RE: What is the role of faith and perseverance in “The Old Man and the Sea”?

How do Santiago's beliefs and relentless determination shape the narrative and its message?

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In Ernest Hemingway's novella "The Old Man and the Sea," the themes of faith and perseverance are integral to both the narrative itself and the overarching messages it conveys. Santiago, the old fisherman at the heart of the story, embodies these themes through his actions and attitude. Faith plays a critical role in Santiago's life. It is not exclusively religious faith, although there are Christian motifs throughout the text, such as Santiago's carrying of the mast echoing Christ's bearing of the cross. His faith is also in himself, in his skills as a fisherman, and in the natural order of the universe, which is exemplified by his respect for the sea and its creatures. Santiago's faith sustains him during his long and lonely battle with the marlin and afterward with the sharks. Perseverance is equally significant in the novella. Santiago has gone 84 days without catching a fish, which would have disheartened most. However, his unwavering determination to break this spell of bad luck underpins the story. His perseverance is most evident during the exhausting three-day ordeal with the marlin, where his physical strength and mental resilience are tested to their limits. Even after the sharks have destroyed his prize, Santiago's perseverance is evident in his determination to continue fishing and living his life despite losses. The interplay of faith and perseverance shapes the narrative by demonstrating that while success is not always measured by the attainment of goals, the process and struggle in pursuing them are valuable in themselves. Hemingway's story, through Santiago's journey, argues for the dignity inherent in striving, regardless of the outcome. Santiago's belief in himself and his perseverance are crucial to the novella's message of "grace under pressure," a phrase often associated with Hemingway's notion of heroism. The character's struggle is a testament to human endurance and spirit. Despite the old man's eventual loss, he earns the respect of his community and the young boy, Manolin, who vows to learn from him and fish with him once again. Ultimately, Santiago's experience is emblematic of the human condition: the fundamental struggles, hopes, and modest victories that resonate with readers, making "The Old Man and the Sea" a timeless tale of faith and perseverance in the face of life's challenges.
Answered on June 30, 2024.
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