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Heroism in The Old Man and the Sea

Heroism in The Old Man and the Sea

·Introduction

Hemingway is one of the greatest writers in the history of American literature. In the book The Old Man and the Sea, he portrays some images with a touch of tragic heroism.

·The Heroism of Fish

The marlin plays an irreplaceable role and exists as an equal competitor and a rival to the old man. After a lasting tug of war, the old man begins to pity the great adversary. "It's wonderful, it's strange, and who knows how old it is," he thought. “I've never caught a fish as powerful as this one, nor have I ever seen a fish as bizarre as this one.” The old man thinks that the marlin is a real man and even calls the marlin his brother.

Santiago struggles to catch the prey and to survive as a fisherman. The marlin, on the other hand, is fighting for survival too. "When Santiago finally gave the marlin a fatal blow with his harpoon, the marlin made a final struggle before he died, broke free from the old man, and jumped into the air." The marlin's tragic and heroic struggle before his death gave rise to a strong desire for survival and a character of life. In a word, death is unavoidable in the world. Those who can face death bravely are not cowards. He describes death in this way: "death has a beauty, a quietness, a transformation that will not make me afraid." Failure is not terrible, so is death. We should face them with courage.

·The Heroism of the Old Man

The novel successfully creates a typical image of “tough guy” ─ Santiago. He is a weather-beaten old fisherman. He never gives up despite all the misfortunes he suffers and he is spiritually powerful. He spent 84 days fishing at the sea with no luck, and his young assistant Manolin was forced out of his boat by his parents because of the old man’s bad luck.

But the old man did not groan or complain; he still went out on his own on the morning of the eighty-fifth day with great confidence. He belongs to a race of perseverance and endurance. During the chase, the old man was exhausted and dizzy, his right hand was injured, his left hand was cramping and he was lacked of food. To stay strong, he had to eat raw fish. In this case, all he had to do was to cut the line and give up the catch. But instead of a flash of retreat, he bore the trials of hunger, fatigue and pain with indomitable will. To him, "pain is not an issue in men." "I want it to know what a man can do and what a man can stand," he said with proud. He pursued the boat at the risk of being overthrown; the big fish was finally subdued.

But it was only the first test for Santiago. His fight with the sharks on his way back was more dangerous than chasing the marlins. When the fierce and greedy sharks came one after another, even in groups to eat the big fish, the extremely tired old man had to defend the fruits of his work, pick up the spirit and fight against them.

He was a hero in the end, even though he failed. "But man is not made for defeated, a man can be destroyed but not defeated.” This is the high generalization of the spirit of "a tough guy". His heroism is not lying in his achievements but in his courage. As a man with languishing strength, he still dares to challenge difficulties and perseveres for his goal. The characteristic of "tough guy"  running throughout his life is reflected in all aspects of this image.

There are many other characters in Hemingway's book, who face the difficulties of nature, society, himself and brave to fight against fate. These tough guys face different dilemmas, but they will not be like cowardice, panic in the face of harsh reality. Their heroic side is spiritual, inspired by suffering what ordinary people cannot bear. The heroes in Hemingway's novels have a strong sense of tragedy. In Hemingway's opinion, "life itself is a tragedy." But as Hemingway once said, courage is grace under pressure. The heroes in his works are particularly impressive.

Historical background

·Capitalism

There was a large-scale expansion of the middle class in the 1950s. Unions were strong, comprising almost half of the American work force. Politics tended to be moderate, with extremist positions being out of favor.

·Civil right movement

The civil rights movement began in earnest, with the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954. In the early 1950s the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States opened the door to the beginnings of the right for all Americans to an equal and fair education no matter what race, creed or religion they are.

During this period, racial segregation was still existed in the U.S. and other countries. However, in the novel The Old Man and the Sea, the nature is regarded as the brother of human beings, which shows the author's attitude toward this issue.

·Social reality

After the end of the World War II, America and Soviet were stuck into arm race. Even though the economy of America developed rapidly, poverty still remained, especially with the black, while treasures were hold by the rich. With the development of media, Americans were increasingly concentrating on individual heroism.

Many of Hemingway’s works create heroes brave enough to confront difficulty, evil, injustice, and persist to the end. Although The Old Man and the Sea creates a man who is unable to be realized in the real world, this image fits the expectations of the Americans and comforts their spirits.

参考文献:

[1][美]海明威著,吴劳译.《老人与海》[M].上海译文出版社,1987.

[2]倪方.重压下的优雅—论海明威小说中的“硬汉”形象[J].载于南京工业职业技术学院学报,2008.

[3]论文《从<老人与海>看美国的个人主义英雄情节》――《作家》2014年08期

[4]论文《20世纪50年代美国繁荣的背后》――《青年作家(中外文艺版)》 , 2011 (1) :76-76

制作:2017级3班第二小组

文字:赵曼羽、胡慧兰

田芝兰、周灵、邓保菊

排版:周颖、胡慧兰

校对:胡晓灵、丁倩影

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