Santiago Is Hemingway (Old Man And The Sea) Essay, Research Paper
There is an old saying in the english language, “Every piece of writing is at least a little bit autobiographical.” This may be true in all cases, but it is clearly predominant in Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea.” It is evident that Hemingway modeled the main character, Santiago after his own person, and that the desires, the mentality, and the lifestyle of the old man are identical to Hemingway’s.
Santiago is an old fisherman who lives in a small coast town in Cuba. At the time that Hemingway wrote the story, he was also an elderly gentlemen and was such an avid fisherman throughout his life, that books such as “Ernest Hemingway, The Angler As Artist.” were written on the sole subject of how this obsession influenced Hemingway’s writing. Furthermore, he fished off the coast of Cuba so much that he decided to “buy the ‘Finca Vigia’ in Cuba, a substantial estate located about fifteen miles from downtown Havana . . .” For entertainment Santiago would “read the baseball.” Meanhile Hemingway often “relied on baseball analogies” in his writing, suggesting that he also loved the game. These similarities between Santiago’s lifestyle and Hemingway’s cannot be ignored or passed off as coincidence because they are much too precise. Already, from these prominent identical traits it is evident that Hemingway modeled the character of Santiago after his own person.
Hemingway had a very characteristic view of life. He believed it was admirable to risk one’s life in order to test one’s limits. His love of bullfighting clearly demonstrated this. Raymond S. Nelson, Hemingway scholar, states, “He saw bullfighting as tragic ritual, and he lionized the better bullfighters as men who risked death every time they entered the arena — a stance he admired and chose for himself in other ways.” One example of Hemingway choosing this stance for himself was when “he shot and dropped a charging Cape buffalo a few feet before the enraged animal would have killed him.” This daring act of Hemingway’s sounds peculiarly similar to the sport of bullfighting, and is an excellent example of Hemingway’s obsession with courting death. Scholar, John Smith believes that “Hemingway’s whole life and outlook suggest that, if he had known in advance of this deadly possibility, he would have embraced it even more enthusiastically.” Very similarly, and not so coincidentally, Santiago had this very same mindset. He also believes in testing one’s limits and admits as much when he tells himself, “. . . I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures.” He is telling himself that he will go to his very last limits to prove to the fish his prowess. Santiago, not so strangely like Hemingway, believes that courting death is admirable. This is most clearly shown when he proclaims to the fish, “Come on and kill me.” At this point he has already been fighting the fish for days now, he could easily cut the fish loose, but he instead decides to test his limits and risk death by holding on to the fish as a certain Ernest Hemingway might do. Indeed, it cannot be mere coincidence that Hemingway and Santiago share the same lifestyle as well as the same mindset, therefore, logically Hemingway has portrayed himself through the character of Santiago.
At the time that he was writing “The Old Man and the Sea,” Hemingway’s reputation was less than distinguished. “He had bet his sagging reputation on ‘Across the River’ and he had lost, badly.” Before Santiago hooked the great fish his reputation was not in such great shape either. In fact, “he had gone eighty four days now without taking a fish.” His reputation was so bad that “many of the fishermen made fun of the old man . . .” Hemingway decided to make one last attempt to revive his reputation and “He bet it again on ‘The Old Man and the Sea,” Santiago decided to make one last attempt to revive his reputation with the boy saying, “I told the boy I was a strange old man, . . .Now I must prove it.” Hemingway expert, Gerry Brenner claims, “Santiago’s perseverance in bringing home his great fish, an act that reestablishes his claim as the community’s greatest fisherman, clearly mirrors Hemingway’s wish to restore his flagging reputation.” Hemingway and Santiago are both at a low point in their careers and have an enormous need to prove themselves, this is an unignorable similarity.
Finally, throughout the story, Santiago longs for the companionship of Manolin, a small boy. He expresses this desire many time through statements such as; “I wish the boy was here,” or “I wish I had the boy.” Meanwhile, at the same time that he was writing the story, Hemingway had estranged himself from his son, Gregory. “He blamed Gregory for Pauline’s death . . . . and never saw him again.” Santiago’s longing for the boy simply represents Hemingway’s longing for his son. Hemingway greatly regretted losing Gregory and biographer, Jeffrey Meyers remarked that “the persistent vilification of Gregory in his letters merely emphasized how much Hemingway had loved his son.” Thus clearly demonstrating the desires shared by Hemingway and Santiago.
The similarities in lifestyle, mentality and even desires between Santiago and Hemingway are too many and too specific to be passed off as mere coincidence. Therefore, there remains only one option which is the obvious one eloquently stated by renowned scholar, James R. Mellow: “There is no doubt that ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ was a surrogate fable of Hemingway’s own life as a writer who had dared to venture too far from the shore on the wide blue Gulf Stream, which had become Hemingway’s major metaphor for the mysterious force of life.” If Santiago is Hemingway then much can be learned of Hemingway through reading, “The Old Man and the Sea.” One would have to note Santiago’s rugged individualism and wonder if the dreams of the lions might not be more significant than the critics will ever know.
Brenner, Gerry. The Old Man and the Sea: Story of a Common Man. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1991.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
Lynn, Kenneth S. Hemingway. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.
Mellow, James R. Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
Meyers, Jeffrey. Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.
Mr. Morden’s English handout on Hemingway’s life.
Nelson, Raymond S. Ernest Hemingway: Life, Work, and Criticism. Fredericton: York Press, 1984.
Samuelson, Arnold. With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba. New York: Random House, 1984.
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