" (FWBT p. 286).

Some matadors celebrate their battle like a mass. They administer death as a priest administers the Sacrament. Killing is their divine privilege and it evokes feelings of immortality and likeness to God (DIA, pp. 213, 233). They are met as "messiahs" (DIA, pp. 167, 171). A nun prays fervently to "Our Lady" for a victory by the University of Notre Dame football team.36

The ominous expressions "Blessed Virgin of Pilar" and "Red Bride of Christ" point to the violated Virgin Mary who surrenders herself to her lover and of whom it is jokingly said that she serves him, her "Lord and Master," as Maria Magdalena did Jesus (FWBT, pp. 303, 352, 203). The very title "The Light of the World" suggests that the whore Alice is not damned, but rather defended in accordance with Chapter 8 of the Gospel of John. For what her rival glibly claims for herself holds true for Alice, namely, that she loved the great boxer "like you love God. He was like a God he was. So white and clean and beautiful and smooth and fast and like a tiger or like lightning." The former world champion was and is for this woman what Jesus was to his followers: "I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." And finally, the Crucifixion painting of the "good, anticlerical" Goya could serve as an announcement of crucifixions, like a poster for a bullfight, with the following text:

A crucifixion of six carefully selected Christs will take place at five o'clock in the Monumental Golgotha of Madrid. . . . The following well-known, accredited and notable crucifiers will officiate, each accompanied by his cuadrilla of nailers, hammerers, cross-raisers, and spade-men. (DIA, p. 204)

The figure of Christ on the Cross actually occurs in the early dialogue "Today is Friday." The legionnaires argue the merits of the crucifixion as if it were a fighting match, as if Christ's conduct were that of a fighter in the ring. The central leitmotif is the repeated commentary, "He was pretty good in there today," and Jesus "took his suffering." At the same time he fulfilled the ritualized code of the fighter from its demiurgic aspect; though condemned to suffer, he "acted" in a personal way and thus made the fight his "play." As with all Hemingway heroes, in his defeat Christ preserves to the end the unity of suffering and fighting. These are certainly not specifically Christian virtues, but generally those of the fighter. Though here embodied in Christ and thus sanctified, a Luciferian reversal takes place as the highest good of Christianity is legitimized only after, and through, affirmation of the elementary virtues of the fighter.

One can now clarify the meaning of the analogies between Santiago and Christ on the Cross. Those previously mentioned all converged in the metaphor of the fighter. There are yet other cases. The great DiMaggio "who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur" or, as Santiago so solemnly puts it, with the pain of the "espuela de hueso" (OMS, p. 75). In spite of this clear allusion, he shares exemplary stature with Christ only in very general terms. Specifically, he shares with him affirmation of genuine virtue in the fighter.

In the moment of Santiago's total exhaustion, he detects a copper-like sweet taste in his mouth and spits (pp. 131, 138). One can perhaps concur with Baker that it may have been the taste of vinegar on a sponge (Artist, p. 319). One can just as easily call to mind the young matador who, after having killed six bulls, sinks to the ground from the excessive exertion and vomits.37 The blood on Santiago's face reminds Baker of the blood beneath the crown of thorns (Artist, p. 319). However, the actual expression of suffering in the face of the fighter certainly fascinated Hemingway. When Maera, his wrist wrenched out of joint, has finally killed the bull after six attempts, he stands there, a tall man with sunken eyes, his face dripping with perspiration. When Jack Brennan is hit by a low blow his face looks terrible for the remainder of the fight; it was the most frightful thing the narrator had ever seen. In his boxing match with Cohn, champion matador Romero's face takes a terrible beating and is "very noticeable" (SAR, p. 219) during the bullfight the next day. Santiago's hand is covered with blood and scars. Baker believes that throughout his entire struggle Santiago thinks about his hands like a person crucified (Artist, p. 314). But matadors like Maera and Antonio Ordonez think too of their sensitive hands,38 as do all fighters. Cantwell, who has been frequently injured and is still in good shape, says that boxers wear gloves to keep themselves from getting bad hands. Further, he has a mutilated hand that he regards with disgust, even as a traitor, just as Santiago views his left hand. Yet in Renata's dreams Cantwell's appears as "the hand of Our Lord."39 For this reason the old sinner, headed for damnation, though he doesn't even believe in it, does not share qualities with Christ at all. Drawing parallels between his scars and those of Christ, between him and Christ, is a rather provocative equation.

Now we come to the final three and most well-known analogies between Santiago and Christ on the Cross. When the fisherman sees the "galanos" coming, he says: "Ay—a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hand and into the wood" (p. 118). Santiago is the man crucified, the "galanos" the soldiers of the crucifixion—to use imagery from the Goya travesty—like men from the cuadrilla of crucifiers, "scavengers as well as killers." They sever the legs and fins of the turtles with their swords and proceed in a similar fashion with the marlin and thus indirectly with Santiago too, with whom the fish and the turtles are closely linked. The latter have strong hearts, feet, and hands as he does. He, for his part, loves them and eats their eggs (p. 40).

On the other hand, Santiago is himself crucifier and killer. As he leans against the wood and so reminds one of Christ on the Cross, he says: "I'll kill him though . . . In all his greatness and his glory" (p. 73). Indeed, he drinks shark liver oil, and the teeth of the "dentuso," the great Mako shark, resemble his fingers, especially when they are bent into claws. It is expressly stated that the "dentuso" is not a scavenger; it fights alone. It is the strongest fish of the sea, a champion like Santiago. It is "beautiful and noble" (p. 117), and but for its jaws is the twin of the swordfish. The swordfish, for its part, has killed many sharks and yet "in all his greatness and his glory" calls to mind Christ on the Cross. The struggles between Santiago, the marlin, and the sharks are evidence that "everything kills everything else" (p. 117). Each is sent out into life to fight and to suffer, to crucify and to be crucified.

Looking more closely at the passage one sees the peculiar "Ay." As an involuntary reaction it is a cry of pain and suffering, yet simultaneously something akin to the automatic onset of resistance, of protest; it is a battle cry. The words which follow bear this out: "Ay, the old man said, Galanos. Come on Galanos" (p. 119). This same element of self-defense and refusal to give up is once again implied when Santiago upon his return lies on his bed "face down . . . with his arms straight and the palms of his hands up" (p. 134). For an analogy with Christ on the Cross the "face down" is disturbing. Oddly enough Hemingway's heroes have a pronounced preference for this position. Santiago falls onto his face whenever the marlin pulls him off his feet. In For Whom The Bell Tolls Jordan observes the bridge mostly while lying on his belly. The ill and overcome matador, struggling to maintain his composure, lies "face down on his bed with his mouth against a handkerchief." If thrown onto his back, a fighter is usually beaten: and when he wants to get to his feet, he first rolls into a "face down" position. Whoever takes this position wants to protect himself, to take and conceal his pain: he intends to gather strength, get up and continue the fight. A boxer will prop himself up on one knee. Cantwell, who in general has pronounced fighter's habits does it. He constantly walks with slightly exaggerated "confidence," even when not necessary. In bars he always sits in a corner with his back to the wall. From that position he can survey the room and keep his flanks guarded ( ARIT, pp. 65, 115). It is the same force of habit which makes the fighter assume the "facedown" position in a given situation, though the only purpose for the gesture is an artistic one; a variation of the Christ-analogy in which the protagonist refuses to admit defeat.

This is the obvious purpose of one allusion to the Passion (pp. 113-14). Santiago has come ashore. Although it is unnecessary and absurd in his exhausted condition, he shoulders the mast and climbs up the steep bank. On top he falls and lies there "with the mast across his shoulder." He tries to get up but it is too difficult. He remains sitting with the mast on his shoulder and looks down the street. Finally, he struggles to his feet and goes on. "He had to sit down five times before he reached his shack."40

The mast brings to mind Christ making his way toward Golgotha. It also brings to mind the boxer who goes down, works himself up onto his knees, then to his feet, automatically, as it were, for as long as he is able. In this way the passage is linked to the previously mentioned one and with others where Santiago is pulled off his feet by the marlin, receives bloody facial wounds, and gets up again, where Santiago with shoulders heaving and twisting tries to reel in the circling marlin, alternating sitting down to rest and working himself back to his knees, and finally back to his feet again.

All allusions to Christ on the Cross, in other words, and particularly these final, clearest ones, are simultaneously allusions to the fighter in the ring. Nowhere, however, does this synthesis signify the dominance of a specifically Christian attitude. On the contrary, it sanctifies a non-Christian ethos. It implies that a perfection, an authenticity is only possible on the basis of this ethos. Thus the fighter-in-the-ring model subsumes the Christ model. The former confronts the latter with the Luciferian claim to equality and even superiority. The Christ analogy is, at the same time, antithesis.

Santiago's behavior continually manifests greater combative activity than one associates with Christ. Stated differently, in Santiago the fighter-metaphor intensifies the combative elements of the Christ model. Thus Santiago, the mast on his shoulder, struggles to his feet six times, while, according to the Bible, Christ rose only three times on his way to Golgotha. The symbol of Santiago's defeat, the mast with the sail torn to shreds, is taken up only at the end, when the battle is finally lost. But when he takes it he does so without reservation or hesitation as though it were an obvious and familiar fate. Actually, he carried the mast already at the beginning of the story, and when he finally does return home empty-handed, after 87 days, he has repeated his record streak of bad luck. This "permanent" defeat does not detract from his accomplishments. On the contrary, it reinforces what matters: the affirmation of "what a man can do and what a man endures" (p. 73).

Is this, as Brooks instructs,41 the desperate struggle of a man who no longer has God and must replace him, but cannot? Isn't the hero's bravery, perceived only by the faithful, perhaps an incognito of a hidden God? Or is not such an assumption based, as Atkins maintains,42 upon a totally inadequate scrutiny of the facts and upon an a priori view of bravery and despair? Are not most of us far too much slaves to traditional values, believing that if these were to crumble, a frightful void would take their place?

The pride of the devil is, to be sure, hyperbole. Behind it lies a typical American admixture of self-exultation and self-irony, of friendly raillery, demonic dramatics, and delight in the inflated role and rivalry. In the final analysis, Hemingway only includes metaphysical content in order to draw the boundary between metaphysics and his peculiar value system in a provocative way. He certainly does not want to replace good with evil, but only feelings dictated by convention with those which one really feels ( DIA, p. 2). "Moral is what you feel good after and immoral is what you feel bad after" ( DIA, p. 4). This simple definition takes the "good" and the "bad" conscience in purely empirical terms, as does situation ethics.43 Thus when Brett says, "You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch. . . . It's sort of what we have instead of God," it is not, as critics would have it, religious despair. It purports that good and evil are a question of a primary sense of values and not of religious dogma. For this very reason Brett replaces the religious argument with an ethical one.

