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Analyze the Theme of Pride as the Source of Determination in “The Old Man and the Sea”
“The Old Man and the Sea” is a novel about a man who has found out how to extract maximum joy and happiness out of his life. The things that helped him to gain this happiness are the absence of doubts, self-confidence, pride, and determination. Reading the story of Santiago shows how one can overcome the difficulties of life not only by putting the effort in fighting problems, but changing the perception of the surrounding reality. Pride and determination are among the aspects that change the perception of reality and can be discussed from a philosophical point of view.
Santiago was an old fisherman when his life went downhill; he had no money even to afford a fishing net to catch small fish to get bait for the bigger ones. 84 days in a row Santiago went out fishing to return with nothing at the end of the day (Hemingway, Ernest). The most fantastic feature of Santiago was that he had no desperation, frustration, or any other emotions people typically experience in such situations. “I was born to become a fisherman, just as fish was born to become a fish,” says Santiago to himself with pride in his inner dialogue. The man has no doubts about his destination, and this is where the magic of perception comes to action.
The pride of which he was sure in his destiny is not pride in a general sense. In the case with Santiago, it is rather a position of being sure that doubts have no sense and only lead to despair and loss of joy and happiness. Indeed, doubts are parts of the natural mechanism of evolution inherent to every human being to determine what is the best cause for a particular person. Santiago surpasses this mechanism by assuring himself that this is the only way and approaches the environment philosophically. The power of will and long life experience of the old man allowed him to cheat doubts and be the one to decide what to do, taking power from his instincts. Even in social life, he was abstracted from any external help to fix his poor material state. It is possible that the absence of external assistance has helped him to cheat the mechanism and stay assured in the legitimacy of his cause regardless of the fails that followed him. Being alone in this “vacuum” made his mind adapt to anything that happens, making him fully utilize his capabilities knowing that there is no one to help.
A determination is what makes one do everything one can to achieve the desired result. Pride has cut Santiago off of any external help. Thus his mind and his body were ready to face whatever it takes to accomplish the grand result – be a fisherman. During the fight with the giant swordfish, he has reached the peak of his life as a fisherman, the peak he has been preparing for so long (Weeks, Robert). Pride in the social sense has allowed him to adapt to the absence of help. Pride in the philosophical sense, the one who has assured him in the legitimacy of his cause, has allowed him not to give up even in a fight with such low chances of victory. He would have betrayed his belief in the fact that he was born to be a fisherman, and if he had let the fish go, he would show that he had not done everything it takes to be a fisherman. This psychological self-programming could easily lead him to demise, but it allowed him to extract maximum satisfaction in the case of success. There is no reason to live if a man who was born to become a fisherman dies not as a fisherman. The “nothing or everything” approach is advantageous but puts many doubts on a person. Santiago has managed to make himself believe that doubts have no sense, everyone is born to become something more significant than he or she was in the beginning, so he has achieved the ultimate level of determination.
“The Old Man and the Sea” teaches people that pride is not something they should be afraid of, nor does it teach them that it must overwhelmingly influence every action a person makes. Instead, the novel is about changing the perception of the surrounding reality with the use of pride (both social and inner). Pride has allowed Santiago to leave any doubts behind and live his life to the end without losing hope, joy, and determination. The most determined person is a human who has fewer doubts about his/her cause, such a person is capable of achieving astonishing results in anything. After reading the novel, some readers might reconsider their view of life as a sequence of unending obstacles, but perceive them for granted, with the stoic approach. Of course, it is hard to obtain the level of control over mind like Santiago did, but some movement towards it will happen with the knowledge of the clever use of pride to become determined to become what one is “born to become.”
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man And The Sea. 1st ed., New York City, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.
Weeks, Robert P. “Fakery in the Old Man and the Sea.” College English, vol. 24, no. 3, 1962, pp. 188–192. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/373283.