The Old Man and the Sea is a famous story by Earnest Hemingway. In this paper I would like to compare the old man and Odysseus – the hero of the Greek myths. It may seem that these two characters are very different and have nothing in common. In reality they are very much alike. They both start a long journey which gives them deep understanding of life and things which surround them.
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Odysseus is a king of Ithaca, a famous warrior and a noble man. He helped Greeks to win the Trojan war. Odysseus traveled for ten years before he came back home to his family and his wife Penelope. During his long journey Odysseus learned a lot of new things about the world and different people. Many times his life was in danger but his courage and wit helped him to overcome different obstacles and to win. He met Cyclops Polyphemus and Sirens, he passed through Scylla and Charybdis and stayed alive. All adventures of Odysseus are described by half-legendary Greek poet Homer.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is a story which describes struggle and interaction between people and between people and nature. Santiago grows emotionally and becomes more mature throughout the story. Gradually he grows to father figure for a boy. Santiago makes a long journey and ordinary fishing route becomes his way to new understanding of people and world around him. Santiago realizes that he can pass his knowledge to the boy and he becomes more confident in his skills and abilities. “He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy” (Hemingway, 31). Critics still argue about the true meaning of the image of lions, but all of them agree that for Santiago this image is a source of comfort and pleasure. He thinks about the boy with warmth and compassion. He constantly remembers about him throughout the story and his feelings become stronger.
Both, Santiago and Odyssey have to overcome different hardships during their journeys. And despite they choose different ways to deal with the hardships they have in life, they both show the type of strong characters and real hero. Odysseus meets all dangers face to face. He is not afraid to meet the challenge. He uses his strong physical power and his mind in order to overcome different obstacles. Santiago from the Old Man and the Sea demonstrates different approach. He is not afraid of hardship either but he is not interested in victory. During the entire story Santiago fights with the fish, but the readers do not see hatred in his thoughts and actions. Despite he wants to kill the fish he does not brake the natural flow of life. Santiago does not contradict the nature and manages to find balance inside of his mind. “Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all of the skiff” (Hemingway, 42). The death of the fish may be regarded as the climax of the story. It happens on the forth day. Santiago is existed but he does not give up. When it seems to him that the fish is dead it suddenly jumps high above the water to show that it is not dead yet. Despite Santiago should have been disappointed he is fascinated by the beauty and power of the fish. By this climax the author proves the victory of life. Santiago admires and respects Marlin.
The story is full of different symbols. Hemingway uses simple language and does not use complicated literary means but he rather passes his message with the help of symbols and special atmosphere. Some critics believe that The Old Man and the Sea is a parable, which describes the universal life. Santiago in this story demonstrates stoic attitude to all pleasures and hardships of life. He is definitely glad when he catches a great fish, but he is not very much disappointed when the fish is eaten by the sharks. The protagonist illustrates philosophical understanding of life and different symbols help the author to pass complicated ideas to the readers.
Santiago and Odysseus are definitely strong personalities. They present two types of literary heroes, but they are fundamentally different. Odysseus is young and ambitions. He leaves his native land in order to gain glory and he overcomes different obstacles with courage and strength. His loud adventure make people admire him and he puts his life in risks constantly. He is a typical romantic hero who fights the enemies and struggles to win. Santiago is a completely different type of the hero. He does not want to fight any more. Santiago’s dream about the lions very vividly illustrates his perception of life. Santiago is no more interested in great occurrences or great fish, he thinks about ordinary things which bring him comport and pleasure. In this way Hemingway shows his value system and his needs and desires. Santiago illustrates mature attitude to life. He is not interested in fight and competition any more. He does not want to prove anything to anyone, he wants to have normal life and he wants to share it with a close person. The image of lions, playing in the beach illustrates for him the image of calm and peaceful life where people and animals live in harmony and the nature becomes their home.
Odysseus can not imagine his life without fight and withstanding. Santiago dreams about calm and peaceful existence. Despite Odysseus illustrates bravery and wit, Santiago’s image is not bleached by Odysseus. Santiago illustrates deep and philosophical understanding of life, which makes him interesting for man people. He has got things to share with other people and he gradually grows to realization that he wants to share with others.
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Odysseus is described like typical hero and all his adventures show his strong character and ability to confront any challenges of life. Santiago in his turn demonstrates ability to come in terms with the flow of life and to see something useful behind any obstacles. These characters are very different and they demonstrate different approaches to life. Odysseus is self-centered and self-assured. He is bright and outstanding and he can no leave anybody indifferent. Odysseus corresponds to the qualities of the true mythological hero. Santiago does not correspond to these characteristics, but he fascinates the readers with the profound understanding of life and ability to discover new sides of his personality.
Despite all heroic characteristics Odysseus is a plain character in comparison to less heroic Santiago. Santiago illustrates an ability to integrate with the world around him. His life is simple, he has no ambitions, but his attitude to life and events illustrates interesting personal position. Santiago misses Manolin, the boy he taught since his childhood and he looks goes fishing to find peace and harmony. Santiago’s withstanding, friendship and communication with the fish illustrate his relations with life. His journey becomes his attempt to come in terms with his existence. Santiago fights with the fish, but at the same time he feels respect and even compassion to it. This relations demonstrate his attitude to different hardships he meets in life. He looks for the ways to deal with them but at the same time he does not want to confront the natural flow of life. In contrast to Odysseus, who thinks about personal survival and profit, Santiago feels the world around him and lives in harmony with everything which surrounds him. Despite Santiago looses his great catch and brings to the shore only the skeleton of the fish, he finds much more important thing. He realizes that Manolin needs him same as Santiago needs the boy and this becomes the best prize for the old man.
Despite Santiago is not a hero in the understanding of classical mythology, his profound knowledge of live gives him peculiar characteristics, which make his character interesting and valuable for readers.
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