Santiago: A Hemingway Hero Essay, Research Paper
One can describe a hero as someone who achieves greatness. The Old Man
and the Sea, a novel by Ernest Hemingway, involves an old man named Santiago,
who establishes himself as a great fisherman many times, but yet, he still struggles
to prove it again and again. Santiago lives in a small fishing village off the coast
of Havana, Cuba, and fishing is imperative to his survival. Although an
immeasurable amount of skill is found in Santiago, eighty-four days passed
without him hooking a single fish. Santiago refuses to give up. Santiago classifies
as a Hemingway hero. A Hemingway hero shows many qualities, including
courage, skill, experience, pride, humility, and perseverance. Santiago qualifies as
a Hemingway hero because of his courage, skill, and pride.
The courageous acts of Santiago help establish his greatness. Everyone else
would have given up when their spear broke while attacking a shark, but Santiago
lashes out at the shark with his fists:
When he saw the shark he leaned over the side and punched at him. He hit
only meat and the hide was set hard and he barely got the knife in. The
blow hurt not only his hands but his shoulder too. But the shark came up
fast with his head out and the old man hit him squarely in the center of his
flat-topped head as his nose came out of the water and lay against the fish.
The old man withdrew the blade and punched the shark in exactly in the
same spot again…. ?No?? the old man said and he drove the blade between
the vertebrae and the brain.1
Santiago?s actions display his courage and his pride. While attacking the sharks,
he loses his harpoon, but, instead of giving up, he attaches his knife to the oar and
uses that. When the knife breaks, he uses his club. As Santiago attacks the sharks
with the club, the club is plucked from his hands by a shark. In his fury, Santiago
tears off the tiller and stabs the sharks with it. While defending the fish from the
sharks, he shows pride. He shows his pride by attacking the sharks just so they
will not eat his great fish. Santiago risks his life to defend the fish he killed
before. Santiago displays his hate for the sharks by attacking them without
remorse. Equally important, as Santiago kills the second shark he says ?No??
When he says this Santiago wishes the sharks to know that he will never get the
fish as long as he is able to defend it. He defends the fish with fearlessness
because he believes the fish to be his ?brother? so he does not want the shark to
eat it. Santiago?s intrepid displays of courage prove him to be a Hemingway hero.
Not only does Santiago?s courage help him to defend the fish, but his skill aids
him in catching it. Santiago skillfully shows his exactness:
He looked down into the water and watched the lines that went
straight down into the dark of the water. He kept them straighter
than anyone did, so that at each level… of the stream there would be
a bait waiting exactly where he wished it to be for any fish that
swam there…. drift with the current and sometimes they were at sixty
fathoms when the fisherman thought they were at a hundred.
But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck any
more. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is
better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck
comes you are ready. (32)
Hemingway tries to prove that precision is necessary to succeed in anything. He
gets the point across when Santiago catches the fish. Santiago?s precision is
shown many times , for instance, when he baits the hooks. He covers every single
part of the hook with the bait so that the hook is not even visible. He also keeps
the lines so straight that he always knows their exact depth. As a Hemingway
hero, Santiago is precise and skilled at everything he does.
As well as his preciseness, Santiago?s pride assists him in everything that he
does. Pride is everything because if Santiago does not respect himself, he does not
believe in himself, as a result, he would never succeed in anything. Too much
pride can also lead to a downfall, but Santiago?s pride is balanced out with
?One sheet. That?s two dollars and a half. Who can we borrow that
?That?s easy. I can always borrow two dollars and a half.?
?I think perhaps I can too. But I try not to borrow. First you
borrow. Then you beg.? (18)
?What are we eating??
?Black beans and rice, fried bananas, and some stew.?
The boy had brought them in a two-decker metal container from the
?Who gave this to you??
?Martin, the owner.?
?I must thank him.?
?I thanked him already,? the boy said. ?You don?t need to thank
This passage represents Santiago?s pride. If you look again, the quotation also
makes you ask yourself if he has some humility mixed in with his pride. Santiago
has humility because he offers to thank Martin for the food, eventhough his pride
would be hurt if he had to acknowledge to someone that he needed the help that
was given. This excerpt also makes people realize that the boy is the protector of
Santiago?s pride. This is important because if Santiago?s pride was hurt too much
he might give up on himself so the boy has to protect Santiago?s pride. Santiago?s
pride is perfectly balanced with humility, making him a genuine Hemingway hero.
Santiago?s endless courage, precise skill, and self-respecting pride prove him a
true Hemingway hero. Santiago possesses courage great enough to get through any
situation, skill great enough to be exact in anything that he does, and the pride any
man half as honorable could double. A Hemingway hero is someone very
trustworthy, skillful, and caring, yet someone who will put greatness aside and be
a good friend.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: MacMillan
Publishing Company, 1952.