Baseball in “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
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The motif of baseball and Joe DiMaggio in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” implements the current events of the time, as well as providing Santiago a comparison between DiMaggio and himself.
Hemingway incorporates the current events of the time. In Cuba, as well as in America, baseball was the most popular sport in the fifties. All of the names mentioned in the novella related to baseball would have been instantly recognized in 1952, the year of its release. Joe DiMaggio in particular epitomizes the baseball hero, and even sports hero, of the forties and fifties. DiMaggio’s hitting streak of fifty-six games in 1941 heightened his fame and idolization, including that among Cuban fisherman much like Santiago’s character. In his novella, Hemingway integrates the contemporary events of the time.
This motif is also included to provide a comparison for Santiago between DiMaggio and himself. First, Santiago says, identifying himself with DiMaggio, “They say [DiMaggio’s] father was a fisherman. Maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand” (22). He attempts to compare the current conditions of his life to the childhood of DiMaggio. Next, when he remembers how long he has been on the sea and his hope begins to fade, he thinks to himself, “But I must have confidence and I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of a bone spur in his heel” (68). Finally, Santiago asks himself, “Do you believe the great DiMaggio would stay with a fish as I will stay with this one? I am sure he would and more since he is young and strong. Also his father was a fisherman” (68). Whether placing himself on the same plane as DiMaggio or underneath, Santiago continually compares himself with the baseball legend.
Ernest Hemingway incorporated the motif of baseball and Joe DiMaggio in his novella “The Old Man and the Sea” to provide a link to current events of the time as well as a comparison for Santiago between DiMaggio and himself.