Old Man and the Sea Critical Lens
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“Man can be destroyed, but not defeated.” This quote refers to how a single man can be extremely mentally or physically damaged, but not beaten. In the novella, The Old Man and the Sea, the character, Santiago displays many traits of determination, perseverance, and optimism. He battled an eighteen foot marlin for three days. Within the three days he was crushed with psychological and physical damage that he would eventually surmount.
During Santiago’s time fighting with the 1,500 pound monstrous fish, he experienced brutal pain and agony. “Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me too?” He looked upon this creature as though it was his brother, however he had to catch, and kill it in order to make a living. The aged, gaunt man would put himself through anything to land the marlin. This included surviving with little water on a boat for days, and griping a rope with, “blood mushed hands.” Santiago would never give up, despite having dizzy spells and lightheadedness. “Twice, though, he had felt faint and dizzy and that had worried him.” When he firmly hooked the marlin he repudiated defeat. “I could not fail myself and die on a fish like this.” The old man said. “Now that I have him coming so beautifully, God help me endure. I’ll say a hundred Our Fathers and a hundred Hail Marys. But I can not say them now.”
Even when the old man is finished with his protracted fight with the fish, he faces ongoing encounters with famished sharks. With his skiff measuring less then the marlin, he was unable to land it. “An hour later, a mako shark arrives, having smelled the marlin’s blood.” The old man was drained and exhausted from fighting numerous sharks. ”The mako has taken nearly forty pounds of meat, so fresh blood from the marlin spills into the water, inevitably drawing more sharks to attack. Santiago realizes that his struggle with the marlin was for nothing; all will soon be lost. But, he muses, a man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Santiago is a character who truly believes he will not be conquered by any force of nature. He does return to his home land with the bare carcass that was mutilated by the sharks. Although Santiago was partially “destroyed,” he survived. Other local fishermen changed their perspective of Santiago and gave him a greater amount of respect.
The old, gaunt, wrinkly man was not defeated. Santiago could never be defeated because he heavily reinforces how “a man can be destroyed, but not defeated.