Illustration of a marlin in the water

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

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How is Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea relevant to the problem of existence?

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Santiago represents all humans who struggle to survive on a daily basis, but who also dream of better lives. Santiago achieves his dream by catching the big marlin, but he loses it before he can get it home. He suffers pain and exhaustion in the process, but Santiago still feels it was worth it. Why--because people need dreams to keep going on a daily basis. The struggle to survive isn't worth it if we can't at least hope and dream that it will get better. Sometimes to survive, we end up destroying our hopes and dreams, like Santiago watches the sharks destroy his fish. At the end, however, he is still able to dream about the lions he saw as a young man and would like to see again. It's the human spirit that is important.

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Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea deals with the problem of existence by illustrating the various struggles one must go through. For example, when things are going well for you, such as in careers, love, and such, there is no resting on your good fortune. You must struggle to hold on to the things you have gained. On the other hand, when you are dealt with bad fortune, you must struggle to overcome your misfortunes to the end. Existence is struggle, and life is simply the struggle to gain or hold on to the good things in life.

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