From the opening sentence of this novella, the Old Man, Santiago is trying to survive against defeat and nature. He is a fisherman. He fishes to live and outlive it; but recently he is unlucky. He is considered “salao”. Salao is the worst word for ‘very unlucky.’ And why is he unlucky? He has gone fishising for the last eighty four days without a single catch at all. It seems like either unluckiness or the harshness of nature that is beginning to take over him. But still, he does not give up.
He has a boy, as his apprentice, who stays with him all the time. Then one day, the boy’s father and mother force the boy to change and become the apprentice of a lucky fisherman who catches three plump fish every week. The boy does not like that idea, for he loves the Old Man dearly. It is the Old Man who has taught him how to fish. If catching three plump fishes in the story is considered as “luck”, that means the background time of the story must be taking at a really long time ago; where, instead of gigantic sea nets that are used, fishing rods are used.
On the eighty fifth day of not catching any fish – after a night of talking to the young boy – the Old Man goes sailing. It shows how desperate he is to get fish. Well, on the eighty-fifth day, he catches a gigantic marlin. The marlin is so huge, that rather the Old Man pulling up the fish, the fish pulls him! Nature is truly striking herself toward the Old Man.
A man can be destroyed but not defeated… That is what the Old Man’s motto as the huge fish pulls him across the sea. On the first day of the struggle, the Old Man catches some fishes to fill his stomach while he is waiting for the marlin to get tired. The second day comes and goes with the same result. On the third day, the Old Man finally manages to kill the marlin. But the Old Man finds out in horror as the marlin is too big and heavy to be hoisted by his boat. He must drag it to the shore.
A new problem arises. Mother nature refuses to back down. Sharks come to devour the marlin. With a harpoon, the Old Man desperately tries to kill the sharks, but it comes unsuccessfully. In the end, all that left is a floating piece of marlin’s skeleton. Soon, the Old Man goes home with a heavy heart, being so sad of his useless journey. Nature has won its course; however the Old Man displays qualities of honor dan bravery. He is the subject of nature’s law: must kill or be killed.
But wait, I think he is not defeated at all. He emerges as a hero. Though the story is not ending with “happily ever after”, more likely a tragedy, the Old Man struggle shows everyone that he meets his dignified destiny. He fights till the end, till the last day, till the final battle.
The skeleton of the fish lays drifted on the beach. A lady happens to pass by it and asks a waiter what on earth the skeleton could be. A shark, that is the answer from the confused waiter. The lady notices that the skeleton is quite too big for a shark. But then, she does not say anything. Meanwhile, the Old Man is asleep. He is dreaming of his youth.
Unlike the old man in The Old Man And The Sea, Ernest Miller Hemmingway is an American writer and journalist who gave up his life. He committed suicide in the Summer of 1961. That is not a happy ending at all. He produced seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature. He won Nobel Prize in literature in 1954.