Our daily existence is an uphill fight to acquire that which we need. Failure to do so means a threatened existence and imminent death. However, the situation may not be as grim as that because of the organized nature of the contemporary society, especially for someone with a livelihood. The novel by Ernest Hemmingway tells tale of a man who has to find to feed. It narrates of a man who has to fight opposing forces in order to hold on to his dear life, lest he be consumed by hunger. Even in the sorry state that the old man in the novel is, he is not spared of adversity. After eighty four days without catching any fish, the old man faces annihilation by an impending winter that in the current state is bound to find him without food, warm clothing or shelter. However, the survival instinct in a human being is always present even in the leanest of times. Perseverance in times of adversity and aridity and the will to survive is what differentiates success and failures in life.
Perseverance is the persistence and the tenacity in attempting something despite delays in achieving success or difficulties in the process (Peterson, Dale & Sandy 15). This is the quality in an individual that allows them to continuously do something irrespective of any impediments, challenges or delays. Perseverance is very important in live because very rarely are things offered on a silver platter. Most of the time, we find ourselves having to work for what we own. For some people, it is as basic as persevering to simply acquire food for one’s family.
The tale of the old man in the novels embodies the spirit of perseverance. In the beginning of the book, the author paints a grim situation of the old man’s life. He goes for eighty four days without catching a fish, yet he attempts day after another. Most individuals would have been watered down by the consistent failure. Arguably, the novel depicts the old man in the novel as a person of strong discipline and character because he keeps trying, even if he fails for the eighty third time. The old man deals with the brutality and the inconsiderate nature of life every day. This is an important lesson for humankind; that is through perseverance that we enjoy the niceties and marvels of the modern society. The spirit of the old man in the novel can be likened to that of Thomas Edison in his attempts to invent a light bulb.
Santiago is fighting a fight against defeat. Yielding to defeat too quickly is a common practice among the populace. Many a time, individuals do not have the will to continue. This is especially the case when they are faced with tough odds. In his unyielding will to fight defeat, the novel shows Santiago as a very optimistic man. Every new day is new opportunity for him to hook a fish and reel it in for a catch. His optimism is shown when he ventures further into the sea compared to where he had fished previously. This is an act of keeping faith especially when each attempt ends with failure. For most of us, it is very hard to try another time after failing on numerous occasions (Hemingway & Paul 77).
Sustained failure can bruise someone’s pride thereby eroding the spirit of perseverance and endurance. This is what stalls most individuals in their pursuit of goals and targets. Santiago is faced with this prospect when he keeps trying even after failing previously in the same endeavors. On another perspective, pride can collide with judgment and push one beyond the limits. After eighty four days of failed attempts, Santiago decides to venture beyond the lines that fishermen observe. In the novel, pride is shown as a negative attribute in a human being because it causes them to stretch further than their reach.
However, I hold that as theme in the book, pride serves to exemplify the strength of human will and the exploits of perseverance. The old man, cognizant of the predicament that awaits him goes out into the sea to fish, the previous trials and failures notwithstanding. One would imagine that after failing for such a long time, he would change trade and venture into something else more promising. Contrary to popular opinion, the old man ventures into the open sea, further that he is supposed to go, to fend for himself. It is in the sea where his fortunes change for the better. Even before the old man paddles his mighty catch home, he is faced by more adversity as man-eating sharks attack and threaten to maul him (McClement 45).
One cannot wonder whether the shark attack is not punishment for pride that goes against better judgment. However, familiar concepts in the contemporary world glorify risk taking. Even though the risks that Santiago took were not calculated, they paid off in the form of a gigantic marlin. This is one of the outcomes of the concept of risk taking (Jones 93). However, like many uncalculated risks, many other extenuating variables are not conceptualized before such risks are taken. As such, one goes into the situation blind of what could possibly transpire. This is the situation in which Santiago finds himself. On one hand, Santiago has an outlay for his risk in the form of a gigantic marlin. On the other hand, Santiago faces the brutal forces of nature in the form of debilitating sharks.
