Santiago: A Perfect Role Model for Manolin
In the novel, "The Old Man and the Sea", Hemingway builds a character
that is easily comparative to any great hero or idol in history. This character,
named "Santiago" displays the characteristics needed to conquer his battles
or at least do all he can to achieve his goals.
This is especially important considering the fact that he is looked at as a
mentor of sorts by another character, the young boy named "Manolin."
Manolin has known the old man since the age of five. As a protege to
Santiago, Manolin has grown to have a great deal of respect for the old man.
This is represented by the boy's eagerness to stand by the old man's side no
matter what the situation is.
Santiago is the epitome of the human will, and a display for how courage
and perseverance are able to win over difficulties that seem nearly impossible
Early in the novel, we see that the old man has fallen onto hard times in
his fishing profession. This is not the first time this has happened though. It
has been many days since his last catch and the situation looks very bleak to
those who do not know the old man's desire and courage. They see the
"wrinkles", and "cancer blotches" of an old man, but not the eyes, which
"have remained unchanged." Most of
the townspeople know of Santiago's seeming dismay, and their reactions to
this are somewhat split. A good portion of the townspeople and fellow
fishermen sympathize for Santiago and maintain a great deal of respect for
this fallen hero. But the others shun him and his cursed fishing luck. They
are superstitious and feel that he brings a dark cloud to loom over the village
that will curse all of them with his exact bad luck. However, it is clear to the
reader that it is what Santiago possesses, which the pessimistic fishermen do
not, that gives the old man an overall advantage. This prized possession is
identified by the reader as a strong will. It appears that Santiago has always
coveted the strong will. Once known as "El Campeon", because of his
remarkable arm-wrestling and fishing abilities, it appears that he still obtains
this strong will inside him.
As a humanitarian in the truest sense, he was more than willing to teach
the young Manolin everything he knew of fishing while Manolin was just a
very young child. In return, a great deal of admiration was formed by
Manolin in recognition for the befriending by Santiago. Presently, however,
Manolin, like many of the other fishermen isn't perfectly clear on how to
react to the old man's predicament. He realizes that the old man is in an
incredibly awful fishing drought, but he also remembers their perseverance in
the past and the rewards they reaped for it. He decides that he will choose
not to listen to others such as his father and what they have to say, and
continue in support of his friend. As a sign of his loyalty, Manolin first asks
the old man if he may accompany him on his next day's trip to sea. At first
this plea is turned down by the old man. But after further bargaining and a bit
of reminiscing of better times, the old man agrees to some help from the boy.
The reluctance by Santiago shows his care for the boy's well-being. It is
only the man's confidence in his redemption that allowed him to finally
accept the boy's offer of help.
Santiago's certainty in this "redemption" is bewildering to some, while
Manolin has no trouble grasping the idea. This is because the qualities that
have been instilled into the boy are the same as the old man's. They are truly
thinking on the same wavelength. This separates, or isolates them from the
rest of the village; but neither the boy nor the man really cares.
Later in the book comes the hardest test of Santiago's mental and
physical strengths. Finally, his chance for redemption, comes in the form of a
VERY large fish. In fact, it is the largest fish the old man has ever attempted
to catch. A great battle between the old man and the fish begins. This battle,
however, is not one fueled by rage and frustration, but rather by courage and
wills. The old man and the fish are similar in certain aspects. These aspects
are recognized by the old man, and this is why the battle is such an honorable
one seemingly on both ends of the rope. "There is a difference between
'killing' and the ceasing of letting an animal die."
Santiago knows this, and he is well determined to bring in the mighty fish,
and understandably so. "When an individual sees that all finite centers and
loyalties are fleeting and incapable of being lasting objects of faith, then he
will renounce all previous efforts in despair, repent in humility, and gratefully
make the movement of faith by which alone his life can become meaningful
and worthwhile." Yet at the same time his
respect for the fish and honor of his own character smothers any chances of
pure gratification for the redemption that would be the killing of the fish.
Santiago found honor in everything he did. He was not a beggar; though
he had much to beg for. He was not a quitter; though failure long stared him
in the eyes. Most importantly, he was a caring man. He cared for himself
and others equally. It was easy to see that these traits had indeed been
passed down to Manolin. Just as the old man found no "loss of true pride"
in his failures, the boy found likewise in
his friendship with the old man. After all, in Hemingway's "search for wider
social meaning", "The Old Man and the Sea"
showed it is not success that determines one's worth. It is, as the boy and the
man both knew, character that is the true determiner.
A) Klemke, E.D. "The Meaning of Life" New York: Oxford University
Press 1981, p. 166
B) "Hemingway" Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, vol. GH Chicago: 1957
C) Hemingway, Ernest "The Old Man and the Sea" New York: Simon & Schuster 1995
D) Singer, Peter "Applied Ethics" New York: Oxford University
Press 1986, p. 87-88