By Keith Fisher
A man can be destroyed but not defeated. These words, Written by Ernest Hemmingway, symbolize the unconquerable spirit of Santiago, an old fisherman who has come to grips with life and refuses to give up.
After finding Hemingway’s books uninteresting, I decided to give him another chance. I read The Old and the Sea. It is considered to be the author’s best work, and many critics feel it departs from his other books. I had to agree. I found a theme Hemingway seemed to have missed before.
Ernest Hemingway, born in 1899, suffered from the prevalent myth of his time. Many young men believed they had to prove their manhood, and there was no better way than to fight in a war. The belief caused Theodore Roosevelt, and Rudyard Kipling to lose children in the Great War.
In large part, Hemingway wrote from a macho sense of honor, but in 1951, he wrote The Old Man and the Sea. It was published in 1952 and Hemingway won a Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1954. In the presentation speech, Anders Österling, said The Old Man and the Sea was an unforgettable story of an old Cuban fisherman's duel with a huge swordfish in the Atlantic. Within the frame of a sporting tale, a moving perspective of man's destiny is opened up; the story is a tribute to the fighting spirit, which does not give in even if the material gain is nil, a tribute to the moral victory in the midst of defeat. The drama is enacted before our eyes, hour by hour, allowing the robust details to accumulate and take on momentous significance.
Perhaps in later life, Hemingway began to think differently because it showed in The Old Man and the Sea. I’ve talked with many people about this book. Some of them liked it. Some hated it. This book, for me, ranks up there with the movies, Second Hand Lions, and Space Cowboys. Dealing with mortality and past glories is something every man must do eventually.
Hemingway died in 1961. I don’t think he found what he looked for. Men like he was, need to go out in a blaze of glory. Unfortunately, there aren’t many blazes of glory available. Besides, it takes more courage to live through adversity and infirmity. If for no other reason, than because people love you.
As for, The Old Man and the Sea, it brings up questions that every man and woman must face. Those questions can bring you closer to God.