To find despair in the story of Santiago one has to read it into the story. In his discussion of luck the old man remarks, "Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her?" (p. 129). He certainly does not experience his luck as consciously as Jordan or Cantwell. He is too simple a person for that. But there is no question that he does experience luck, which a life in nature and intensification of existence in moments of greatest exertion can afford. The closing configuration of images, in which the old man in the hut dreams about the lions while down below the beheaded skeleton of the fish floats amidst garbage and cadavers, points to disintegration and death. Santiago is headed toward this. But that holds nothing frightening for him. His existence as killer and fighter has provided him with castigatio and purgatio. He is without family and scarcely allows himself a minimum amount of sleep and nourishment. The sea, whose clear "unimpressed blue" is reflected in his cheerful, unvanquished eyes, becomes for him "the one single, lasting thing." Now and then he frees himself from it, just as he does from the fish and his battle with them—once again the phenomenon of intensification—and then: "the lions are the main thing that is left" (p. 73). He happily dreams of them playing on the golden banks "so white they hurt your eyes" (p. 27). They may symbolize something skin to the undestroyed dead leopard beneath the dazzlingly white summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, which the natives call "House of God," namely deliverance from the transitoriness and impurity of earthly things. There too, the religious association sanctifies something entirely of this world, namely a measure of ethical essence attained in death, the last "moment of truth."44 This measure is very great in Santiago's case, and he continues to subject himself to the purgatio and castigatio of his ascetic way of life and his enervating battles. But by bringing the basic form of life and the valid answer to it (namely suffering and acting) to perfect realization in battle and in the demiurgic fighter's ethos, he demonstrates and attains outside of Christianity a perfection which Hemingway, with the pride of Lucifer, places alongside and in opposition to that of Christianity. Furthermore, the fighter's ideal encompasses that which is truly authentic in Christ. It lays claim to the respect and esteem usually rendered to Christianity and its creator. It takes the place of Christ. For this reason Santiago's suffering and fighting are stylized into two models, one of which subsumes the other in antithetical fashion: the fighter-in-the-ring and Christ on the Cross.


1 Philip Young, Ernest Hemingway (New York: Rinehart, 1952), pp. 103.

2 Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway, The Writer as Artist (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), p. 299 ff.

3 Clinton S. Burhans, Jr., "The Old Man and the Sea': Hemingway's Tragic Vision of Man"; Keiichi Harada, "The Marlin and the Shark," both in Hemingway and his Critics, ed. Carlos Baker (New York: Hill and Wang, 1961) pp. 262, 265, 275-6.

4 John Halverson, "Christian Resonance in 'The Old Man and the Sea,'" English Language Notes II (1964), p. 54.

5 Melvin Backman, "Hemingway: The Matador and the Crucified," in Hemingway, ed. Carlos Baker, esp. pp. 245, 255.

6 Leo Hertzel, "The Look of Religion: Hemingway and Catholicism," Renascence, XVII, p. 81.

7 Julanne Isabelle, Hemingway's Religious Experience (Ne w York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964), pp. 93, 71.

8 Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952), p. 103. Further citations are to this edition.

9 See Arturo B area, "Not Spain But Hemingway," in Hemingway, ed. Baker, pp. 210-11.

9a That is, "he makes the difference" (p. 23). See Burhans, p. 264, who emphasizes the advantages to the team: DiMaggio, after all, was famous as a "team player." Nothing, however, in the text calls that to mind. Here the accent is placed on the uniqueness of the champion, and not, as Burhans would like, on the solidarity and interdependence among people.

10 Backman, p. 256.

11 George A. Plimpton, "An Interview with Ernest Hemingway," in Hemingway, ed. Baker, p. 27.

12 Santiago uses it as on p. 114: ". . . take it when it comes"; and as the boxer Ad Francis says in "The Battler": "I could take it," The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, n.d.), p. 131.

13 Ernest Hemingway, "The Dangerous Summer," Life, Sept. 1960, Parts I-III; II, p. 82; III, p. 96.

14 Baker, Artist, pp. 297-8.

15 "He's competing with history," says Hemingway of Antonio Ordonez ( DS, I, p. 109).

16 Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1954), p. 186; DS, II, p. 76.

17 ". . . his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him" (p. 83).

18 Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932), p. 233.

19 Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935), p. 120

20 John Atkins, The Art of Ernest Hemingway: His Work and Personality (London: Peter Nevill, 1952), p. 156.

21 Cf. Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and Into the Trees (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1950), pp. 71 , 235, 240; For Whom the Bell Tolls (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940), p. 166, where Jordan says, "S o if your life trades its seventy years for seventy hours I have that value now and I am lucky enough to know it." Also see Helmut Papajewski, "Die Frage nach der Sinnhaftigkeit bei Hemingway," in Anglia LXX, (1951), p. 204; Horst Oppel, "Hemingway's ARIT," in Hemingway, ed. Carlos Baker, p. 220-21.

22 Cleanth Brooks, The Hidden God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), pp. 8, 11, 20. Robert Penn Warren, "Hemingway," Kenyon Review IX, (Winter 1947), p. 2, speaks of the "principle of sportsmanship."

23 John Killinger, Hemingway and the Dead Gods: A Study in Existentialism (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1960), p. 70.

24 Lillian Ross, "How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?" The New Yorker, May 13, 1950; rpt. in Hemingway: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Robert P. Weeks, p. 23; Michael F. Moloney, "Ernest Hemingway: The Missing Third Dimension," in Hemingway, ed. Baker, p. 184.

25 With this presumption Backman corrects his previously advanced thesis, pp. 245, 255.

26 Papajewski, p. 200.

27 Hemingway on the matadors in DS II, pp. 66, 82.

28 Hemingway, GHA, p. 41 ; Killinger, pp. 70, 96.

29 Cantwell observes, for example, that boxing world champion Gene Tunney read 'Lear,' ARIT, p. 171.

30 Alfred G. Aronowitz and Peter Hamill, Ernest Hemingway: The Life and Death of a Man (New York: Lancer, 1961), p. 201; Leslie Fiedler, "An Almost Imaginary Interview: Hemingway in Ketchum," Partisan Review (Summer 1962), pp. 400, 403.

31 André Maurois, "Ernest Hemingway," in Hemingway, ed. Baker, pp. 51, 47.

32 Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929), p. 267.

33 Young, p. 93.

34 The "Nada" prayer in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"; the prayer of the fearful matador for good bulls ( DIA, p. 90); the prayer of the nun for the victory of her football team in "The Gambler, The Nun, and the Radio."

35 Cf. n. 24; "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," SS, p. 32; Atkins speaks of Macomber's "purgation," p. 171; ARIT, pp. 235, 240, and 71, where Cantwell connects these ideas with boxing concepts. What he says of himself and those he loves holds also for Hemingway and Santiago: They belong to those "who had been there and had received the castigation that everyone receives who goes there long enough"; they were "hit solidly, as every man will be if he stays."

36 Ernest Hemingway, "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio," SS, pp. 474 ff.

37 Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time, chap. 9.

38DIA, p. 80; DS, II, p. 80.

39ARIT, pp. 284, 84. If necessary, this could be held against Baker's view that Santiago speaks to his hands as if to companions in suffering and names his left hand traitor, just as Christ named the thief on his left ( Artist, p. 314).

40 That is, according to my count, a total of six times. Joseph Waldmeir, in "Hemingway's Religion of Man," ed. Weeks, in contrast, calculates seven, and Julanne Isabelle agrees with him (Hemingway's Religious Experience, p. 65). Here and in other instances Waldmeir is mislead by his interest in holy numbers.

41 Brooks, pp. 20-1; Warren, p. 6.

42 Atkins, pp. 141-148.

43 James B. Colvert, "Ernest Hemingway's Morality in Action," American Literature, XXVII (1955), p. 377.

44 "The moment of truth" is actually the moment in which the bull is killed. However, for Hemingway it means every conscious and sovereign turn with deadly danger as well as the moment of final reckoning. He confessed that he wanted to reach immortality through his literary performance. "And if it is good enough, it will last as long as there are human beings" (Maurois, p. 49).

Ben Stoltzfus (essay date 1991)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3248

SOURCE: "The Old Man and the Sea: A Lacanian Reading," in Hemingway: Essays of Reassessment, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 190-99.

[In the following excerpt, Stoltzfus presents a semiotic reading, based on the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan, of the central words in The Old Man and the Sea, which, he contends, provide insight into Hemingway's conscious narrative as well as both Santiago's and Hemingway's unconscious desires.]

If the narrative level of The Old Man and the Sea represents the one-eighth of the iceberg above the surface of the sea, what can we find out about the seven-eighths portion of the story that is presumably there but is neither spoken nor visible? In my attempt to define it I will focus on three categories: (1) what Hemingway consciously put into the text; (2) what the reader puts into it in order to generate meaning; and (3) Hemingway's unconscious (desire) which escapes his cognition but which is unveiled by a Lacanian reading.

The first level corresponds to Santiago's unconscious (desire) which dreams of Africa and the lions, and daydreams of DiMaggio, bone spurs, and cocks; the second is the Christological tradition that Hemingway embeds in the narrative; the third is that the text taken as a whole—the displaced symptom and manifestation of Hemingway's desire —is his unconscious. In focusing first on Santiago's unconscious, which is consciously structured by Hemingway—that is, by what he put there—we should keep in mind the fact that Sigmund Freud's interpretation of dreams enabled Jacques Lacan to show that the operations of the unconscious, encompassing pictographic and linguistic analyses, are themselves a linguistic process. Like the iconic nature of dreams, language and narration have a manifest and latent content. In dreams, condensation and displacement disguise the content of the unconscious in the same way that metaphor and metonymy veil the pulsive forces of the subject's desire whenever he or she uses language. In the production of narrative (in this case it is Santiago's narrative), unconscious content is condensed as metaphor and displaced as metonymy. The reader's role is to discover how the manifest discourse veils the latent meaning, how the signifiers resolve into manifest signi-fieds and latent referents. If the dream is the iconic although masked mirror of the unconscious, fiction is its linguistic reflector.

Although Santiago's dream of the lions is the function, primarily, of his unconscious desire, the text illustrates Lacan's theory that the unconscious is structured as a language, because the word lion, as a signifier, has both denotative and connotative value. The value is an animal, but since he is also "the king of beasts," he is at the top of the animal hierarchy. We may rephrase Santiago's dream, since "the lions [are] the main thing that is left" (Old Man, p. 66), as a metaphor: Santiago is a lion. Santiago is therefore king, since dreaming of the lions is the ultimate endorsement of selfhood. However, not only does he feel unlucky, he also sees his inadequacy, old age, and incompetence reflected in the eyes of the other fishermen. "The first object of desire," writes Lacan in Ecrits (Sheridan translation), "is to be recognized by the other" (p. 58). The image of himself that Santiago sees mirrored by the group gaze is impotence, and this impotence triggers all the anxieties of a repressed primal castration that now coincide with his sense of failure. He cannot resign himself to such a state of unbearable tension and must, therefore, gamble with his luck and, if need be, die in the process: "I'll fight them [the sharks] until I die" (Old Man, p. 115).

We should keep in mind that the metaphor "Santiago is a lion" represents a semantic transposition from a present sign (lion) to an absent sign (king). The meaning of the absent or invisible sign is reinforced by references to DiMaggio, who is a champion, and to the hand-wrestling match with the negro from Cienfuegos that established Santiago as El Campeón. It is perhaps axiomatic that daydreams manifest desire more openly than dreams do, and it is appropriate that Santiago should daydream about baseball and the pain of DiMaggio's bone spur, which the old man equates with his own suffering. In these two cases the allusion to the absent and repressed referents requires substituting for the Sausurrian bar (S1 over S2) a quasitriangular definition of the sign:

In these diagrams, although the sign (signifier plus signified) remains distinct from the referent, the referent, in its contextual and extratextual functions, dramatizes the presence of Santiago's desire. The reader constructs this referential meaning by establishing figurai and symbolic traces based on metaphorical and metonymical relationships of condensation and displacement. Condensation (or metaphor) is paradigmatic, going from a sign present to others that are absent ("love is a pebble laughing in the sunlight"), but displacement (metonymy) functions in the same way. There is a metonymical slippage in Santiago's daydream from DiMaggio to bone spur to fighting cock. As with metaphor, the substitution of one sign for another may also be diagrammed as follows:

In diagram 3 the signifier has two signifieds and one referent. In diagram 4, in which a fighting cock with spurs is the signifier, the implied and absent referent is "a fight to the death." It can be diagrammed as follows:

By superimposing diagrams 3 and 4 we begin to understand how metonymical slippage works. If DiMaggio has a spur, and if a fighting cock has a spur, and both are champions (one of two cocks will emerge victorious), then both perform to the death, in spite of the pain. That is the sign of a champion. The marlin is also a champion, and the metonymical slippage becomes a syllogism. The marlin's spear resembles a baseball bat, the marlin fights to the death, therefore the marlin, like DiMaggio and the cock, is a champion. But Santiago triumphs over the marlin, therefore he is a greater champion. There is also a metonymical slippage of identities between DiMaggio, the fighting cock, the marlin, and Santiago, and it is Santiago's daydream that sets up the syllogisms and the connections.

