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The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway portrays the Old Man as a crafty, determined fisherman; one who is ultimately in-tune and a part of nature. He completely understands his world, or maybe not understands, but simply knows.
The Old Man goes out on the 85th day of his no-luck fishing streak with an almost uncanny knowledge that he will catch something to make the wait worthwhile.
“Eighty-five is a lucky number,” the old man said. “How would you like to see me bring in one that dressed out over a thousand pounds?” ? pg. 16
He predicts the fish accurately to the weight. Moments before he hooks his catch he mentions how he will do well today. Those levels of accuracy can not come from mere coincidence, but rather from an unknown, ineffable source of knowledge.
The Old Man respects and loves every aspect of nature. The sea itself is female to him, as if that is an expression of his intimacy and closeness with it.
“He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her.” ? pg. 29
Fish that the Old Man hunts and catches he treats almost as brothers, and certainly as people. Yet he still hunts them with every last dying breath, as that is the way of the fisherman, the way of the world. On page 50 he tells of a fish he caught and beat to death while it?s faithful mate stayed nearby the entire time. He feels terrible about such a thing, yet not even a sliver of a thought of not killing this fish even crosses his mind. The best example of his respect is his brotherly love and admiration, which he expresses emotionally towards his catch.
“Fish,” he said, “I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.” ? pg. 54
“The fish is my friend too,” he said aloud. “I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.” ? pg. 75
“Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. How many people will he feed, he thought. But are they worthy of eating him? No, of course not. There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity.” ? pg. 75
The Old Man clearly regrets having to end the fish?s life, but there is no other way. It is the order of the universe that he is part of, that he helps to define. He is not being forced against his will, but rather he is defining his will by the underlying order. Even if killing the stars were part of his life as a fisherman he would try to do so. Honor runs very deep in this Old Man.
Money is a man-obsessed problem; it has no value in the underlying order of the world. The old man only uses it as a measurement of the greatness of the fish. He goes to any financial extreme to catch and defend this fish. He destroys his oars and tears apart his boat in an effort to make weapons in the defense of his catch.
“Then he took up the oar with the knife lashed to it.” ? pg. 107
“It was an oar handle from a broken oar sawed off to about two and a half feet in length.” ? pg. 113
“He jerked the tiller free from the rudder and beat and chopped with it, holding it in both hands and driving it down again and again.” ? pg. 117
In the climax of the battle, the Old Man?s sense of survival loses itself. He no longer cares for the value of his life, so as long as the way is maintained.
“Fish,” the old man said. “Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me too?”
That way nothing is accomplished, he thought.
You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who. ? pg. 92
Predator and prey, as long as there is a way. The old man is a truly noble creature, as is the fish.
The Old Man is willing to go to any loss, from financial to his own life, to sustain the underlying order or the universe. His respect for the fish of the sea is ultimate. He gains from this dedication an uncanny knowledge and instinct of how the sea and its creatures work and interact. He is a true part of the sea: a fisherman.
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