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Santiago's Inner Power in The Old Man and The Sea

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Santiago is the main character in The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Santiago believes that “a man can be destroyed but not defeated.” I think that the term of heroism relates to his belief because in many stories the hero, usually a man, is completely destroyed in body and in thought but they aren’t defeated. In the story of Hercules, his feelings were destroyed and he felt like his life crashed down but he came back stronger than he was before. In Santiago’s story, The Old Man and the Sea, he is tired out from fighting off sharks to keep his catch. In the end the sharks end up eating all of the fish leaving nothing but its skeleton. Exhausted from the fight Santiago continues to head back home. When Santiago gets to his home he lies down and gets some sleep while the fish’s skeleton stay lying on his boat. The town was in awe at the skeleton of the big fish and some even thought it was a shark. Marking Santiago as proof that pride will drive men to do incredible things.

Santiago went around eighty seven days with bad luck and not catching any fish. His apprentice was forced to join another fishing boat due to the old man’s bad luck. The apprentice still came to the old man’s boat and home every night to make sure things were tied up on the boat and that Santiago had food in his shack. Santiago decided to sail farther than he has ever gone the next day and try his luck to catch some fish out there. He set up his fishing lines and waited around until a fish was caught. For three days Santiago was reeling in the big fish, called a marlin, until the marlin got tired and Santiago was finally able to reel the marlin up close to the boat. Santiago stabbed the marlin fish with a harpoon and drug it up onto the boat. The marlin left a blood trail during the trip back to shore. The blood trail attracted sharks that attacked Santiago for his catch. Santiago had to fight off the sharks with the harpoon until a shark pulled the harpoon into the ocean leaving Santiago to make a spear made from an oar with a knife tied to it. After a while the sharks have completely eaten the marlin’s meat leaving nothing but its skeleton. Santiago seeing his trip as a complete loss continues to head back to shore. When he gets to the shore he ties down his boat at the dock and heads to his shack to sleep. Santiago was very upset with himself saying that he “went out too far” and if he didn’t go out as far he thinks that he would have caught a fish and the fish would have made it back to shore completely in flesh.

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Santiago’s heroism is very unusual because he wasn’t very heroic at most parts until he was fighting off sharks to keep his catch. Santiago can be seen as a hero to his apprentice for showing him everything he knows about fishing and helping the apprentice learn to fish as good as Santiago does. There are a lot of similarities between a classic hero and Santiago. Both show great strength, bravery, and the certainty of getting the job done. Even though heroes are very admirable they tend to lead themselves into their own downfall with their qualities. Most heroes’ downfalls are heartbreaks or distractions from their “job”. Santiago’s downfall was most likely his pride but it was also the sharks. Killing the marlin fish was done mainly out of pride which led to his downfall because the marlin’s blood attracted the sharks that ate the marlin and attacked Santiago for the marlin. He continuously says that he is sorry to the skeleton of the marlin fish knowing he has ruined them both. Thinking that he shouldn’t have gone out as far as he did and deciding that his downfall was only because he went out too far and accepting that it was not his fault for trying. Santiago and his journey stood as proof that pride motivates a man to do great things.

In some ways Santiago’s heroism is very unique because he is teaching his apprentice how to be a good fisherman like he is along with trying to get his business to go back to being good like it used to be. Most hero stories show the hero fighting the bad things or bad people and saving the city or town. In Santiago’s story he is showing people to not give up during the bad or hard times and he is teaching a younger man to be the good guy that he is even through fishing. Santiago is a hero to most men and to his apprentice. Throughout the novel Santiago has an undying determination to catch the marlin fish and bring it back to shore with him. Even if Santiago would have returned to shore with the marlin fish, his glory would have been short lived along with the marlin’s meat. Santiago’s glory doesn’t come from the journey or the battle with the fish itself but from his pride and determination to fight for the marlin fish.


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