Psychological Themes and Symbolism in Ernest Hemingway Term Paper

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Psychological Themes and Symbolism in Ernest Hemingway's Novella The Old Man And The Sea

Ernest Hemingway's novella the Old Man and the Sea (1952) is a naturalistic, extremely psychological and symbolic tale, about.".. An old Cuban fisherman who catches a giant marlin but is unable to keep the sharks from mutilating it before he can get it safely to shore" (Mc Quade et al., p. 1158). It is the story of Santiago, a man down on his luck, and his series of losing battles against various forces of nature: a huge marlin Santiago manages, at last, to catch, the sharks that eat it, and the sea itself, which sends him home, once again after 85 days, defeated and empty-handed. Santiago's hardest battle, however, is against himself. He must decide if he will try his best to prevail over the forces of nature, and his own physical infirmities and weaknesses, or simply allow nature to prevail over him. He opts for the latter, and puts up an admirably brave, even if futile struggle. In the end, Santiago is defeated physically, but not psychologically. The conclusion of Hemingway's the Old Man and the Sea represents a physical defeat for Santiago the fisherman, but a psychological victory for Santiago the man.

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After weeks of bad luck, Santiago struggles mightily to catch a huge marlin, only to have it steadily eaten by sharks all the way back to shore. Although this story is set in an obscure Cuban fishing village, is contains universal psychological relevance about humanity's struggle, against forces greater than itself, and against itself. Hemingway illustrates, in this novella, what he said in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954: "[Man] should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed" ("Ernest Hemingway - Banquet Speech." Here, Hemingway is talking about writing, but the same could be said of fishing, and of Santiago's own actions. Even though he has tried his best against the elements and against himself, and been defeated in the process, he has not been destroyed.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Psychological Themes and Symbolism in Ernest Hemingway's Assignment

Man can be defeated, but not destroyed" (Hemingway, Nobel Prize Speech, 1954).The Old Man and the Sea was singled out for special mention, among the body of Hemingway's work, when Hemingway won the Nobel Prize.

Set along the Cuban coast in the early 1950's, the story is rich with psychological symbolism that offers a sense of its deeper, more universal meaning. Three elements of the story, in particular, are heavy with symbolism: the sea itself; the different species of birds Santiago sees on the ocean, and the marlin Santiago finally catches, but then loses.

The dominant symbol of nature's power within the Old Man and the Sea is that of the sea, referred to by Hemingway, in the story, as its Spanish equivalent, "la mar." Santiago, although down on his luck, loves and respects the sea, and so refers to her in the feminine form. As Hemingway states: "He [Santiago] always thought of the sea as la mar, which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her" (the Old Man and the Sea 29).

Despite the bad luck the sea brings him throughout the story, Santiago never loses his reverence for her. To Santiago, the sea is as unfathomable as love, and life itself. For the tired but undefeated old fisherman, his love of the sea is like the unrequited love… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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