Because a signifier may have two or more signifieds and referents, diagram I is more complex than it first appears to be. We can rediagram it as follows:

Hemingway tells us that dreaming of the lions (pundonor) is "the main thing that is left" (Old Man, p. 66). Indeed, the last sentence of the novella is: "The old man was dreaming about the lions." Therefore, in spite of the fact that he has been destroyed physically, his dream, as a manifestation of desire and identity, suggests that his honor and pride are intact. Santiago is sleeping in his hut with his arms outstretched in a cruciform position, and his ordeal, as Hemingway presents it, with its pain and its duration, is comparable to a crucifixion. At the end of the story, the Christological imagery and the unconscious meld in order to give us a hero who assumes, that is, who accepts the meaning of his life and his death and is now resting peacefully, because he knows he has performed like a champion. He is once again a lion. Although he is dying, Santiago is happy, because he believes that the eighteen-foot skeleton has restored his identity in the eyes of the group. The gaze of the other fishermen will mirror his triumph, and indeed, the proof of his special status, in spite of his age, is manifest by Manolin, who once more ministers to his needs by bringing him coffee, the newspaper, and ointment for his damaged hands.

Santiago's potency has been restored. His reason for going out too far has paid off. The metonymical slippages within the work define him as a dying but victorious cock. Finally, as a trope, the cock functions both as a metaphor and as metonymy. As a signifier, the word cock has two signifieds: rooster and phallus. The phallus connotes potency which, for Santiago, is the unconscious sign that his male virility has been restored. Diagram 6 defines the relationships:

If Santiago is now the phallus, and the phallus, according to Lacan, is the law or, as he calls it, the name of the father, then Santiago subsumes life and death. The death of the marlin (as champion) and Santiago's immanent death are acceptable because their destinies—what they were both born for—have been fulfilled.

Santiago assumes his death even as Hemingway's discourse illustrates possible fifth and sixth dimensions in his writing. A Lacanian reading explains how these dimensions work. Indeed, the signifiers as metaphors, when superimposed, give us levels of meaning that are limited only by the number of metonymical substitutions that the reader can at any one time generate and absorb. There are layers upon layers: Santiago's dream and his daydreams, the reader's response and the knowledge he or she brings, and Hemingway's unconscious discourse are the three primary levels. When we add the metaphorical meanings of the lion, the marlin, DiMaggio, and the cock, to mention only the ones I have discussed (the Christological imagery and tradition provide additional levels), it is clear that the text is laced with connotative tracings that resonate throughout the work.

A Lacanian reading of the metaphorical slippages, although it does not differ from a conventional rhetorical poetics, does point to the overlapping images of the signifying chain as functions of Santiago's unconscious, and this is its radical newness. Hemingway's deliberate embedding into the text of these metonymical substitutions and displacements gives the narrative its layered effect and leads me to suggest that his manipulation of the reader's response, by means of these devices, may constitute the fifth and sixth dimensions to which he has sometimes alluded. His tropes function as a poetics of simultaneity. Within the associative chain one champion replaces another, each one a manifest symptom of Santiago's desire, his need to restore his honor and his sense of identity.

Having discussed Santiago's unconscious desire, it is time to focus on Hemingway's but before we do, a few expository words on Lacan's system will perhaps facilitate the process. In Lacanian theory the imaginary and the symbolic order constitute two fundamental sets of related terms. The imaginary corresponds to the preoedipal period when the child believes that it is still a part of the mother and sees no division between itself and the world. In the oedipal phase, which is the entry into the symbolic order, the father splits the mother-child unit. The phallus, which represents the law of the father and the threat of castration, forbids the child further access to the mother's body. From now on the loss suffered and the desire for the maternal must be repressed. This is what Lacan calls the primary repression. It coincides with the acquisition of language and entry into the symbolic order. This period is also referred to as the mirror phase. It opens up the unconscious and allows Lacan to say that the unconscious is structured as a language. Moreover, it is the child's desire for symbiotic unity with the mother that creates the unconscious. The unconscious, therefore, is the result of the repression of desire, due to the prohibition of the father, that is, the law. Furthermore, desire, like language, as we have already seen in the case of Santiago, slides ceaselessly from object to object and from signifier to signifier. There is no ultimate satisfaction to desire since there is no final signifier that can represent the imaginary harmony with the mother and her world that has been lost forever. Freud himself, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, posits death as the final goal of desire, the ultimate healing of the divided subject.

Santiago, who is the veiled metaphor of Hemingway's own desire, must fish, and it is this compulsion to repeat that overrides Freud's pleasure principle, because repetition, which is linked to the death instinct, is a more primitive, more elemental, and more significant drive. Oedipus at Colonus retells his story, Santiago keeps fishing, and Hemingway goes on writing. Although painful (the pleasure principle postulated the quest for pleasure and the avoidance of pain), these actions manifest themselves as preferred activities, deferrals that go beyond pleasure because something other than pleasure is at work. Fishing as repetitive behavior, or as a metaphor for narration, transcends pleasure or the need to earn a living. Santiago's compulsion to prove once again that he is a champion fisherman, like Hemingway's determination to prove that he is Nobel Prize material, is the replaying of a life usage of the death instinct—a practical, productive application of the compulsion to repeat. Santiago acts out the symbolic meaning of death, and through a recognition and assumption of its meaning comes to terms not only with death but also with his life.

On the way back to Havana, with the marlin lashed to the skiff, the sharks attack and destroy the fish, and Santiago, in turn, is destroyed fighting the sharks. Although at the end he can hardly breathe and can taste blood in his mouth, "he only noticed how lightly and how well the skiff sailed now there was no great weight beside her" (Old Man, p. 119). Santiago returns to home port late at night with an eighteen-foot skeleton of a fish—a fish whose tail is in the shape of a scythe (another example of a signifier with two signifieds). A skeleton and a scythe, by convention, connote death, and to sail lightly with death at one's side is indeed to accept death's symbolic presence.

For Lacan, the Other (with a capital O) is the split self of the child that is repressed and that becomes the unconscious. In the realm of the unconscious, Santiago and the marlin sail together, and always have, since the fish is that invisible Other that has been accompanying him since infancy, the repressed self that swims in the depths, present but unseen, until it rises to the surface (of consciousness), where Santiago thrusts his harpoon into the heart of the matter; and then "the fish came alive, with his death in him" (p. 94). Santiago narrates the fish's death as though the unconscious had, at last, been rendered visible, as though the Other, swimming through the sea of the unconscious, had finally leaped into view in one decisive, desperate, and dramatic moment in order to foreground life and death within that "glimpse of vision that he had" (p. 94) "when he had seen the fish come out of the water and hang motionless in the sky before he fell." Santiago "was sure there was some great strangeness and he could not believe it" (p. 98). The fish, as yet another example of the signified-to-signifier formula, can also be read as the symbol of the Christological tradition or, for Lacan, as the law of the father—the prohibition that Santiago is determined to overpower: "Christ, I did not know he was so big. 'I'll kill him though,' he said. 'In all his greatness and his glory'" (p. 66).

Santiago was born to be a fisherman (p. 40), as Oedipus was born to be a king. Santiago, the old man, is abandoned by his fellow fishermen, as Oedipus, the infant, was abandoned by his parents. Santiago, a man of inordinate pride, leaves the security of the coastal waters because he must restore his honor. Oedipus leaves the home of his foster parents in search of his identity, but his name, meaning "swollen foot," is symptomatic of his swollen ego, his pride and self-reliance that result in patricide and incest—his downfall. Oedipus and Santiago are destroyed, but not defeated, and they narrate their stories in order to assume the Other in themselves. According to Lacan, each man, before he dies, in order to heal the primal split, must assume his own relation to death and to the discourse of the other. Santiago, like Oedipus at Colonus, performs an analytic speech act that names his desire, recognizes his destiny, and acknowledges death, actions that give meaning to "the assumption of one's history." In the final analysis, it is the admission of each man's primal repression that explains the Oedipus myth. Moreover, according to Shoshana Felman, the acceptance of responsibility for the discourse of the Other is the ultimate endorsement of one's selfhood. "'Don't think, old man' he [Santiago] said aloud.

'Sail on this course and take it when it comes.' But I must think, he thought. Because it is all I have left. That and baseball" (Old Man, p. 103). He thinks about sin, about pride, about killing, about the fish, about Manolin, and about what it is to be a man. In short, he narrates himself, defines himself, and plays out his destiny. He thinks about baseball, the great Joe DiMaggio, bone spurs, fighting cocks, hand wrestling, the sun, the stars, and the moon. "He liked to think about all things he was involved in. . . . 'You think too much, old man' he said aloud" (p. 105). But Santiago's thoughts are Hemingway's discourse, and, in thinking out loud, Santiago, like Oedipus, narrates his life. His utterances are "the central knot of speech," and the figurai motifs he weaves are the symptoms (manifestation) of the repressed. Like Oedipus, Santiago narrates the essential bonding between death and language. And so discourse, like fishing or writing, is survival as deferral.

The oedipal tracings in The Old Man and the Sea constitute a chain of signifiers which, in addition to Santiago's compulsive fishing, include the sea as metaphor for the mother and the marlin, at yet another level, as a metaphor for the father. Santiago refers to the sea as "la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her" (p. 29); "the old man always thought of her as feminine . . . the moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought" (p. 30). "Just before it was dark, as they passed a great island of Sargasso weed that heaved and swung in the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket, his small line was taken by a dolphin" (p. 72). Words and phrases such as "la mar," "making love," and "his small line was taken by a dolphin" have sexual connotations whose imagery is barely veiled. Moreover, an angry, depressed, and desperate Santiago has set out to hook a marlin and, in the process, kills the father and discovers the Other.

It is clear, I think, although Hemingway is working within the Christian tradition, that Santiago (Saint James, the supplanter) wishes to replace its law—the father's—emphasizing meekness, humility, and self-abnegation, with more elemental virtues stressing pride, honor, and killing. The marlin that Santiago kills is both the Other in himself and the law. On one level the marlin is his brother, while on another he is the law of the father that Hemingway would supplant. Hemingway's conscious and unconscious narratives blend in order to give us the complex multiple layers of The Old Man and the Sea. But Santiago's desire, raison d'être, and the values he embodies are clearly also Hemingway's. The discourse of the Other requires only one metonymic substitution, namely writing for fishing, in order, once again, to elicit all the attributes of a champion.

Works Cited

Felman, Shoshana. "Beyond Oedipus: The Specimen Story of Psychoanalysis." In Lacan and Narration: The Psychoanalytic Difference in Narrative Theory, ed. by Robert Con Davis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. Pp. 1021-53.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Scribner's, 1952.

Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection. Trans. by Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton, 1977.

Bickford Sylvester (essay date 1996)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 11846

SOURCE: "The Cuban Context of The Old Man and the Sea" in The Cambridge Companion to Hemingway, edited by Scott Donaldson, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 243-68.

