Man (or Woman) Cannot Be Destroyed

By Matthew H., 7th Grade

January 2019

Have you ever been destroyed but kept on trying? In the Old Man and The Sea, the old man, Santiago, fails his mission but he keeps his faith to venture on. Santiago says, “But man is not made for defeat… A man can be destroyed by not defeated” (103). Through the character of Santiago, Hemingway demonstrates that it is human nature to always have faith even if we work hard for something but fail to get the rewards.

Faith is the reason why people continue to try even if they fail and that is what drives Santiago. He thinks he must catch the fish in order to prove himself to the boy. “Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.” This is like a father son relationship. The father thinks that he must prove himself to his son or else his son won’t respect or trust him. Santiago thinks the same when it comes to proving himself to the boy, which makes him continue to fish. While the boy keeps Santiago going, his body has trouble keeping up. This can be seen when Santiago fights the sharks that are eating his fish. “‘Fight them,’ he said, ‘I’ll fight them until I die.’” Santiago won’t let the sharks eat the fish that he has worked hard to catch. Even though he is weak and tired from catching the fish, he says he will fight to his death if he has too. His faith helps him venture on without giving up.

Despite his faith, the strength used to catch the fish destroys the old man and weakens him so that he is unable to perform the work of a fisherman. Santiago is trying to keep the sharks from eating the fish, but he knows that he will probably fail. “It might as well have been a dream, he thought. I cannot keep him from hitting me but maybe I can get him.” The fish is like a dream to Santiago, because once he caught it, it was gone. Not only that, but the fish was one of the most prized possessions because he hasn’t caught one in 85 days. He also tries to kill the sharks, but their are simply too many for him to kill. Since Santiago is already weak from trying to catch the fish and fighting the sharks, he cannot do everyday activities as usual. Even when he needs to carry the mast back to his house, he has trouble carrying it.“He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder. He tried to get up. But it was too difficult and he sat there with the mast on his shoulder and looked at the road… He had to sit down five times before he reached the shack.” This scene can be related to Christ carrying the cross. A cross is a symbol of suffering, but you must overcome your suffering in order to live. The old man is like Christ because he is suffering from carrying the mast, but he has faith to keep him going even though he is already physically destroyed. Santiago works hard to catch the fish, but in the end still loses everything.

Unlike most books and movies, The Old Man and The Sea seems to end badly for the protagonist. Many other books have good endings like Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and Tom Sawyer. In these books and many others, the heroes receive a girl and/or treasure as rewards for succeeding. However, when humans  try their best but fail to receive the rewards, it is not in vain. We see that Santiago seems to fail, but in the end he is happy where he is because he has pride. Santiago has pride because he doesn’t give up and he keeps his dignity. When we fail, we learn why we failed and could succeed when we try again. Whenever we fail, it is not something bad, but rather a way to learn.