Hemingway\'s "The Old Man and the Sea": An Analysis


Everyone has an arch enemy. Batman had the Joker, Superman had Lex
Luthor. But without their enemies, they would be unimportant, just like anyone
else. One could say that they needed their enemies, that their enemies were
almost friends. Similarly, The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, is a
love story about the relationship developed over the years between a man and his
lifelong friend and foe, the sea. Within the following paragraphs, it will be
proven that the man needed the sea, that the two respected each other, and were
very close.

The old man respected the sea, unlike some of the younger, richer
fishermen. They referred to the sea as a man. "...spoke of her as el mar which
is masculine." (p.30) This was considered improper to the older fishermen, as
it was spoken of like a place or a contestant. The old man always referred to
the sea as a female, like a mother. "He always thought of the sea as la mar
which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her." (p.29) He saw the
sea as a woman, a woman that gave or withheld favors. She was unpredictable
beacuse "The moon affects her as it does a woman." (p.30) The sea was like a
second home for the man, who fished every day. La mar provided the man with
food, a living, an enemy, and a friend.

When he was out on the sea fishing, he was at home. The sea, la mar,
was like his mother. The fish in the ocean were like his brothers and sisters.
When he heard the dolphins playing in the night he thought, "They are
good...they are our brothers like the flying fish." (p.48) He had almost reeled
the giant marlin in when he realized what he was doing. "You are killing me,
fish. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more
beautiful...thing than you, brother." (p.92) Even as he ate the fish that he
would catch, or as he killed scavengers trying to get the marlin, he was
apologizing or talking to his "family".

The old man saw the sea as a person, as a woman, and the fish were
people, also. Thinking that way, he kept an open dialogue with his surroundings.
Throughout the several days in which he tried to catch the marlin, he
constantly spoke to it. He had just eaten a fish to get his strength back when
he said, "How do you feel, fish? I feel good and my left hand is better and I
have food for a night and a day" (p.74) Seeing a bladder of a Portuguese man-
of-war floating near him, he said, "Agua mala, you whore" (p.35) The bladder
was keeping the fish away from the boat. As well as talking to the fish and the
sea, he spoke to his body parts. His left hand had cramped up and he tried to
convince it to stop. "...Cramp then if you want...It will do you no good."
(p.58) In addition to that, he spoke to a bird that happened upon him in the
middle of the sea. "Stay at my house if you like, bird. I am sorry that I
cannot...take you in with me...But I am with a friend." (p.55) And of course,
he spoke to the only thing that could understand the words, himself. After
several days with little sleep, he was puling the fish up, and told himself, "Be
calm and strong, old man" (p.91) At sea, he was at home, and he felt free to
speak to everything, although nothing answered his questions, or reacted to his
taunts.

The Old Man and the Sea is a book about the love story between an old,
lonely man and his friend for life, the sea, along with the fish. This idea can
be summarized with one more quote from the story. "Fish, I love you and respect
you very much. But I will kill you before this day ends."(p.54)

Category: English