Ernest with archetypal content, he dramatizes universal truths and

Ernest Hemingway knew
this was his most great work of art: “This is the prose that I have been working for all my life that should read easily and
simply and seem short and yet have all the dimensions of the visible world and the world of man’s spirit.
It is as good prose as I can write as of now.” His aspiration to express “all the dimensions” of Man and
Nature in one work is the poetic ideal called synecdoche, Hemingway’s goal throughout his career. Faulkner
said in his review of The Old Man and the Sea, “Time may show it to be the best
single piece by any of us. I mean his and my contemporaries. This time he
discovered God, a Creator.”
Faulkner considered it perfect: “Praise God that whatever made and loves and
pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further.”

The question of it is
how Ernest Hemingway changed a simple whale story into his great work. The
fishing story is almost as old a form as the
human race and the old man could have lived at any time at many places throughout the world, giving his
story a depth transcending time and space. As always Hemingway derives elemental power from Nature—from
archetypal actions, patterns, images, emotions and characters. Transcending time and space in this
story with archetypal content, he dramatizes universal truths and evokes holistic consciousness–ideals
in religion and in Modernism. The Old Man and the Sea is extremely religious the novella makes secular
Postmodernists painful. It is to Ernest what “Credo” is to E. A. Robinson, “After Apple-Picking’ is to
Frost, Four Quartets is to Eliot, Death Comes for the Archbishop is to Cather, and The Bear is to Faulkner.

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The title itself consists of six words of
three letters each, a perfect balance. The balance of each word in relation to the others expresses the theme of
balance–psychological, moral and ecological—as well as the Neoclassical aesthetic values of simplicity,
economy, clarity, and symmetry. Santiago the hero of the novel maintains a
literal stability in his small boat. Man and Nature (the sea) are asserted as the
same, in contrast to prevailing values in the modern world. Today fishing in
the Gulf of Mexico is high tech capitalism with industrial boats guided by
sonar tracking schools of fish from airplanes. Until recently, most human lives
were short and old people were respected
for their wisdom learned from experience, as Manolo respects Santiago. Today in
common human progress the youthful lack of respect the old and the vast
majority have been socialized withdrawn from Nature—those, for example, who are
exhausted by The Old Man and the Sea.


The starting sentence proposes the entire story (synecdoche), starting
the anticipation normal to all great angling stories, with the exception of
that here the hugeness of each perspective is amplified. any person without help in a skiff at sea who keeps difficult
after almost three months without taking a catch fish is heroic. There is a
sense from the beginning that this poor old man must be tired
and near death. “The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent
defeat.” The simple prose is “translated” Spanish, transcending one culture and giving the tone a formality that
further dignifies Santiago.

For the first “forty
days” the boy had been with him. Sympathy for the old man is increased through Manolin, who loves Santiago. “It made
the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty.” Forty days is the same
period of time that it rained in the biblical story of Noah and his ark, a submerged allusion here that would
have jumped out at readers before the 1960s. In contrast to Noah, this old man
is suffering from a dry spell, evoking the spiritual wasteland of T. S. Eliot.
And he is alone. Like Job, he is suffering for no fault. Christianity in tension
with nada is a theme throughout
Hemingway, culminating in what
Faulkner recognized as the religious affirmation of The Old Man and the Sea. As Jake Barnes said, “Some people have God. Quite a lot.” Christ
recruited fishermen for his disciples, the fish was a recognition symbol among
early Christians, and Santiago becomes Christ-evoking. The tone is set by the
first three sentences with their biblical measuring of time.

The old man is given
distinctive identity in the second passage through point by point physical
portrayal, uncommon in Hemingway. The scars on his correct hands “were as
old as disintegrations in a fishless leave,” putting him plainly in a
forsake “Everything about him was old except his eyes,” for he is
the representative judicious old man. Santiago eyes are not old because his vision
transcends time, they are the same color as the sea because his life is in
harmony with Nature, and they are also the similar color as the Sky as he has a
capacity for religious transcendence: in
spite of his poverty, loneliness, old age, bad luck, and the jokes made about
him by other fishermen, his eyes are
“cheerful and undefeated.”

offers to rejoin Santiago despite his bad luck and tries to encourage him. They
share values for family, yet manolin
has more in common with the hero Santiago than with his own father, who “hasn’t
much faith” and “does not like to go
far out…. He is almost blind.” This is the main theme in American literature, the tension dramatized by
Anne Bradstreet in her poem “The Flesh and the Spirit” (1678). In society the theme enlarges to
Materialism versus Idealism, as expressed by Jonathan Edwards, Emerson, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Hawthorne,
Melville, Henry James, Howells, Twain, Wharton, Dickinson, E. A. Robinson, Frost, Cather, Eliot,
Faulkner, O’Connor, and so on.

The boy wants to facilitate
Santiago, “to serve in some way.” This is the meaning of love in the work A Farewell to Arms: “You wish to do things
for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve. In his modesty Santiago has transcend
the machismo of his Cuban-Latin
culture, in contrast to the label of Ernest as a Macho Man. The hero Santiago
is part of the natural sort,
apart from the social order, as Santiago is in relation to the other fishermen
on the Terrace. Santiago is in direct contact with the earth. “He was barefooted.”

simplicity and poverty are evident in his shack, barely furnished with a
cooking place on the dirt floor. The shack is organic, made from palm trees.
His mast is almost as long as his shack is wide, corresponding to the balance
in his life between land and sea. His shirt “had been patched so many times that it was like the sail,”
identifying him with his boat just as in Melville ships symbolize the souls of
their captains. Pathos deepens again with
the reference to Santiago’s dead wife. He misses her so much he had to take her picture off the wall and hide it. Her purity
and the purity of his love for her are implied by hiding her under a clean shirt and his idealization of her by the
“tinted’ photograph and by its juxtaposition to the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” and “the Virgin of Cobre.”

Fiction is a means of
transcendence, as the old man and the boy disregard facts such as having no
food and live in spirit above the flesh—cheerful and
undefeated. Unsympathetic critics have belittled their spirited conversation about baseball, calling it trivial. On the contrary,
this is an example of Hemingway’s identification
with common people rather than with critics. In the first place, the
conversation is Realism.

The boy plays baseball like almost
all boys in Cuba. Baseball is more than a any other game there and somewhere
else in the Caribbean, it is a famous
religion—as evident in the reverent tones of Santiago and Manolin. It is also a potential way to individual
stardom. In disproportionate numbers baseball players from impoverished families in the Caribbean have made
it to the major leagues in America. Cubans talk about baseball the way ancient Greeks talked about the
heroes at Troy. The parallel unites past with present to illustrate a universal truth about human nature:
Men follow heroes, they make gods, they aspire. They always will. Baseball is
pastoral, a civilizing ritual sublimating war.