[In the following essay, Sylvester provides details about the Cuban cultural context of The Old Man and the Sea, as he argues that the novella is directed at readers who either know or want to know about the locale Hemingway describes, and asserts that historical specificity informs many of the novella's symbols.]

In preparing a line-by-line, word-by-word scholarly commentary on The Old Man and the Sea, I discovered many aspects of the narrative thus far overlooked.1 One pattern of neglected detail refers to workaday practicalities peculiar to the locale, and very often to local customs and habits of mind—to a general Cuban cultural consciousness. Here, as in many of his other works, Hemingway unobtrusively relies on such detail to account for his characters' motivation and to reveal what is actually being referred to in much of the dialogue. In other words, he requires his readers around the world to notice the specific cultural context of his narrative and to familiarize themselves with that context in order to follow what is literally happening in the plot.

This is an approach we accept as a matter of course in reading the works of other modernists—Joyce, Pound, or Eliot, for example. Yet it is a challenge posed so subtly by Hemingway's method that it has eluded us from the very beginning, in "Out of Season" (composed April 1923), his first narrative written in the style that was to make him famous. As I have pointed out ("Hemingway's Italian Waste Land" esp. 79-89), readers can understand that troublesome story only by learning something about the attitudes of provincial Italian villagers living on the Austrian border after World War I. And our failure to recognize Hemingway's challenge to "think in the head" of his various other foreign characters has accounted for many a canonized misreading or marginal understanding of his works. We have tended to forget that Hemingway is at bottom a travel writer, performing the traditional novelist's function of helping us measure ourselves by and against precisely described exotics.

Accordingly, readers have largely overlooked their need to seek a Cuban explanation whenever details puzzle them—or should puzzle them—in The Old Man and the Sea. In fact, the novel requires non-Cuban readers to do considerable homework if they are to register not only many literal details of the plot, but many layers of meaning-through-indirection. I will discuss several illuminating examples of narrative details that appear extraneous, implausible, or erroneous, tempting us to dismiss them as incidental or to assume some loose symbolic significance. We will find, on the contrary, very literal, specific topical references, references we are invited to supplement by knowledge or research beyond the text. And in undertaking these assignments we will discover in each case information not only solving a puzzle, but exposing an unsuspected dimension of the narrative as a whole. Our findings throughout will suggest, I believe, the value of screening each narrative detail in Hemingway initially for its literal, topical implications before leaping to conclusions as to its symbolic import. Indeed, we will find that concrete, local applicability determines which of the potential literary, religious, mythic, or archetypal allusions potentially plausible in a given instance may in fact be central, and which are secondary, peripheral, or irrelevant.

Near the beginning of The Old Man and the Sea, Manolin tells Santiago about the bad eyesight of the new fisherman the boy's father has apprenticed him to—a man who never went turtle spearing in the brilliant sunlight, the occupation that most commonly "kills the eyes" of local fishermen. "But," Manolin says to Santiago, who is much older than this new employer, "you went turtle-ing for years . . . and your eyes are still good." Santiago then makes the oft-quoted, obviously laden remark: "I am a strange old man"; and when the boy asks, "But are you strong enough now for the truly big fish?" Santiago replies, "I think so. And there are many tricks."

We have thought here of the tricks of the trade that the old fisherman will soon use to compensate for his waning physical strength in his struggle against the marlin, tricks that years of experience have taught him: the products of disciplined attention to a craft that for him is also a passion. We have known, too, that in Hemingway the word "strange" almost always refers to something defying conventional understanding, a mystery of nature. The word consistently refers as well to those rare people and creatures who understand the "strange" (i.e., paradoxical) logic that Hemingway most admires: the dedication to timeless principles of behavior at the expense of all concern for material success or survival. We know that Santiago is about to demonstrate this "strange" vision—this "trick," or psychological device for survival—during his ordeal with the great fish; and we assume we have grasped all the implications of his remark that he is a "strange" old man.

But when the boy asks him if he is strong enough for a big fish, Santiago's mind is still partly on how he had managed to preserve his eyesight during his years of turtleing. And he has a particular trick in mind, known to very few readers. In the most common method of turtle-ing in the Caribbean, the hunter drifts in a small boat, peering beneath the surface for turtles to harpoon; as a result, the damaging tropical sunlight reflected by the water shines constantly into his eyes. Yet English ships exploring the Caribbean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries often employed native Indians who avoided this hazard. These natives used remoras (sucker-fish) to locate turtles. The remora is a parasite, which attaches itself to a larger creature like a shark or turtle and eats the scraps drifting back when its host feeds. The native hunter simply captured a remora and put it in the water with a fishing line tied around its tail. When the fish attached its suction-cup dorsal fin to a passing turtle, the hunter could feel the extra pull on his line and had only to follow the line to the remora, quickly spear and boat the turtle, detach the hungry remora, and put it back in the water to find another host. The hunter never needed to scan the water for his prey. Apparently, Santiago's use of this technique accounts for his continuing good vision, in spite of his years spearing turtles. In this case, then, Santiago's appearance as "strange"—a natural rarity—really is a deception, the result of an insider's device, or trick, although later in the narrative, during his ordeal, he will use such triumphs of expertise over physical limitation to supplement his truly extraordinary, or "strange," emotional resources.

Only Cuban readers, of course, and only some of them, are likely to know at first reading about that remora on a leash. Yet the rest of us have been invited to find out exactly how turtle hunting in Cuba hurts the eyes (and in the process discover the traditional method for avoiding that damage). For readers can reasonably be expected to wonder how the "real old man" Hemingway later called this character can still have good eyesight (not symbolic, but physical eyesight) into his seventies, if long engaged in an occupation that "kills the eyes." Readers cannot reasonably be expected to make the automatic, initial assumption that Ernest Hemingway—of all writers—is taking poetic license. But of course that is what we have silently inferred, as we conveniently glossed over this incident, together with so many others like it in Hemingway's texts. And this oversight matters, because it has allowed us to form a false impression of Santiago. Santiago is truly "strange," truly inspiring, not because he is physically a freak of nature, or because he is emotionally "a saint rather than a man," as Norman Mailer insouciantly presumed (19). Santiago is strange because he is in every material sense "the real old man" Hemingway later called him. He is real like us, yet he behaves and thinks—with remarkable regularity—as we are able to behave and think only in our very best moments. And that is exalting to us, because he is human; he is possible.2 A man his age who puts himself through the physical and emotional ordeal we see this old man endure will in reality be likely to break "something in his chest" and be dying—as Santiago is, the text subtly specifies (Sylvester, "They Went Through This Fiction'" 75-78). And such a man, being human, will also experience despair when his resolution occasionally falters, as Santiago's does back on shore, until at the end Manolin/Parçifal revives the old Fisher King's "strange" disregard for material failure.

Allusions like the one to the remora trick are early indications of Santiago's human fallibility, put there to guide us away from seeing him as an icon rather than the convincing, imitable exemplar that he is. And that is an important function of his other endearing fallibilities. But these are traits readers can recognize only by minutely examining every apparently unaccountable detail of Santiago's portrayal, especially in the opening exchanges with Manolin, and by consulting reference books or other sources when still in doubt. Like Hemingway's travel narratives generally, The Old Man and the Sea is directed at readers who have either been to its locale, will ask someone who is from there, or will go to the history and geography books about that place and its people—readers who will do research, as we now know Hemingway did himself (Lewis 227-36; Reynolds throughout; Sylvester, "Persona" 26-30).

Another case in point is an indirect revelation of actual historical events that we must know about if we are to appreciate fully the symbolic parallels between Santiago and Joe DiMaggio, and the role of the champion in nature and society that these important parallels help define. The information is conveyed indirectly during the early dialogues between Santiago and Manolin, when they discuss an American League pennant race between DiMaggio's team, the New York Yankees, and the Detroit Tigers. This contest is taking place as they speak, in September of a year some scholars have assumed is based on a composite of DiMaggio's 1949 and 1950 seasons and is therefore a fictionalized representation of early fall in that time period. But C. Harold Hurley has recently discovered that the narrative specifies not only the year 1950, but the exact dates in September as well. And Hurley has discovered this narrative revelation by research into the topical, rather than the symbolic significance of the dialogue's details. His attention to such details as references to the numbers 84 and 85 has at last deciphered the specific relevance of this portion of the narrative.

We have wondered why the narrative presents eighty-four as the particular number of days Santiago has gone without a fish, so that the voyage he is about to undertake is his eighty-fifth attempt. And we have wondered why his always-extraordinary confidence seems to be so especially buoyed by this number that he wants to play an eighty-five in the lottery. There has been wide speculation as to possible numerological implications, archetypal and/or Christian, and other symbolic or biographical explanations for Hemingway's choice (Hurley 103-15).

But these numbers have a much more literal and topical frame of reference. They refer to the pennant race the two discuss both before and after Manolin interrupts their conversation to go for bait and food for Santiago. And it will be instructive, for all of us who study his narratives, to observe Hemingway's oblique disclosure of the connection. We are to notice that before Manolin leaves, Santiago's confidence in DiMaggio's leadership and a Yankees pennant victory is stated as an assertion of faith. But when Manolin returns, Santiago tells him: "In the American League it is the Yankees as I said" (emphasis added), a reference (obvious, once we notice it) to some new, firm information confirming his earlier faith. Yet all Santiago has done while Manolin has been away is sleep and read "yesterday's" newspaper. ("You study it [the baseball news] and tell me when I come back," Manolin had told him.) We are prompted, therefore, to sift through international press coverage of the Yankees in September of the two years shortly before the novel's composition (1951), and in doing so we find Santiago's good news. His newspaper is that of Monday, September 11, 1950, reporting on the Yankees' game the day before that, Sunday, September 10. On that Sunday, Joe DiMaggio, after a long period of indifferent performance at bat, hit three home runs (a record in Washington's Griffith Stadium), leading the Yankees to their eighty-fourth win of the season. And although the Yankees' eighty-fourth victory coincides numerically with his own eighty-fourth fallow day, Santiago is encouraged by this numerical concordance. For he knows that the Yankees' eighty-fourth win brought them within half a game of tying with the powerful Detroit Tigers in the very tight pennant race that year. Further, this tells him as a Yankees follower that the Yankees then had to win only one game of a doubleheader with the mediocre Washington Senators, scheduled for the next day, Monday the 11th, to secure a tie with the idle Tigers. And because DiMaggio's return to form put the Yankees in a position to pull even with their eighty-fifth win, Santiago has renewed confidence in the potential for success of his next voyage, which happens to be his eighty-fifth (Hurley 83-84). For he is preoccupied with permutations of numbers and statistics, not only like baseball enthusiasts everywhere, but as a Cuban characteristically habituated to the lottery. And readers familiarizing themselves with the characteristic mentalities of baseball devotees and gamblers (both intimately known to Hemingway) will know that Santiago's manipulation of numbers here is typical and predictable.

