The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

December 26, 2011
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Everyone has relationships: maybe they have a relationship with their family, or with their friends, or maybe with their favorite teddy bear. Ernest Hemingway’s novella, The Old Man and the Sea, contains many different sorts of relationships throughout its pages. The principal characters are fishermen and have intense relationships with many different objects, areas, and other groups of people. Their most intense relationship is with the ocean in which they fish and by which they live. They have sharply contrasting attitudes towards it: some love it while others hate it.
The main character, Santiago, considers the ocean to be feminine and loves her as if she was his own wife (Hemingway 10). The ocean then takes on a distinct personality in his eyes, for he begins to assign different characteristics to her: he calls her kind and very beautiful and he says that if she ever did something wicked or acted cruelly, it was because she simply couldn’t help it (Hemingway 10). This shows true love: forgiveness despite shortcomings or mistakes. This is genuine, perfect, and unconditional love. Perhaps Hemingway wished to portray a perfect relationship, one with complete acceptance and everlasting love, for this is something that even humans find hard to attain in their relationships with other humans.
The attitude that most of the other fishermen have towards the ocean in which they fish is one of distrust and hate. They think that the mighty ocean is a powerful masculine figure (Hemingway 10), out to trick their fish away from them. They believe that the ocean is their enemy (Hemingway 10) and that they must fight tooth-and-nail for what they choose to take from it. This shows that, even though it is the ocean that keeps them alive, they hold no real love for it. They become cold-blooded men, not wincing to take up a great fish from within the bowels of the sea.
The rest of the fishermen don’t fear or distrust the ocean as their counterparts do. Instead, they love the ocean (Hemingway 10) and try their best to treat it with respect. However, try as they might, they are incapable of achieving the same unconditional love that Santiago has for the ocean, and end up saying bad things about it (Hemingway 10). This is also love, although not the same type of love that exists between Santiago and the ocean. It is an excellent example of “tough love”, for these fishermen truly love the ocean in their own way, but they just can’t take the final step and forgive it for the mistakes that it makes.
It really does seem like the ocean is able to stir up sharply contrasting emotions in different men; she can make some of them love her unconditionally, while making others fear and detest her. Santiago’s relationship with the ocean is one of perfect love and forgiveness, capable of making even humans envious. However, most of the other fishermen are not of the same mind; instead, they fear and hate the ocean. Nevertheless, there are a select few fishermen who, like Santiago, love the ocean but are unable to attain the same level of adoration that Santiago has for it. These are the three different relationships between fishermen and the ocean encountered in Hemingway’s novella The Old Man and The Sea.

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