Nature and Humanity in The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is an insightful novella comprised of potent, universal themes that leave the reader, regardless of class, age, or ethnicity, filled with lasting sensations of unfaltering hope, incessant fortitude, and the realization of the true pertinence of nature and its denizens in our lives. Overall, I very much enjoy the book in that its seasoned protagonist, Santiago is a developed character who the reader cannot help but feel sympathy for, but also respect, as his courage and maritime aspirations never recede, even after an eighty-four day fishing drought in the Gulf Stream. Overall, I am inspired by this character’s narrative, in that Hemingway develops the idea that one can truly escape reality’s hardships by seeking refuge in their nostalgic dreams and appreciating the inherent connection between nature and humanity.
Firstly, Santiago’s nostalgic dreams help him to transcend his solitary sadness at sea by reminding him of his contented days of youth. To exemplify, when Santiago’s body begins to cramp up at sea, he falls into a brief sleep, as he knows it will bring him momentary comfort and relaxation in a time of distress. In this moment, Hemingway writes, “After that he began to dream of the long yellow beach and he saw the first of the lions come down…and he waited to see if there was more lions and he was happy” (Hemingway 81). As clearly depicted in this moment, Santiago resorts to his pleasing dreams whenever in a disconsolate or despondent state, as they bring him happiness and comfort; therefore, this moment clearly shows that this alternate dream world has the power to carry Santiago through the struggles and mental obstacles that his reality throws at him. In retrospect, this moment as well as the motif of dreams in this literary piece display to the reader that an alternate world comprised of joyful memories is necessary in that it gives us the relief and hope that reality cannot always give.
Furthermore, though Santiago does often feel isolated at sea, he reminds himself of his inherent connection to nature, and this reminder fuels his undying perseverance and hope to catch the elusive fish. To display, while Santiago is battling with the fish on his journey, he states, “Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come and kill me. I do not care who kills who” (Hemingway 92). This mindset carries weight with Santiago throughout his journey, as it reminds him of the fact that he does not lie in isolation, and it furthermore kindles his hope to catch the fish as it establishes a respectful bond between him and this inhabitant of the sea. Therefore, in creating this brotherhood, Santiago feels closer to the fish, and it distracts him from a negative mindset in which he may have thought of the fish as a separate entity that he wouldn’t have been able to catch. Ultimately, through this connection with nature, Santiago reminds himself that he is still capable of catching fish as he is one with them, and it therefore gives him the ability to overcome the mental hardships that he initially faced in which he thought that he had lost his fisherman capacity.
Looking at The Old Man and the Sea in its entirety though, it is insightful, not particularly complex and shows the beauty in the appreciation of life’s simplicities and how one shouldn’t take them for granted. I adore the book in that Hemingway uses Santiago’s quest for fish as a platform to teach the reader about life and its omnipresent themes such as the appreciation of youth, lasting hope and one’s place in society and how our personal view of that societal abode changes and evolves throughout our lives as it does with Santiago. These reasons along with Hemingway’s ability to provide the reader with enduring hope are what combine to make it a truly enjoyable novella.