Yet the numerical concordances are ancillary to a more objectively verifiable "tip of the iceberg" identifying DiMaggio's performance in Washington as the single event that confirms Santiago's faith in both DiMaggio and himself. Before we explore in detail Santiago's reaction to this game, then, we should observe how the event is obliquely specified by references to two other Yankee games on days immediately following. When Manolin returns from the Terrace with food for supper, he tells Santiago that the Yankees "lost today." We remember that "today" (present time at the beginning of the novel) is two days later than the event reported in "yesterday's paper." And readers realizing an invitation to read more baseball reports will find that the Yankees did lose a game on Tuesday, September 12, 1950. Next, readers enterprising enough to search for baseball references throughout the balance of the text will notice that during his "second day" at sea Santiago thinks about a Yankees/Tigers game being played at that moment. That is two days after the loss Manolin reported, and four days after the event so inspiring to Santiago. And a Yankees/Tigers game did take place on Thursday, September 14, 1950, four days after DiMaggio's Sunday game. Everything squares.3 Conclusively, yet entirely by indirection, the narrative places itself in historical time. Almost by "calculus" and certainly by "three-cushion shots" (as Hemingway variously described his method of disclosure), DiMaggio's Sunday game is confirmed as the event Santiago has read of in his "yesterday's paper."4

To consider further the event Santiago "happily" cites to confirm his faith that "the Yankees cannot lose," DiMaggio's Sunday game was spectacular: a single event suitably matching in magnitude Santiago's outsize accomplishment, soon to follow. DiMaggio's stadium-record three home runs all traveled over four hundred feet in the spacious park; and they were, as well, part of a statistically "perfect" game (four at-bats, four hits, four runs, and four runs-batted-in). "The great DiMaggio was himself again," indeed. And in the week starting with this game, the Yankees did win their eighty-fifth victory in the doubleheader Monday, as Santiago expected—and their eighty-sixth as well, with DiMaggio contributing three of the eleven runs his team scored in those two games. DiMaggio went on, for the week as a whole, to hit six home runs in eight games, with a batting average of .467. In that single week, out of thirty at-bats he had fourteen hits, scored fourteen runs, and batted in thirteen runs: Statistically, one player accounted for twenty-seven runs, nearly half of his team's total output of fifty-eight. This was an extraordinary feat, particularly for an "old man" in baseball terms at that time (at thirty-five DiMaggio was one of the older players in the league), hampered by multiple injuries, and with sports-writers calling for his retirement as they had before his comeback in 1949.

But what matters most for the novel is that when DiMaggio came alive his personal contributions led his team to win six of its eight games that week, and emerge in first place a half-game ahead of the Tigers, prepared to grind its way to an eventual pennant. Not until the end of the novel, when Santiago wakes up Saturday morning after his own extraordinary performance and reads "the newspapers of the [days] that [he] was gone" (September 13-15), will he himself learn more details of his aging fellow champion's resurgence at bat, a sustained performance matching his own at sea. But during this dialogue on Tuesday, the day before he sets out on his eighty-fifth attempt to catch a fish, Santiago has particular reasons for being personally reassured by his knowledge that "the great DiMaggio" has returned to form, and done so despite a fallow period associated with a number almost matching that of his current, eighty-four fishless days. For Santiago has earlier gone eighty-seven days without a fish. And if Santiago's power (his "luck") has earlier returned after eighty-seven days, it will certainly survive the present hiatus of eighty-four. That DiMaggio has made dramatic comebacks before (in 1949 especially), and has now followed with another even more dramatic, is doubly reassuring. To Santiago, DiMaggio's becoming "himself again" (emphasis added) includes the meaning "once again." It means that in champions (like DiMaggio and "El Campeón" Santiago) the mastery that makes them themselves will survive the onslaughts of time, not once but repeatedly—until at last that special quality brings them "alive" even "with their death in [them]" (as it does the marlin, the Mako shark, and Santiago himself at the narrative's end). And for this fundamental reason, the new resurgence by DiMaggio gives Santiago confidence in his next day at sea, or in an inevitable day of success soon after that—even without the numerical concordances he conceives.

All these specific topical considerations explain why it "means nothing" that the Yankees have lost a game on the day he speaks. What matters is that a champion's ability to perform, once operative, is not affected (as another, merely talented performer's might be) by a lapse of confidence over one day's reverses (or eighty-seven such reverses), any more than over the realities of physical decline. For at bottom "what makes the difference" in a champion (and sustains those on his "team") is an ability, recognized by Colonel Cantwell in Across the River and into the Trees (232), to make "every day a new and fine illusion"—despite the disillusionment of many a yesterday. And Santiago himself demonstrates this capacity as he speaks of faith, numbers, consonances, and luck—all of which has sounded to hasty readers like superstitious self-deception on his part (Rosenfield 50) and may appear to others as fond condescension on Hemingway's part.

On the contrary, the numerical consonances with DiMaggio's record make up one of several "informed" illusions (Baker, Hemingway: The Writer as Artist 273) or ritualized fictions Santiago relies upon, not because he believes in the literal content of the fictions, but because he does believe in a cause that requires him to act without hope of material success. And because he is both proud and humble enough to believe that human beings cannot act without hope of material reward, he finds ways of behaving as if he will succeed where he most knows he cannot (Sylvester, "They Went Through This Fiction'"). Despite his accurately portrayed Cuban fascination with numbers and chance, there is no evidence that Santiago believes, literally, in the cosmic significance of such easily (and obviously) manipulated "signs" as numerological consonances.5 But there is ample evidence that he does believe in a vital connection among the species, depending on the fully extended behavior of rare individual members—creatures oriented to total commitment, without concern for practical success or personal survival.6 That is the principle of action Santiago exemplifies as he kills the first shark to attack his fish, hitting it "with all his strength . . . without hope but with resolution" (emphasis added)—performing as if he could, by totally committing his resources, keep all the other sharks now coming from destroying his fish, yet fully aware that he cannot. That informed, sophisticated pretense is a "trick" far more rare and difficult than using the remora; it is a trick of the heart and mind, the "strange" way of seeing that Hemingway respected above all other human accomplishments.7 It is the hard-won, complex vision required of the thinking "champions" in nature's scheme: the human beings in all walks of life who are able to go "far out beyond all people." Maintaining their efforts by every means necessary against their near-debilitating knowledge of the material cost, they inspire and sustain the human race at their personal expense.

As DiMaggio's team "cannot lose" in its struggle, then, neither will Santiago's team. Santiago's eighty-fifth day at sea, ending his slump with his record result, will in reality gain something precious, if not a materially tangible trophy, for the team he champions—the human species. For we will find that in his struggle with the great marlin Santiago reaffirms once again, as he has so often before, humanity's necessary connection with nature's order. In portraying the roles of Santiago and DiMaggio in the survival of their groups, therefore, Hemingway stresses in both cases the reliance of the many upon the one. This is a theme not only reinforcing the novel's occasional comparison of Santiago to Christ, but commenting on the relation of all human champions to society.

In addition to the roles of the two champions, there is a larger similarity between the Yankees' overall struggle against the resolute Tigers team of 1950 and the old man's entire struggle against the great marlin and the sharks. It is a similarity making the "September stretch" (the closing weeks) of the year's pennant race a particularly apt demonstration of this novel's most central theme: that in the order of nature intensity equals vitality. The champions of each species featured in the novel act according to a natural principle of perpetual tension, thereby maintaining for the others in their species an attunement with nature. The taut fishing line, kept for two complete rounds of the sun stretched just beneath its breaking point, is an objective correlative of that principle, which is being enacted by the man and marlin at opposite ends of that line (Sylvester, "Extended Vision" 135). And the contest between the evenly matched Yankees and Tigers of 1950 exemplified that principle. During the week timed with the novel's action the Yankees did not surge ahead with DiMaggio's resurgence, to end the tension and anxiety they had experienced all along. Throughout the week of Santiago's ordeal and well into the next week, the lead edged back and forth repeatedly by grudging half-game increments (Hurley 91-92), the two teams locked in a sustained balance of forces like that of Santiago's twenty-four-hour "hand-game" with the "great negro from Cienfuegos." This arm-wrestling scene from dawn to dawn is the novel's second objective correlative of natural order.8 It demonstrates as well the human community's vicarious participation in that order, as these two regional champions enact nature's principle of vital tension before their enthralled spectators in the tavern at Casablanca. Hemingway could hardly have synchronized his narrative with a sustained event in contemporary baseball more felicitously objectifying this principle and the intermediary role of human championship. For in this novel, as in the world's stadiums and arenas, it is not the material quarry but the intensity of the quest that is of ultimate value to the many of us who only watch and wait.9

Final evidence of the need to read the baseball allusions more carefully is our neglect of a broad and ironic cultural implication. For Cubans like Manolin and Santiago, baseball is perhaps as central to the consciousness—actually mythic—as it is for Americans in the cornfields of Iowa. It is typically Cuban for Santiago's imagination to embody its special vision of championship not only in lions from his Spanish memories of African voyages, but in a baseball player from the American Gran Ligas. When Santiago senses that Manolin is tired of listening to an old man's memories, he says, "Go and play baseball," acknowledging the national pastime. But although the American "big show" is a dream of glory for young Cubans like Manolin and his friends, it is essentially an inaccessible dream. Santiago mentions two successful players in the majors, Mike Gonzales and the dazzlingly talented Adolpho Luque, both of whom he, with justification, considers the greatest managers in baseball. Yet they manage in the Cuban winter leagues because, as Barbour and Sattelmeyer observe (43-44), "an unwritten law" prevented them from managing in the majors. That this is the point of Hemingway's reference to these two players becomes even clearer when we discover that the unwritten law was racial, barring Cubans whether of mixed race or not, that Gonzales and Luque were accepted because both, apparently, looked white, and that only two other Cubans—Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans, also "light-skinned" (Burns and Ward 112)—ever played in the majors until well after the novel was composed in 1951. There is cultural commentary, then, as well as archetypal symbolism and artistic symmetry conveyed when Santiago, humbly yet proudly aware of his natural aristocracy, takes DiMaggio's resurgence as a personal omen. For although a young man as talented as today's Hispanic superstars may be playing among Manolin's friends in Cojimar, it is to a fisherman's son from San Francisco that Santiago must look for El Campeón of baseball.

Predictably, Spanish and Cuban historical and cultural contexts also interact in this novel, more pervasively; and these further demonstrate the primary role of topicality in specifying relevant symbolism. There is, for example, a profound thematic pattern that we have yet to glory in, because it can only be recognized by readers willing to become familiar either with Spanish history from a Cuban perspective, or Cuban history from a Spanish perspective. Much of the novel is directly or indirectly associated with the Virgin of Cobre. Near Cobre, a small town in southeastern Cuba, is the sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity, a small statue of the Virgin Mary. An image of the Virgin hangs on Santiago's wall, as it does in most Cuban houses; the text implies that his wife may, like many other Cubans, have made a pilgrimage to the shrine and brought back this picture. In 1916, Pope Benedict XV declared the Virgin the principal patroness of Cuba. She is, then, a figure associated with Cuba's national identity. Now according to legend, this statue of the Virgin Mary was floating on a wooden board off the coast of eastern Cuba in 1628, when it was found by two Indians and a Creole in a rowboat. And it is an ancient Spanish legend that the body of Saint James (Santiago) also appeared floating on the sea, in its case already inside a boat, and was found off the coast of Spain, near Compostela, where it was said to have come from the Holy Land, even though the boat had no rudder or sail. Thus the legend of the patroness of Cuba parallels, in the Spanish New World, the far older legend of Santiago in old Spain.10 And Hemingway has again found in history, this time cultural history, a parallel entirely relevant to his plot. For the New World legend of a mysterious boon, or blessing, discovered at sea, by humble Cubans in a rowboat, looks back to the seaborne gift of Saint James' remains off the coast of Spain, and looks forward to the modern Santiago's discovery—while at sea in a rowboat that loses its tiller—of a "great strangeness," or mystery, at the moment of the marlin's death (Sylvester, "Extended Vision" 133).

