In this paper it is necessary to distinguish the difference between perseverance and sheer stubbornness of which the main character of the story who is the old man Santiago a Cuban fisherman who had portrayed a life that is difficult and seemingly unrewarded at the end conquers his dream. At the end of the story, it is the reader who must conclude whether he is rewarded or not. More importantly, it is good to dwell on the inner core of that old man in order to understand where a frail man despite of discouragement was able to live a life of tremendous pusillanimity.
It is noteworthy to define perseverance in the light of faith and what constitute this formidable virtue. Is it pride or fortitude? Is life sometimes a passing luck to win or loose and does a habitual forging of a man’s soul redirects him to his true end or death? The skeleton of the fish is the proof of his conquest.
Is the absence of the meat meant that Santiago was not properly rewarded? Or is it something in the eye of the boy a hoax. The story ended as the boy will continue to live and catch fish with him. The story also depicts of a true charity that when all else fails it is only love that stand still.
Is Santiago a man of virtue? Perseverance is a virtue; it is the ability to endure something good or a difficult situation at a length of time. St. Thomas of Aquinas defines perseverance as the capability of consistently persists to attain a perfect good despite of prolonged difficulties. As Saint Augustine described; faith is to believe without seeing and to have an act of faith (one of the three principal virtues) one must endure throughout his whole life. Perseverance or unchangeable persistence may belong in two ways. On the account of the intended end and to a habit that is unchangeable.
Or one way is to achieve a specific goal and on the other hand, to go on without ceasing no matter how impossible a dream may be. In the adventure of the fisherman at the sea, it is easy to understand and believe in the fortitude of Santiago. Despite of the seemingly wrecked boat he sailed far to the sea. With his bare hand and old tools he will catch the fish. Being impoverished is next to a lack of well being in which is a necessary element for a man to be a true man. However, his lack of material things is not his own making, the man toils for eighty four days and caught nothing.
Santiago may be poor but he is not poor of the spirit from which he derives his strength. The boy and he both hoped that one day they can catch a big fish and sell it for a large sum of money. These simple minded souls are not greedy for money. What they do need is just to have something they could live for which is a direct opposite of a man who has so much and still hungers for more. Sometimes we can say you are so proud we believe too much in ourselves it was because we believe we can endure. Firm endurance must be annexed to fortitude which is a habit made stronger by death.
Man must constantly be firm against difficulties arising from external hindrances to which it agrees with patience with the help of grace. That is grace as gratuitous help of God because he sustains in a man the perseverance to carry on the greatest trials until the end of his life (though the free will of man is changeable albeit by grace to remain unchangeable) St. Thomas Aquinas – Summa Theologiae. The old man persevered despite of his lack of willingness even to live, a lonely man who could not even stare at the picture of his deceased spouse, stoic but not afraid to live a life seemingly difficult to endure.
As in the case of suicidal attempts in the history of man for which the victims are acknowledge as to having the act of running away from a life that seems to be unbearable. Santiago is willing to give his own life for a noble cause. An intention of which the story itself has purified in the toil that was not rewarded due to thirstiness of the sharks with blood. They devoured Santiago’s price with their hunger. But despite of all the odds the old man was able to make it to the shore he indeed was alive. A boy who awaits his return embraces him with joy.
Perseverance is a gift to a deserving soul who was loved much and has more love to give. It is explicit that one cannot give what one does not have and to attain this gift it is only for the soul untainted with guilt. Ernest Hemingway’s works are evidences of his deep understanding of the human soul as described by Paul Kammer in the introduction of his book. His work on the story of the old man and the sea reminds us of his famous words that a man can be destroyed but never be defeated. In this aspect, it is necessary to consider the two fold of man. He is a person with body and soul.
In parallel of the two character which is the old man and the boy of which they are inseparable. It is not only the dream of catching a big fish and earning a living which made them stick together. Both realized that they support one another, they are like the master and disciple who venerates and care for each other. The crisp friendship of the two (Santiago and Manolin the boy) is like to an old and new which describes love itself and loyalty. It is also observed in the story that even if blood is thicker than water, loyalty is even made stronger than death.
The author also described that everything in the man is old (exterior self and interior psyche) except his eyes as described by the author, on which to my point of view is the reflection of the soul of the fisherman. It is imperative to say: faith teaches that souls of the human person are for eternity thus it can never grow old. From cover to end, the story was sustained by hope and love till end. Futile is our life and our works if it was not ordained to something good. To make good a work at hand it should not be a scene that is just passing away.
A proud man feels embarrassed of his own nothingness but a persevering man combats his own nothingness with his profound humility. The old fisherman may not be well rewarded materially in his conquest but the reward of his adventure was the making of his soul. Manolin (a boy in his mid teens) on the other side depicts hope and grace because Santiago needs him. He vowed to go on living to fish with the old Cuban fisherman in the ocean of the coast of Havana. The significance of Santiago’s adventure is not the big fish but the proof that he was able to conquer.
Man toils until he was squeezed like a lemon and afterwards realizes his toil and sufferings has gone with the winds. This is so when our intentions are unclear. Rectitude of intention diminishes in man his animal instinct and ordained his good acts to a higher end. We work till dawn but really for what? But for Santiago it was enough that Manolin believed in him. Genuine perseverance is not the kind of persistence that is blind. The sea, in which Santiago is so familiar, rowed his almost rugged boat to the waves. He’s knowledge of his world pointed him exactly where to find his price.
He is experienced and his knowledge with fortitude directed him to his goal. In a certain sense virtue is disposed to people who are prepared for it. The life of the story is very ironic to the real life of the author. One Sunday morning in 1952 at his Idaho residence, Ernest Hemmingway loaded a double barreled shotgun, places it against his forehead and ended his own life. He did not leave even just a single note but have left so many statements about life and among his work is this novella as depicted by its characters – The Old Man and the Sea. A theme that can be summarized as the saint and his realm.