Success: Physical Accolade or Mental Fulfillment?
The story of The Old Man and the Sea depicts an old fisherman, Santiago, who in the beginning of the novella sustains a long “eighty-four days without taking a fish” at sea, accompanied by his close friend, Manolin. However, as matters continue to aggravate, the old man is soon declared “salao”—”the worst form of unlucky”—and his fate to catch the great marlin fish becomes questionable when his apprentice, Manolin leaves him for another boat. In-spite of being unaccompanied at sea, the salao old man maintains his strong will to capture the great marlin fish— that will not only be his most superior catch, but also declare himself as the most skillful fisherman who ever lived. Through his journey alone at sea, Santiago undergoes a continuous range of great struggles when attempting to tire and kill an uncommonly large and noble marlin, from being mentally defeated when he is left by the boy, to his physical pains that include his constant unbearable “hunger” and “cramps.” All the troubles that are encountered and conquered at sea portrays Santiago’s desire to become the best, regardless of his physical and mental condition.
The old man’s unbearable pains at sea render as metaphors of life’s antagonizing affairs. “Coming each day with his skiff empty,” the old man’s persistent behavior raises a question to his purpose in life, drawing attention to the old man’s perception to the meaning of success—whether it is for recognition to others or self-fulfillment through achievement. Santiago indirectly identifies his definition of success when he encounters a salao experience, namely when the sharks took “a quarter of the marlin and of the best meat.” As opposed to staying mad, the old man did not view this experience as a “salao,” but on the contrary, he tries to make the best out of “what there is” available. Through analyzing Santiago’s response to the distressing situation, it is hinted that...