- 英米評論 = ENGLISH REVIEW (ISSN:09170200)
- no.8, pp.3-35, 1993-12-20
Hemingway tried to pursue something truly universal in The Old Man And The Sea. Apparently the title is more equivocal, comprehensive, less particularized, than such titles as Santiago and the Sea or Santiago and the Marlin would be. This may be one of the reasons why there have been quite a few interpretations of Santiago as something other than the fisherman he is. For instance, according to Brenner, Santiago as King Oedupus commits incest with la mar as his mother, using the fish as his genital organ, and is punished. On the other hand, Price's interpretation is that Santiago is Hemingway himself as a writer, the fish being his work, and the sharks are critics. In another interpretation, Hogge sees the realization of medieval chivalry in Santiago. The story has also often been taken as an allegory. Hemingway, however, denies his intention of symbolism, saying that the old man (in the work) is the old man, and the fish is the fish. Santiago has been decorated by many critics with such splendid tags as 'superhuman', 'medieval knight', 'King Oedipus', and 'Jesus Chirist'. The purpose of this paper is to take the tags off him for a while and to try to read Santiago as a fisherman pure and simple. To do this, I picked out three refrains in the novella as cues. (As is well known, Hemingway learned the technique of 'refrain' or 'repetition' from Gertrude Stein in his writer's apprenticeship in Paris.) The refrains I have selected are as follows: 'he [Santiago] went too far out', 'I [Santiago] wish I had the boy here', and 'You're my friend but I [Santiago] must kill you, fish'. The old man commits a lot of errors in his pursuit of the fish. First of all, he goes too far out, where he is alone with no sight of land, and of any other fishermen. The marlin he has hooked, when it comes out of the water for the first time, tells Santiago that it is two feet longer than the skiff. That is, it is impossible to take the fish aboard. Then why doesn't he realze that it is bound to be attacked by sharks on his long voyage home? His justifying excuse, 'I must kill you, fish, because I am afisherman', changes into an apology, 'I shouldn't have hooked you. I'm sorry, fish', when he is exposed to the shark's forays. The old man fails more than twice in judging when the fish will come up, so his fight with it actually takes much longer than he expected. He repeatedly wishes the boy were with him during his fight with the fish, and that with the sharks, and he confesses to him, 'I missed you', after he returns home. That is, the old man needs the boy not only as a helper but also as company. The old man, Santiago, is more convincing as a human being than as a superhuman being. He commits a lot of mistakes-as A. Pope says 'To err is human, to forgive, divine.'-, and, alone on the sea, he misses the boy. His being typically human endorses that he is a human fisherman, not a superhuman being, nor a legendary king, nor Christ. It is true that Santiago is not as ordinary as other fishermen. First of all he is more ambitious for honour and applause, and adventurous. With more gifts and faith he makes every effort to be an ideal fisherman, though he is not always successful. He tries to endure till he is on the point of collapse. His sportsmanship is without question here, and meaningful. The old man's manly, stoic attitude toward the tragic result is quite contrary to that of the nameless Cuban fisherman who was crying in the boat when he was picked up, half crazy from the loss of his great marlin, eaten up by sharks. Though the latter's experience was the source of this literary masterpiece, the author apparently idealized his fisherman. However much as he may have idealized Santiago, he did not go so far as to make him anything other than a human fisherman. The old man, Santiago, is undoubtedly no more than human being, but in extreme situations, he fights, as a representative human being with excellent gifts and human defects as well, to the extent of going beyond his limits. And he also accepts the result of his fight with both grace and pride as a man. These are what make Santiago as well as the story itself so charming, moving, and encouraging to us.