The Old Man and the Sea Analysis
Throughout the course of The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway focuses on one key issue: the honor that is found in struggling toward a goal, even if one does not succeed. Santiago, the protagonist of the story, is an embarrassment in his village; it has been nearly three months since he, a fisherman by trade, has actually caught a fish. He is teased and taunted, yet he still boards his boat every day in the hopes of catching something. His struggle, thought marked by failure, is one to be honored, as it shows his persistence and strength.
Hemingway makes it clear that the only end result that Santiago fears is death, not defeat. Man will perpetually struggle against death, as will animal, something that is marked in the constant struggle Santiago faces with the marlin. When the fish takes the bait, it does not give in to death; instead, it drags Santiago and his boat for hours and hours on end. When Santiago is afraid the marlin will snap the line and render him a failure once again, he refuses to give in; he hangs onto the line, using every ounce of his strength to maintain control over the fish. Eventually, Santiago is able to emerge victorious over the marlin, killing it with a harpoon. However, his victory is futile for he will still struggle against death, this time in the form of sharks. As the marlin is tied to the front of Santiago’s boat, it attracts scavengers who pick off every piece of meat from the fish despite Santiago’s efforts. His victory over death and over the marlin appears lost as he returns home with nothing more than a skeleton attached to the front of his vessel. However, the remains of the fish impress the village, and Santiago is declared a hero and victor over what they believe to have been a shark.