Most people that are old have little ambition to do anything, complain about everything, are brittle, and even senile. So one could reasonably ask how the stoic but old Cuban fisherman Santiago could possibly go without catching a fish for 87 days and then fight a fish two feet longer than his skiff and probably ten times Santiago’s weight for three days while remaining calm, collective, and strong. In Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea, one learns the tale of Santiago’s epic voyage to bring in the catch of his life. Through his pride, his endurance, and his love of nature, it is seen why Santiago is a Hemingway hero. Pride is a trait that Santiago emits. He is confident with fishing and fishes with his skills well honed. Though Santiago is a humble man who says, “I may not be as strong as I think” he will not show resolve on his self-proclaimed malefactor which would be that of a bad fisherman. Santiago continues saying, “I know many tricks and show resolve” (23), which goes to show the pride he takes in his work. It proves that Santiago cares about his job and doing it well. The pride of this fisherman is further exemplified doing what he does best attempting to bring in his catch. Amidst arguing with himself Santiago states “You’re good forever” (92) to reassure his self that he is skilled and can handle many more turns to subdue the marlin. By doing so and eventually bringing in the marlin, he shows how great of a fisherman he is.
Lastly, suffering from attacking dentusos, Santiago makes his own revelation: “A man can be destroyed but not defeated” (103). This revelation comes while the old man feels sorry for himself but realizes the fish though lighter is still with him and that he still has what it takes to get back home. Doing all this, the old Cuban proves to himself that he is doing his job well and continues to do his job well because “man is not made for defeat” (103). Pride is a trait Santiago has that doesn’t allow him to give up just as endurance prevents him from breaking while his limits are being bent. Though the old man “fished alone in a skiff” which bears the “flag of permanent defeat” (9), Santiago shows no self-pity because he hasn’t caught a fish in about three months. Santiago is perseverant mentally throughout this time span and continues to have faith in his fishing abilities. This perseverance is expanded to physical measures when Santiago is attempting, at night, to keep hold of the line and in turn, of the fish.
Waiting to react to the fish, Santiago tells the marlin “I’ll stay with you until I am dead” (52) though the fish would never hear him. Even with the lack of communication with the marlin, the message was still conveyed to the reader that though Santiago is in pain for hours on end which shows mental endurance for not cutting his line on a fish too big to handle and physical endurance for staying strong throughout battling with his catch. The greatest example of overall endurance is shown while the crazy old man seems to also show his stoicism while fighting the sharks that are tearing up and eating his once amazing catch. “I’ll fight them [the sharks] until I die” (115) and Santiago does just that, not cutting loose his bruised and battered fish, and continuing onward towards home which will require the physical endurance to struggle all the way to the dock while fighting the sharks, and bring in his gear like the mast of the skiff. Doing all these physically grueling tasks which require physical endurance also require more mental endurance for the old fisherman convincing himself not to quit and show stoicism while doing so and not complain. Throughout these battles Santiago fought to kill the marlin but protects it from his utter love and respect of nature. Before loving the fish, Santiago loves what supplied such a beautiful ocean.
“He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her” (29) because the fisherman has a love of nature. Santiago takes his commitment on a greater scale admitting directly to the marlin how he feels. Santiago expresses his love of nature saying to the fish, “I love and respect you so much” (54), exemplifying his trait by stating it directly. Without beating around the bush the reader automatically assumes that Santiago does love and respect the ocean as he loves and respects the marlin and can do so because Hemingway expresses it directly. The most touching example of this love is of Santiago’s realization that he is letting the marlin down. He realizes his catch is no longer honorable from the sharks’ attacks but realizes he still must be honorable to the fish. Out of respect for the marlin and indirectly nature, Santiago admits his fault and that if he never sailed as far out the fish might still be alive.
Santiago admits “I’m sorry, fish” (110) because he “loved him when he was alive” (105) and respects the fish and thinks the fish deserves better. These examples Santiago creates with few words make this trait of a Hemingway hero have a showing that more is less for this quality the old fisherman showcases so perfectly. Santiago shows the traits of a Hemingway hero throughout the novel exemplifying pride, endurance, and a love of nature. Showcasing his refusal for his catch to get the best of him and enduring a three day struggle to bring in the greatest catch of his life. Even afterwards he fights an onslaught from a shiver of sharks to protect the marlin that he respects and defends like a brother considering, in a way, it is. A hero doesn’t have to have superpowers but is better defined by fighting for what is right. Santiago is to be recognized as such a hero.