The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway Analysis
Imagine, you are desperately fighting for your life out at sea against the unpredictable and violent forces of nature, what are you willing to do in order to survive? In Ernest Hemingway's fictional novella, “The Old Man and the Sea,” readers are introduced to an old and wise central character named Santiago. Santiago, a Cuban fisherman, is faced with many situations out at sea where he has to choose violence against nature in order to survive. Nature is trying its hardest to defeat Santiago, but Santiago is trying even harder to avoid that defeat. Nature has a violent side, and so does Santiago.
Even though Santiago is a creation of nature, he is not safe from its hostile and powerful side. One way that nature affects Santiago is by damaging his physical appearance. When the sun, in combination with the reflection of the water, Santiago develops, " ...brown blotches of benevolent skin cancer... " (Hemingway 10) on his skin. Fishermen spend a lot of time out at sea where they are exposed to extreme weather conditions, such as the harsh direct sunlight. In this way, nature is cruel because it is putting Santiago’s life at risk by exposing him to what could possibly kill him over time (skin cancer). In addition, the creatures of the sea also show how nature is not afraid to approach man. When the first Mako shark approaches Santiago’s catch, the Marlin, Santiago, “ ...knew that this was a shark that had no fear at all and would do exactly what he wished” (Hemingway 101). Seeing the perfect opportunity for an attractive, tasty, and large Marlin catch, the Mako shark is willing to act predatorial in order to have his food. The Mako shark attacks the Marlin, ripping off a piece of its skin and flesh, resulting in Santiago putting his life in danger in order to fight him off. This proves that nature will go after what and who it wants, and whenever it wants, no matter what the consequences are (death or injuries to Santiago).
Like nature, Santiago is similarly cruel. To satisfy his hunger, Santiago grabs a handful of shrimp stuck onto the Sargasso weed, and violently, “ ...pinched their heads off with his thumb and forefinger and ate them chewing up the shells and the tails” (Hemingway 98). With no other source of food, and having spent all his energy catching and killing the Marlin, Santiago is in desperate need of nourishment. This shows that Santiago’s is willing to put his needs above life within nature. Likewise, when the first Mako shark attacks the Marlin, Santiago reacts in violence and kills him, “ ...the old man could hear the noise of skin and flesh ripping on the big fish when he rammed the harpoon down onto the shark's head…” (Hemingway 102). Santiago had no other choice but to go to extreme lengths to save his catch. This reveals that Santiago had no compassion towards the Mako shark at that moment. In this way, Santiago demonstrates the violent side of human nature.