Moreover, the relic, or boon from the sea reposited at Santiago del Prado, Cuba, at the shrine of the Virgin is regarded as a spiritual endowment to the Cuban people, as the seaborne relics at Santiago de Compostela are regarded as a spiritual gift to Spain. And Santiago, the modem fisherman, brings ashore the skeletal relics of his "strange" encounter, skeletal remains that spiritually enrich those among the people of modern Cuba who are still capable of appreciating his values and accomplishment. As we will later consider in some detail, Santiago lives in a divided community, a village turning from the craft passion of the old Cuba to a new materialism. But those supporting national pride and old values are sustained by Santiago's circular sea journey in his wooden boat. Their traditional values will last now, in their hearts, until their next champion, Manolin, reenacts the age-old fertility rite, risking everything to maintain the vital contact between the human community and the mysteries of nature—the contact that preserves the community's sense of wonder, despite the encroaching materialism.

The historical quests contribute, as well, to another formal nicety of the work—a pattern of circles or cycles in the structure of the narrative as a whole. There are the cyclical sea journeys of Santiago's youth, from his native Canary Island to the African beaches, where he experienced an epiphany—a mystical sense of identification with young lions, nature's champions—that recurs in his consciousness throughout the narrative. Later there are the circular sea journey and epiphany of Santiago's old age, now as a Cuban. The repetition brackets his life, making it a circle, and at the same time envelops and makes the plot, about a circular voyage and life, become itself a circle. All of these cycles and circles are there for the reader to associate with the annual, cyclical pilgrimages of the Spanish and the Cuban people—to and from the shrine of Santiago in Spain, to and from the shrine of the Virgin of Cobre in Cuba.

Such historical and cultural parallels as these, together with the consciousness of North America represented by the baseball allusions, make The Old Man and the Sea a Cuban book, then, in far more than setting. In particular, the Spanish-Cuban concordances unify the novel by celebrating those native and European ethnic forces unifying Cuban culture: ethnic bonds that for centuries held together the Hispano-Caribbean tradition disintegrating in modern Cuba. I have no doubt that Hemingway had these cultural parallels (and more) in mind when he donated his Nobel prize medal to the sanctuary of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, a Cuban national symbol (Stoneback, "From the rue Saint-Jacques" 13). It was a medal awarded largely because of this novel. And Hemingway called his offering "a tribute of love to the people of Cuba"—as is Santiago's sacrifice within Hemingway's novel, as is, of course, the book itself. Thus Hemingway's gift of his medal is a crowning artistic touch, a final reticulation, outside his text, of that integration of fiction and history that is his text.

We turn now to the most arresting narrative fact disclosed through topical details beyond common knowledge. The novel requires readers (even Cuban readers)11 to do considerable homework if they are to register the surprising narrative fact that "the boy" Manolin is actually a young man of twenty-two, rather than a child somewhere between twelve and fourteen, as we have supposed. His age is unmistakably, if obliquely, specified by Manolin himself when he compares his family life to that of the American baseball player Dick Sisler. "The great Sisler's father was never poor," he says. "And he, the father, was playing in the Big Leagues when he was my age." When who was Manolin's age, Dick Sisler or his hall-of-fame father, George? The answer is that it is the father who was Manolin's age, just as our English, word order-oriented ears prompt us to choose, as we respond to the noun nearest the pronoun. Yet Hurley, the only other commentator to do the research this line requires, has assumed it must be the son, Dick Sisler, who was Manolin's age when his father was playing professionally. For the great George Sisler was twenty-two when he began his professional career, and retired when his son Dick was ten. Thus, as Hurley correctly deduces (97), Manolin must be either at least twenty-two or no more than ten, depending upon how we parse Hemingway's sentence. And because like most of us Hurley cannot immediately think of Manolin as considerably older than has been assumed, he understandably asserts that the young fisherman must be ten, somewhat younger than has been assumed.

However, if we continue our investigation even further, alerted by certain apparent implausibilities, we discover that it is a physical impossibility for Manolin to be only ten years old. At the same time, we find that the clues formerly leading readers to think of Manolin as a child are—in the context of the boy's native culture—entirely consistent with young manhood. And finally, we realize that as we think of Manolin as a young adult, other details of the narrative fall into place to form an unsuspected level of socioeconomic comment in the novel.

To take the physical evidence first, surely very few adult readers of either sex can imagine themselves carrying from Santiago's boat to his shack a box the size of a large garbage can, filled with coiled fishing line weighing probably over 150 pounds and at the very least 100 pounds. Yet readers careful enough to work out the weight and size of Santiago's lines are required to think of a boy twelve to fourteen doing just that—while somehow managing to juggle the old man's gaff and harpoon. Accordingly, when such readers also become aware that they must choose between ten and twenty-two for Manolin's age, their decision is foregone.12

Of course, only readers familiar with the local equipment described can be expected to approximate these formidable dimensions immediately. But the rest of us really should become suspicious enough at some point to check on the extent of the boy's burden, even without having researched the historical evidence restricting his age. For the narrative's description of the line's thickness, composition, and enormous length is so meticulous that it eventually calls attention to itself, tempting us to compile the various specifications challengingly scattered throughout the text. Also, specifications for the lines' total length are given in two sets of figures to mark their importance, as is the evidence of the baseball dates. And when we compile them, we find that the old man carries in his boat 660 fathoms of line.13 That is just short of 4,000 feet (three-quarters of a mile or thirteen football fields end-to-end) of "coiled, hard-braided brown" line, or "cord" "as thick around as a big pencil" (to all of my consultants a description exactly fitting lines five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter). Called "Catalan cordel" in the text, this Spanish line of the period was made of natural, rather than synthetic fiber. For general readers its composition is carefully, if indirectly, designated as such: after fishing, the old man takes "the heavy lines home as the dew was bad for them," because natural fibers rot, while synthetics do not. And readers consulting specialists will find that natural-fiber line is heavier than modern synthetics, even synthetics with sufficient specific gravity to sink in salt water, as Santiago's lines do. Specifically, cordel was made of a bast fiber, a material still used, although rarely, to make fully comparable lines in the United States. We can therefore learn that 660 fathoms of any such line—braided and five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter—weighs one-hundred-and-sixty pounds after a portion has been in the water.14 As the text stresses, these are "heavy lines." And the bulk I mentioned is verified by commercial fishermen who daily use hand-coiled line of this length and diameter.

Philip Young, who did compute the lines' length, suspected out of general common sense that a "young boy" could not carry three-quarters of a mile of heavy line—"unless, as we are not told, the lad was actually a giant" (274-75). What we are told, of course, is that the lad was actually a powerful young man of twenty-two. And had that disclosure registered on Young, he would not have had to conclude, as he did, that Hemingway must simply have been fudging probability (274-75).

Yet to my knowledge only Young, after all, has responded to the careful description of Santiago's lines, worked out their length, and been given sufficient pause at least to comment, however precipitously, on the ostensible implausibility.15 And the reason, I suspect, is that all of us have been distracted from conceiving of Manolin as full-grown, principally because his subservience to his father's demand that he leave Santiago for another fisherman is convincingly childlike to us, and because the references to him as "the boy" become almost a repetend.

Manolin's unquestioning subservience strikes us differently, however, when considered in the light of Cuban custom, especially at that time. In 1970, Lowry Nelson's socioeconomic study, Rural Cuba, described a family patriarchy still modeled on that of feudal Spain and strict to a degree that would not occur to American or European readers (174-200). Authority was slowly shifting, in some respects, from the family to the individual and the community. But a son's life, regardless of his age, remained dictated by his father until he married and actually set up housekeeping under a separate roof. This subservience was so complete, for example, that a single man did not, in his father's presence, practice the male ritual of smoking.

And during the period described in the novel there was in Cuba an abundance of such chronologically adult, yet patriarchally controlled men. According to UN demographic statistics (Schroeder 57), in 1953 (only three years later than the novel's action) 88.1 percent of Cuban males between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four were unmarried, and presumably remained dominated by their fathers. Thus in 1950, Manolin's resigned comment about his father, "I am only a boy and I must obey him," and Santiago's agreement that this is "quite normal" both faithfully represent the Cuban attitude toward a vast majority of young men. As for the term "boy," an illuminating indication of what the word means to Manolin himself is a reminiscence by Marcos Puig the Younger, chief among the young Cubans Hemingway had in mind while portraying Manolin. One day, in 1932, Hemingway had come upon Puig and his father (whom Hemingway named as a model for Santiago) as they were bringing a large marlin alongside their small skiff. And when interviewed later about this encounter with Hemingway, Puig remarked: "I was still a young boy then" (Machlin 137). He was in fact at least twenty-two.16 Thus Hemingway's first impression was not of a child, but of a young man exactly the earliest credible age for Manolin of the two possibilities absolutely established by the Sisler allusion. And Puig's reference to himself as "a young boy," despite his chronological age, says much about the attitudes of the fishing villages Hemingway was drawing upon in this novel. I am indebted to Allen Josephs for pointing out, moreover, that another acknowledged local model for Manolin—Manolito, a friend of Hemingway's son Gregory and presumably Gregory's age—was twenty-two when the novel appeared. Santiago, of course, refers to himself as "a boy" when he was a seaman "before the mast" at Manolin's age, hardly plausible for a ten-year-old, we note, but just right for a young man of twenty-two. And this is not surprising, when we remember perhaps the most important point of all: that in Latin America the Spanish word muchacho, one of the words for "boy" used in Spanish translations of the novel, applies to young males up to their early twenties, as does—in Spain—the word chico, also used in translations of the work.

But even apart from these primary cultural reasons for the appellation in this novel, it is characteristic of Hemingway to use "boy" in its international colloquial sense when referring to young adults in many of his works. In Hemingway's canon generally, in fact, "the boy" refers frequently to a male undergoing the very last stage of initiation into the complexities of adulthood.17 And that, finally, is at once the social and the mythic significance of Manolin's physical and mental maturity in The Old Man and the Sea.

At the social level, Manolin's devotion to Santiago, and his parents' demand that he be apprenticed to a more consistently productive fisherman, reflect a major division in the local economic community. It is a conflict between progress and tradition, between craft passion and exploitation—in short, between the old Cuba and a new Cuba that Hemingway saw emerging in the 1940s. Manolin's father has opted for progress. The fisherman he chooses for his son is a middle-aged man, but his minimally competent, cautious methods yield a steady profit. Thus he is associated with the "younger fishermen" who are motivated only by the money they have been making by supplying shark livers for the booming "cod liver oil" industry in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. These mechanized fishermen represent the decline of the old Cuban fishing culture and the beginning of an exploitative fishery. Actually, in their use of buoys and floats, they are the precursors of the disastrous "long-line" fishery that spread across the Atlantic immediately after this novel was published, and which threatens, some claim, to render all billfish extinct in all oceans by the year 2000. That is the dire prediction recently urged upon suppliers of fuel for these ships by a forthcoming documentary funded by the American Billfish Foundation. The warning demonstrates Hemingway's prescience in sensing the severe consequences of the practice he singled out for attack.

It is this far-reaching struggle between old and new, between true vocation and market-mindedness, that Manolin's adult status functions most importantly to reveal in the novel. Manolin has obviously been a satisfying character when "read" as an endearingly precocious child, attuned to Santiago's values by innate endowment alone. But when we respond to all of the evidence in the narrative, we recognize a realistically portrayed young acolyte, consciously struggling to maintain an adult compromise between his inborn idealism and a cultural paternalism he accepts (as a man) and yet (as a man) resents. With this in mind we can appreciate what Manolin really means when he says of his father's and his employer's attitudes toward him: "It is as though I were inferior." We have assumed that this is simply a child's chafing at being treated condescendingly. But we make sense of more of the novel when we realize that Manolin's father and employer dismiss his opinions because they think he is a misguided young idealist, foolishly drawn to an impractical, outdated way of life. We have a Cuban version of the American or European Babbitt, convinced that his son has foolishly fallen among priests or artists. And it is for this specific, topical reason that Manolin's father has forced him to work for a man "almost blind," metaphysically as well as physically, by Manolin's and Santiago's vocational standards.

