The Old Man In The Sea Essay

, Research Paper

People are interested in other people: how the act, where they go, what they think about in any number of situations. That interest is one of the reasons many people enjoy reading stories about imaginary people who seem real. Characterization is the technique a writer uses to create lifelike characters. A writer may use various methods of characterization, but all characters are described as either dynamic or static. Dynamic characters change in and throughout a novel, while static characters stay the same during a novel. Santiago, from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man in the Sea, is a determined, loyal, and wise character, who affects the novel by being a static character.

Santiago is characterized as determined, loyal, and wise early in the novel. Santiago has a dream of going beyond the normal fishing waters and trying to catch a big fish. Santiago is determined to do this even at his own life’s expense. When Santiago is talking to the boy early in the novel, he tells him, “Far out to come when the wind shifts. I want to be out before light” (Hemingway 14). This describes the old man’s determination to catch a big fish, even though he has not taken a fish in eighty-four days. Another important trait that describes Santiago early in the novel is his loyalty. Santiago is very loyal to his friend, the boy, and Santiago will do anything to help the boy prosper. Santiago shows further loyalty to the boy when he repeats that he wishes that the boy has come with him on his fishing trip. An example of this occurs when Santiago says, “‘I wish I had the boy” (Hemingway 49). Santiago also shows great loyalty to the sea and fish as well. The old man calls the flying fish his friends, and he respects everything living in the sea except the Portuguese man-of-war. The last important trait of Santiago’s is his knowledge and wisdom. Santiago is a very wise man, and he knows a lot about fishing and life itself. An example of the old man’s knowledge is his understanding of fishing. Santiago says, “I think so. And there are many tricks” (Hemingway 15), describing how he can use his knowledge to make up for his lack of strength. Santiago shows more experience and knowledge when he is able to uncover the direction a school of fish is moving by just looking at a bird. Santiago’s traits play a significant role in the novel.

Santiago is a static character and does not change during the novel. Santiago is a simple Cuban fisherman, but he has feelings and determination. An example of Santiago’s determination is his unwillingness to give up on his goals. Santiago has gone without catching a fish for eighty-four days, but he still continues to fish. Santiago has a goal of sailing beyond the normal fishing grounds to go fishing after a great fish. This is an example of his determination to outdo the other fishermen and to restore some of the respect that he has lost. During Santiago’s big fishing trip, he spots a school of flying fish and tries to follow them because he thinks that his big fish might be near them. He shows his determination to catch his big fish when he says, “They are moving out too fast and too far. But perhaps I will pick up a stray and perhaps my big fish is around them. My fish must be somewhere” (Hemingway 38). Later in the novel, Santiago’s determination still has not changed; he has hooked a large marlin and is determined to do whatever he can to catch it. This is shown when the author states, “But four hours later the fish was still swimming steadily out to sea towing the skiff, and the old man still was braced solidly with the line across his back” (Hemingway 50). Santiago’s attitude does not change even after he has been chasing the fish for over two days. Another example of Santiago’s characterization is that he longs for the boy at his side throughout the novel. On the third day, he still longs for the boy and thinks, “If the boy was here he would wet the coils of line, he thought. Yes. If the boy were here. If the boy were here” (Hemingway 91), showing his unchangeable desire for companionship. Although Santiago faces extreme conditions in which it is much easier to change, he remains the same, a determined fisherman.

Santiago’s lack of change has a significant effect on the outcome of the novel. Santiago has many chances to change throughout the novel. During his fishing trip, he could have quit after the fish keeps dragging him out to sea for two days straight. Santiago remains determined and finally kills the fish, satisfying one of his goals. In this statement Santiago’s success in killing the fish is described, “The old man felt faint and sick and he could not see well. But he cleared the harpoon line and let it run slowly through his raw hands and, when he could see, he saw the fish was on his back with his silver belly up. The shaft of the harpoon was projecting at an angle from the fish’s shoulder and the sea was discolouring with the red of the blood from his heart” (Hemingway 104). Another effect of Santiago’s lack of change occurs when Santiago finds that sharks are trying to eat his fish. Santiago has an unchanging respect for the sea, and when the sharks begin to mutilate his fish, he begins to regret catching the large fish. Hemingway describes Santiago’s resentfulness in the statement, “‘I wish it were a dream and that I had never hooked him. I’m sorry about it, fish. It makes everything wrong” (121). Santiago’s longing for companionship causes him to always want the boy to be at his side. The boy, in Santiago’s eyes, would have made everything better, and Santiago becomes closer to the boy after he returns from his fishing trip. The boy shows a new respect for Santiago because of Santiago’s unchanging attitude toward the trip. The old man agrees that he has been beaten, but the fish has not defeated Santiago’s spirit. The boy shows further respect for Santiago when he says, “‘The hell with luck I’ll bring the luck with me” (Hemingway 137). The boy uses this statement to tell Santiago that he will voyage and fish with him. The old man’s static behavior brings him closer to his true friend, the boy, and he succeeds in knowing he has conquered his dream.

In Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man in the Sea, Santiago is a static character who is given the traits of determination, loyalty, and wisdom. Santiago’s traits are established early in the novel and play an important role throughout the work. The old man maintains all of his traits and morals throughout the novel. Santiago affects the outcome of the novel by displaying unchanging characteristics such as determination and hopefulness. Santiago is a fisherman and a philosopher; his endurance and survival are dependent on his constant character traits.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born at eight o’clock in the morning on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. As a boy Hemingway was taught by his father to hunt and fish while his mother taught him the art of music. Hemingway received his formal schooling in the Oak Park public school system. In high school he was mediocre at sports, playing football, swimming, and serving as the track team manager. Hemingway decided not to attend college, but instead, he took a job as a reporter at the Kansas City Star. Hemingway fought during War War I, and he saw many of the horrors of war. In 1923 Hemingway moved from Paris to Toronto and wrote for the Toronto Daily Star. Hemingway produced most of his novels between 1925 and 1929. Some of the literature that Hemingway wrote between 1925 and 1929 were In Our Time (1925), The Sun Also Rises (1925), Men Without Women (1927), and Farewell to Arms (1929). Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea in 1953, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. After a long time of drinking and battling deteriorating health, Hemingway rose early on July 2, 1961, as he had his entire adult life, selected a shotgun from a closet in the basement, went upstairs to a spot near the entrance-way of the house, and shot himself in the head.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.


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