Monday, March 8, 2010

Santiago's Hindrances ~ Draft

As well as the fictitious characters of books and stories, real people have to deal with obstacles every day of their lives. Whether it be paying back some bills on time, or slaying the metaphorical dragon that stands in your way, you will always come across some sort of obstruction.

Santiago, the star of The Old Man and the Sea fights obstacles that most people couldn’t even comprehend in their lives. He battled carnivorous sharks and a demonic marlin, as well as competing with old age and his loneliness without Manolin. Somehow, the old man won, and he now has a story for the ages to tell.

The great marlin is Santiago’s primary objective in the story, and in that sense, his greatest obstacle. “Now alone, and out of sight of land, he was fast to see the biggest fish he had ever seen and the biggest fish he had ever heard of” (63).

For three days, the old man and the fish fought for the victory, and after many hours of reeling and hoping, Santiago finally slew his adversary. It was not an easy task, however. When the old man returned home, he was physically and emotionally stricken, despite the fact that he beat the fish.

If Santiago thought the battle was over after simply killing the marlin, he was sadly mistaken. As he thought “The shark was no accident” (100), his boat is attacked by several unremorseful sharks attracted to the flesh of the bleeding marlin.

Somehow, the elderly fisherman drives away the carnivores, but not before they strip the fish down to the bone and leave Santiago with nothing but a glorified skeleton. The sharks crushed Santiago’s spirit when they stole what was rightfully his.

Though the old man had to deal with numerous external conflicts, he had to deal with his own mental demons. In this case, the demon came in the form of loneliness. As Santiago speaks “’No, you’re with a lucky boat now. Stay with them’” (10), and in doing so he is urging Manolin to not be with him, though the boy is one of the only things that make the old man happy. In saving Manolin from his own “bad luck”, the old man is creating his biggest obstruction of all.

Several times throughout the story, Santiago longs for the boy, whether it is to assist him in something or simply to provide conversation to. Like the delirious sociopath he may have became, Santiago talks to himself and the surrounding animals to fill the void of solitude the world has granted him.

Lest anyone forget, Santiago is an old man. Catching small fish is probably difficult for the wizened fisherman. It must’ve taken an extraordinary amount of strength and willpower to even contend with the great marlin. And after time, even his body starts to break down, as he states “I hate a cramp. It is a treachery of one’s own body” (61-62).

This leads to several questions regarding the old man and the state of his body and age. If he were younger, would that have necessarily made the oceanic battle easier? If Santiago’s hand was healthier, could he have fended off the sharks better? Sometimes, the biggest obstacle in our lives is simply one of chronology.

Though the odds were tremendously pitted against him, Santiago somehow came out on top of his adventure with the great marlin. He clashed with sharks, brawled with old age, and wrestled with seclusion.

How many others could have survived against those threats, let alone defeat them? Even though he was ensnared in a bleak realm of restrictions, the old man carved his own path with his abilities that contradicted his many weaknesses and obstacles.