Those standards are high, indeed, because for Santiago and Manolin craft passion reflects a sense of participation in natural order, a participation portrayed in both mythical and religious terms in the novel. The practical men against the idealists become the materialists against the mystics. The myth of the Fisher King is dominant in the novel. And as a young adult, Manolin fits into his role in that myth much more effectively than we have been able to recognize, hampered as we have been by our image of him as a child. For only an adult can be a fully credible Parçifal-figure to Santiago's Fisher King/grail keeper: a pure and potent young knight whose belief rejuvenates the aged master's failing resolution toward the end. Specialists tracing that pattern elsewhere in Hemingway's canon will find that the rejuvenating tyro is always a young adult.

In this novel social interaction shades into myth, then, and thence into religion (and vice versa). Manolin is only one of a circle of young men in the community who are devoted to sustaining Santiago, the pure craftsman, scorned though he may be by the dominant new materialists. The names of this cadre of what might be called political supporters in the community's ethical conflict associate them with Christ's spiritual disciples: "Perico" and "Pedrico" (both forms of "Peter"); Martin (as in Saint Martin), and so on. The name "Manolin," of course, is a diminutive of "Manuel," the Spanish form of "Emmanuel," the redeemer. And from the cadre of young adults, the one with this name will assume the secular and spiritual roles of the town's aged Christ-figure, Santiago, who lies dying at the end.

All of these young fishermen are thus identified with the fishers of men. And here Manolin's maturity intensifies the power of yet another set of allusions. There are several parallels to the Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke that can now be more fully glossed and appreciated as we recognize Manolin as a young man passing into full adulthood. Particularly revealing is the parallel between the novel and Matthew 4:21-22. James is in a boat with his father Zebedee and he and John "leave their father" to follow Christ. These are not children, but men, choosing—exactly as does Manolin at the end—to defy a biological parent and follow a surrogate father, in order to reject a utilitarian mode of fishing—and living—for one with spiritual dimensions.

We should not see a contradiction between Gospel and novel simply because in leaving their father for Christ the disciples seem to be exchanging "old" ways for "new," whereas in the novel the special young men abandon the new for the old. For both Christ and Santiago represent the truly "old thing" that informs Pedro Romero's craftsmanship in The Sun Also Rises: the heightened awareness of participation in nature's mysteries that in The Old Man and the Sea is called the "great strangeness." In this regard, Santiago is to Manolin as Montoya (guardian and tutor of that "strangeness" in The Sun Also Rises) is to Pedro Romero (who is nineteen and called a "boy").

Had we space here, we could reexamine Manolin's total characterization, and observe that it is uniformly consistent with his maturity. We have, however, seen enough to appreciate some of the dimensions foregrounded by his adult status. And we should ask ourselves why—if those dimensions are important—Hemingway has portrayed Manolin's immediate person and personality so ambiguously that millions of us have been allowed to see him as an early adolescent and be profoundly moved by this restricted response to the novel. Singularly, none of his physical characteristics is described, as Santiago's are; and except for carrying the line, he does or says no one thing that in his culture defines—directly and by itself—either late childhood or early manhood. That is how Hemingway makes our response depend entirely on the way we read the larger contexts we have been observing in the narrative. And here Hemingway has offered different kinds of rewards for different levels of reading. On the one hand—hinging on the cultural ambiguities of "boy" and of Manolin's deference—there is the immediate warmth of some of the most appealing romantic archetypes: Santiago as ancient youth; Manolin as wise child—Wordsworth's "father of the man," another young lion sporting "upon the shore," yet (unlike Wordsworth's child) strange in his sober acceptance of "earthly freight" ("Ode: Intimations of Immortality," epigraph and 11. 166, 126). And against these seductive attractions, profound in themselves, Hemingway offers the darker complexities we have been noticing, appropriately accessible only through an arduous process of explication requiring something of the human qualities affirmed by the novel itself: resolution, tenacity, and an initiate's understanding of the varied communities of interest abounding in the practical world. Indeed, when we respond to the full implications of the narrative, we become initiates as we read—in the very process of deriving realities disclosed fragmentally, as they are in life—the process required of us by the works of James and Conrad, two of Hemingway's masters in this particular creation of form as content. Of course, this level of response is the "right" reading aesthetically, because it takes into account much data otherwise inconsistent within the novel. Hemingway's achievement does not support an interpretive indeterminancy valorizing whatever associations the work may prompt in us, nor could the notion be less applicable than it is to the works of this author. In seeing Manolin as an early adolescent we have been deeply satisfied—but by what amounts to a paranovel, a closely related yet different aesthetic construct we have created out of the mythic content latent in the plot. And our response has screened out the refinement and complexity of the material's darker, more universal implications.

Yet such a restricted response is in no way unique to The Old Man and the Sea. In Hemingway's major works we are increasingly revising canonized interpretations that are qualified or radically corrected by newly recognized narrative facts glossed over for decades by readers distracted by his calculated ambiguity.18 In fact, this "trick," this tour de force of narrative ambiguity, allowing a work to speak with some validity to two or more readerships and to different levels of experience within individual readers, may well be Hemingway's artistic triumph—the best-kept secret of his celebrated iceberg theory. That would certainly explain his refusal to go beyond veiled hints to correct limited readings. And in this novel that ambiguity functions with precision. For social complexity, the very dimension most readily and widely agreed to be neglected in the work as we have usually read it, is exactly what comes to our attention as we recognize Manolin's adult conflict and the underlying opposition between the Virgin and the marketplace in his shore world.

For example, I had assumed, with Friedman (284-85), that when compared to The Bear, Faulkner's remarkably similar treatment of nature mysticism, The Old Man and the Sea failed to cope adequately with the social dimension of human life. In part 4 of The Bear social realities convincingly mitigate the glories of Ike's transcendent iconoclasm. Against this, Santiago's supposedly unmixed sublimity has seemed to beg questions about the real conflicts between individualism and human community. However, when we realize the central role of community division in the structure of The Old Man and the Sea, we see that the universe of this novel is far from the socially evasive, "cozy" cosmos some have labeled it (Weeks 191). "I live in a good town," Santiago says, thinking of his supporters. But the struggle going on there between an old and new Cuba belies all charges of "sentimentality" (Toynbee 87) in the novel's worldview or in Santiago's. The conflict between craft passion and materialism ashore matches the division between noble predators and opportunistic scavengers in the sea, integrating the human community into the immemorial natural scheme.

Just as Santiago's opposition by the cowardly scavenger sharks is the additional ordeal he must bear at sea for going "far out" where the greatest marlin are found, so his human opposition—those whose passivity and greed are threatened by his stringent code—is the added burden he has borne on shore for his inflexible honor. Actually, the course of Santiago's recent life and impending death is shown to be determined in part by the intense reaction of other people to the values he represents. Thinking Manolin a child, we have not noticed that without his aid the old man would have been unable to continue fishing and find his great marlin. Manolin's parents have not kept him from carrying the lines and arranging many of the charitable donations of food, bait, and services by the old man's other admirers. But it is because his parents' hostility has taken Manolin out of Santiago's boat that the old man undergoes, without the relief that might have saved him, the physical ordeal that ruptures his lungs. "If the boy were here. . . . Yes. If the boy were here. If the boy were here." The invocation has many implications. But one of them is a comment on the human community's discomfort with those rare individuals upon whom the survival of the many depends. In his boat, the taut line from the marlin snubbed over his shoulder, Santiago is "the towing bitt" between the human and the natural worlds. Yet he must bear with that weight the antipathy of the passive majority. Blinded by practical expediency, it fears those who go "beyond all people" to preserve civilization's identification with a world larger than society—the perspective crucial to the sense of wonder that gives human life its color.

Manolin is crying each time he withdraws from Santiago's bedside in the novel's closing scenes, until we leave him quietly watching the old man sleep once more. This time Santiago will dream again of the lions, as he could not upon his return—until reminded by his dialogue with Manolin that they must both act as if Santiago would be going out again. For the old man's approaching death, and a champion's commitment to "pull until he dies" as does the great fish, are the true subjects of this dialogue (Sylvester, "They Went Through This Fiction'" 474-76). Thus Manolin's tears are not a child's tears of grief and loss, but of those emotions compounded by adult remorse, as he sees the result of the suffering he has contributed to by accepting social and parental pressures and letting Santiago go out alone. They are also tears of wonder at the final price Santiago has paid for his choice to go out "too far." For it is the price Manolin will someday pay for the choice he now makes—the choice every "boy" makes when he becomes fully a man—to honor the values central to him, whatever the cost. And there is the immediate price. "What will your family say?" Santiago asks. "I do not care," Manolin answers, and with that forgoes his touching attempt to find a considerate compromise between his parents' conventional limitations and his commitment to his high vocation. Santiago's suffering has made him see, bitterly, that the time had already come to go with the old man again. Now it is too late, too late merely to serve; on this day Manolin himself becomes El Campeón of the values his parents most scorn. We need not overspecify his thoughts to know that his tears reflect all these considerations during the brief rite of passage into complete manhood we observe in the concluding dialogue with his dying mentor. His grief is part of the champion's burden the old man must at last leave entirely to the young man—as he had the weight of the fishing lines. Having carried those "heavy" lines now becomes symbolic as well as tangible evidence of "the boy's" readiness,19 as he waits reverently that afternoon to take up the full burden of championship. He perpetuates a sacrifice older than the torero's, than Christ's, than the Inuit hunter's vow: "I who was born to die shall live that the world of men may touch the world of animals." And it is reenacted in Santiago's very real Cuban village in 1950—as always everywhere—by the few for the many, even the many who scorn their efforts.

Recognizing this human portion of nature's paradoxical scheme in The Old Man and the Sea is a good place to begin in combating our persistent tendency to reduce and distort Hemingway's complex portrayals of the human condition. His reliance throughout this novel on a subtly evoked Cuban consciousness so long overlooked should also caution those who proclaim that interpretive criticism of Hemingway's work has run its course. Contemplating the wealth of implication we are directed to construe from the quotidian topicalities of this short novel, we think of Keats's summation of the romantic aesthetic: "Pack every rift with ore." It is unlikely that we have sufficiently explicated any of Hemingway's narratives. He was "a strange old man." "And"—as Santiago reminds us in this work—"there are many tricks" (emphasis added).

We can expect new dimensions of Hemingway's artistry to keep surfacing, on and on, as we increasingly acknowledge his modernist method and turn more readily to the library and other sources of information clarifying the narrative facts that govern his metaphors and symbols. We have only to read his works with the attention to topical and historical specificity that he exercised as he wrote.


1 The illustrations cited in this discussion are from the book Reading Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea, forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press in a series of scholarly commentaries on Hemingway's major works.

2 For an alternate view of Santiago's human qualities, see Brenner throughout.

3 The evidence is conclusive even without the added hint that Dick Sisler would personally affect the outcome of the National League race that year—as readers know he did in 1950, with a home run to win the pennant for Philadelphia (Monteiro 273; Barbour and Sattelmeyer 285; Hurley 78).

My summary of Hurley's derivations points up a notable feature of Hemingway's strategy here: Hemingway presents two sets of evidence, each partially establishing the historical dates of the action, which together are conclusive. We can begin with the early dialogues or with the later reference to the Tigers game (as does Hurley)—whichever catches our attention first. Either way, the sets of evidence verify each other, ruling out coincidence, error, and inadvertence. Also, the repetition gives readers a second chance, nudging them to notice the baseball dates and realize their importance. We will observe Hemingway using this strategy again to stress the importance of the fishing lines' size and weight (see n. 13).