Santiago is faced with difficult odds. He faces a crunch time, where his decision is everything, literary and otherwise. Letting the marling go would have probably preempted a shark attack, the understanding being that the sharks would have opted for the easy prey in form of the marlin. This implies that Santiago would have lost his catch. The stakes in this situation are very high, hence the increased importance of the decision that Santiago makes given the prevailing circumstances. It is also worth considering that he had battled with the marlin on the end of his hook for three days and nights while in physical pain, weariness and exhaustion. Plainly speaking, Santiago had invested everything he had down to this catch (Valenti 85).
His decision to fight the sharks for his catch was informed by his pride, the level of investment in hi outlay and the Hobson’s choice that he faced. Beside this, Santiago has other motivating factors that fuel his perseverance and resistance to defeat. Every time he is overwhelmed by the circumstances, he taps on to the motivating factors for renewed strength as is evident in the novel (16).
“Then he looked behind him and saw that no land was visible. That makes no difference, he thought. I can always come in on the glow from Havana. There are two more hours before the sun sets and maybe he will come up before that. If he doesn’t maybe he will come up with the moon. If he does not do that maybe he will come up with the sunrise. I have no cramps and I feel strong. It is he that has the hook in his mouth.:
As a role model, Santiago figures he has to give Manolin a reason and something in which to believe. Every time he feels he is losing the battle, Santiago’s pride demands that he proves himself a deserving role model for Manolin. He also compares himself to his childhood hero, Joe DiMaggio for increased inspiration. Santiago keeps faith through continued struggle even though his prayers to God do not alleviate the physical suffering that he is experiencing (22).
God help me to have the cramp go,” he said. “Because I do not know what the fish is going to do.
He was comfortable but suffering, although he did not admit the suffering at all. “I am not religious,” he said.“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 Virgin of Cobre if I catch him. That is a promise.” (24)
Even in the moment of bleakness, Santiago remembers the youthful days when he was full of strength for inspiration.
This is the height of perseverance. When failure threatens to strip one of personal pride in their own eyes and those of the people that look up to them, people are tempted to cower. For Santiago, it is no longer about food and mere existence. Santiago is fighting for a higher price. It is this knowledge that keeps him going even in the face of adversity and imminent failure. It is the thought that his actions or inactions will affect those around him that keep him wanting to succeed. This is the cornerstone on which our country is built. The selfless efforts of our forefathers inspired the modern society that in which we abide. It is that same spirit that roams inside Santiago when he fights to make Manolin believe.
Through his perseverance, Santiago shows the strength of resolve. The novel narrates that Santiago sees the marlin that he hooks as a brother. However, Santiago is determined to kill the marlin on order to make Manolin see what a man can do and consequently make him believe in the power of resolve and perseverance. After a battle of mythical proportions that lasted for three days and nights, Santiago finally killed the marlin. As they head back to the shore, the sharks that attack him feed on the marlin. Santiago fights them off with everything he can get down from a harpoon, a club and at the very end a mere knife. This embodies the spirit of a man who will give anything to achieve his targets. It exemplifies the resolve of a man who despite physical exhaustion, biting hunger and threat of being mauled by sharks (Ehms 62).
Ehms, Sanya. The Old Man and the Sea - Language, Nature and Dreams: Hemingway. München: GRIN Verlag, 2010. Print.
Hemingway, Ernest, and Paul Kämmer. The Old Man and the Sea. München: Hueber, 1995. Print.
Jones, Richard B. 20% Chance of Rain: Exploring the Concept of Risk. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley, 2012. Print.
McClement, Mike. Brilliant Self Confidence: How to Challenge Your Fears and Go for Anything You Want in Life. Harlow: Pearson, 2012. Print.
Peterson, Eugene H, Dale Larsen, and Sandy Larsen. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: 6 Studies for Individuals or Groups, with Guidelines for Leaders & Study Notes, Niv Text Included. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1996. Print.
Valenti, Patricia D. Understanding the Old Man and the Sea: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2002. Print.