4 The doubleheader when Santiago expects the Yankees to have recorded their eighty-fifth victory is Monday the 11th; we meet Santiago and Manolin on the evening of Tuesday the 12th, the day the Yankees lose a game; Santiago's voyage begins in the predawn hours the next morning, Wednesday the 13th; during the second day of his voyage, he thinks of a Yankees/Tigers game taking place on Thursday the 14th; he arrives back in his village in the early hours of Saturday the 16th; Manolin wakes him later in the morning of the 16th, and that afternoon watches him sleep again as the narrative ends. See Hurley's chronology (80-82). That Santiago's week is thus set in historical time gives the novel the artistic advantages of a roman à clef, a device Hemingway exploited in his canon as a whole (see my "Persona" 21).

5 Hemingway makes Santiago's manipulation of numbers so patently forced that we are required to see the old man as either superstitious (Rosenfield 50) or profound (see n. 7). Hemingway could more easily have had Santiago go without a fish for eighty-three days (tying Zane Grey's record: for this record, see Hurley 104, 114 n. 2). Santiago's and DiMaggio's resurgences would then both be associated with the number 84; there would be no need to look ahead ingeniously to a potential tie and a potential fish in order to match eighty-fives. But Santiago's coupling of DiMaggio's eighty-fourth win with his own first win in eighty-four outings would have remained an illogical "apples-and-oranges" comparison. And in requiring not only Santiago, but every fully oriented reader to juggle numbers all the more, the narrative stresses the irrelevance of logic in what is, after all, an elaborate pretense.

6 See my "Extended Vision" (131-32 et passim) for opposition as necessary to life in the natural world of the novel.

7 In Hemingway's earlier works this intellectual device (familiar to him in Conrad) functions as does Wallace Stevens' concept of a "supreme fiction" (to take one of many modernist examples). It provides a rationale for what Stevens refers to in "Harmonium" as "belief without belief / Beyond belief in a skeptical century.

8 The seemingly implausible duration of this match is not "poetic license" (see n. 15). I am indebted to my colleague B. L. Grenberg, veteran of such a marathon match and witness to another in the wilds of British Columbia, for explaining that if we assume times-out to urinate, the duration is fully credible for the very reason that the marlin can endure forty-eight hours against the boat: The young Santiago was much stronger than his opponent (who, we note, needed constant rum and cigarettes, while Santiago got no service because he needed none). Comfortably in control, Santiago chose to prolong the match out of human respect for his opponent's dignity, as the fish (for biological reasons) chooses to tow the negligible weight of the skiff slowly and steadily, rather than easily break the line: "He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush. But . . . he is following his plan and I am following mine." It is as a coefficient of Santiago's great power and his fellow champion's great pride and resolution that the struggle lasted and became timed with the elements to symbolize natural order. (His opponent's resolution was genuine and proud, because until Santiago instantly pinned him when the referee was about to call a tie, he had not known that Santiago was holding back. Until that moment, Santiago had used only the shifting force needed to maintain balance, slacking off when his opponent had to in order to endure, stiffening as his opponent surged.)

9 I am much indebted to Professor Hurley for looking up statistics beyond those in his study, and for graciously discussing them with me as I applied them in this parallel between the Yankees/Tigers struggle and Santiago's and in other extensions of his findings.

10 In important studies of Catholicism in Hemingway's works, Stoneback glances perceptively at these allusions to the Virgin and Saint James, seeing them in their proper relation to Hemingway's career-long use of the pilgrimage: "From the rue Saint-Jacques" (13, 15); "On the Road" (489); "Review" (98).

11 Fuentes, for example, sees Manolin as a "child" (241), perhaps because Fuentes is unaware of the importance of location: "The novel could . . . have taken place in Java or the Mediterranean" (238).

12 Nor is there any doubt that Hemingway's sentence referring to the ages of Dick and George Sisler was written specifically to set verifiable, if indirect parameters for Manolin's age. For when the scriptwriters for the movie of the novel changed Manolin's line to read, "The great Sisler's father . . . played in the big leagues when he was sixteen," Hemingway wrote in "The boy was not accurate here" (Fuentes 247). His laconic comment makes clear his wish to have these interpreters of his sentence focus on the issue of George Sisler's age at the beginning and end of his wellknown career, together with Dick Sisler's date of birth, get those figures right on their own (he would not explicate his art), and deal with the implications.

13 Because I have summarized Hemingway's two-part revelation of the baseball dates, other readers deserve the pleasure of explicating for themselves this example of the strategy.

14 For specifications I am indebted to Andrew K. Barker of the Rocky Mount Cord Co.; for the composition of cordel to Anthony Farraz, president of Brownell and Co.; for diameter, bulk, and practical details to Ron Schatman (who handlined for marlin) and Jack Casey, both of the American Billfish Foundation.

I see no chance that the lines' formidable weight is either unintentional or extraneous. Even a smaller line—one-quarter inch in diameter, the size of a standard pencil—would weigh over a hundred pounds after fishing, enough to make readers think hard about how heavy it would be for an early adolescent, let alone a ten-year-old, to carry. We can see, then, why Manolin "always" helps the elderly Santiago, who could not otherwise continue fishing, and why Manolin helps him carry "either the . . . lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail" (emphasis added), a point Hemingway stressed in correcting the film script (Fuentes 246). The pair has regularly made separate trips, sharing the great weight of the lines on one trip and that of the remaining gear on the other. It is an all-the-more crucial narrative fact, then, that on the night and morning before Santiago's final trip Manolin is able to carry the wet lines, gaff, and harpoon to the shack and back to the boat, leaving Santiago only the mast and sail. The shifting balance of the burden shared by this twentieth-century squire and his knight prefigures the approaching end of Santiago's championship and the beginning of Manolin's at the novel's end.

15 It is unwise to assume, as does Young, that in a Hemingway narrative "allegory overwhelms reality." As instances of actual inadvertence (Donaldson, "The Case of the Vanishing American") are very rare, so are instances of facile poetic license. Thus even when an error of fact can be established, we should suspect a functional reason, rather than the indifference to reality Weeks and Young assume. In The Old Man and the Sea there are several genuine errors of fact, thought by some to reflect the aging Hemingway's flagging discipline (Weeks throughout). However, most errors Weeks cites are based upon incomplete scientific knowledge at the time. (So are Hemingway's erroneous assumptions that a male striped marlin might approach the size of Santiago's fish—over 1,500 pounds—when only females do, and that a marlin that large might be found in the Atlantic, when we now know they are not.) And the other genuine errors Weeks mentions are examples of what Stoneback calls, in Hemingway's early works, "anachorism [that which is out of place] and anachronism" used calculatedly to signal the "unstated patterns . . . of a work" ("From the rue Saint-Jacques" 7). They nudge initiated readers toward truth beyond fact (Sylvester, "Extended Vision" 138)—truth that would be missed by uninitiated readers, unaware of anything wrong. But truth through fact is overwhelmingly the rule in Hemingway's narratives.

16 We can reasonably establish from information about Hemingway's activities at the time (Baker, Hemingway: The Writer as Artist 228; Fuentes 241, 419) that the incident occurred no earlier than 1932; and Puig is described as "in his late forties" in 1957 (Machlin 137).

17 In A Farewell to Arms Frederic Henry, in his twenties, is referred to as a boy by a variety of men and women. Donaldson (Force of Will 152-53) cites ten instances. (In Henry's case, of course, the label does serve to remind readers of his inappropriate innocence and irresponsibility. But the irony is effective precisely because the speakers often intend the label as it applies to young men generally.) In Across the River and into the Trees, Colonel Cantwell speaks of the nineteen-year-old Renata as "Boy, daughter, or whatever it is." He also remembers himself as "a boy" when he was wounded in the wear at nineteen—as does the man Ernest Hemingway in his letters: "When I was a young boy I was always getting shot at" (emphasis added).

18 In bibliographies of Hemingway studies for the past decade interested readers can find, for example, references to such necessary new readings of The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," Across the River and into the Trees, and several of the major short stories. There are now in press or in preparation discussions of indirectly presented narrative facts hitherto overlooked or misapplied in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Islands in the Stream, and more short stories. The personal and artistic reasons for Hemingway's subtlety and indirection are increasingly scrutinized. For an analysis of current findings, see my "Persona" (esp. 25-34).

19 See the conclusion of note 14 above.

Works Cited

Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969.

——. Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1956.

Barbour, James, and Robert Sattelmeyer. "Baseball and Baseball Talk in The Old Man and the Sea." Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual 1975: 281-87.

Brenner, Gerry. The Old Man and the Sea: Story of a Common Man. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Burns, Ken, and Geoffrey Ward. Baseball: An Illustrated History. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Donaldson, Scott. By Force of Will: The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Viking, 1977.

——. "The Case of the Vanishing American and Other Puzzlements in Hemingway's Fiction." Hemingway Notes 6 (Spring 1981): 16-19.

Friedman, Norman. Form and Meaning in Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1975.

Fuentes, Norberto. Hemingway in Cuba. New York: Carol, 1984.

Hemingway, Ernest. Across the River and into the Trees. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1950.

——. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929.

——. The Garden of Eden. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986.

——. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952.

——. Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961. Ed. Carlos Baker. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981.

——. The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938.

Hurley, C. Harold. Hemingway's Debt to Baseball in The Old Man and the Sea: A Collection of Critical Readings. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1992.

Lewis, Robert W. "Hemingway in Italy: Making It Up." Journal of Modern Literature 9 (1982): 209-36.

Machlin, Milt. "Hemingway Talking." Conversations with Ernest Hemingway. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1986, 130-42.

Mailer, Norman. Advertisements for Myself. New York: Berkley, 1959.

Monteiro, George. "Santiago, DiMaggio, and Hemingway: The Ageing Professionals of The Old Man and the Sea." Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual 1974: 273-80.

Nelson, Lowry. Rural Cuba. New York: Octagon, 1970.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Paris Years. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.

Rosenfield, Claire. "New World, Old Myths." Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Old Man and the Sea: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Katherine T. Jobes. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968, 41-55.

Stoneback, H. R. "From the rue Saint-Jacques to the Pass of Roland to the 'Unfinished Church on the Edge of the Cliff.'" The Hemingway Review 6 (1986): 2-29.

——. "Hemingway on the Road to Roncevaux: The Pilgrimage Theme in The Sun Also Rises." VIII Congreso de la Société Rencesvals. Pamplona: Instituction Principe de Viana, 1981, 481-89.

——. "Review of Santiago: Saint of Two Worlds." The Hemingway Review 12 (1992): 93-98.

Sylvester, Bickford. "Hemingway's Italian Waste Land: The Complex Unity of 'Out of Season."' Hemingway's Neglected Short Fiction: New Perspectives. Ed. Susan Beegel. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1989, 75-98.

——. "Hemingway's Extended Vision: The Old Man and the Sea." PMLA 81 (1966): 130-38.

——. "The Writer as l'homme engagé: Persona as Literary Device in Malraux and Hemingway." North Dakota Quarterly 60 (1992): 19-38.

——. "They Went through This Fiction Every Day': Informed Illusion in The Old Man and the Sea." Modern Fiction Studies 12 (1966-67): 473-76.

Toynbee, Philip. "Hemingway." Encounter 17 (October 1961): 86-88.

Weeks, Robert P. "Fakery in The Old Man and the Sea." College English 24 (1962): 188-92.

Young, Philip. Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1952.


Essays and Criticism