Ernest Hemingway’s Life and the Old Man and the Sea
Because of these negative womanly experience, a majority of the references to females in The Old Man and the Sea are negative. One thought both Santiago and Hemingway share, is that females lack self-control. Elizondo notes: “The representation of femininity, the sea, is characterized expressly by its caprice and lack of self-control” (“Themes”). This is evident in the exposition, when Santiago says, “If the sea did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them” (Hemingway 30). She also said, “Santiago remembered the time he had hooked one of a pair of marlins…and the hooked fish, the female, made a wild, panic stricken, despairing fight that soon exhausted her” (Hemingway 49).
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hemingway believes that men possess an abundance of self-control. Santiago can tell that the marlin was a male the moment he hooked it. He says, “He took the bait like a male, and he pulls like a male, and his fight has no panic in it” (Hemingway 49). According to Elizondo, Hemingway believed that “To be a man is to behave with honor and dignity …and…to display a maximum of self-control” (“Themes”). Hemingway usually worships the men an deprecates the women.
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This is the same as Santiago. He believes that women are deceptive. When he sees the Portuguese man-of-war, he calls it the “agua mala,” which associates the feminine word to something bad (Hemingway 35). Because it is bad, Santiago sees the jelly-fish as s negative symbol of femininity. His views towards women are perfectly described in the quote, “The iridescent bubbles…are beautiful. But they …[are] the falsest thing in the sea” (Hemingway 36).
There is only a singular female, who happens to be a tourist. This is significant because it means she will not stay long. Upon seeing the remains of the marlin and thinking they were a sharks, she said, “I didn’t know sharks had such handsome, beautifully formed tails” (Hemingway 127). “The female tourist…represents the feminine incapacity to appreciate Santiago’s [Hemingway’s] masculine quest… She does not speak the waiter and Santiago’s language…so [she] is ignorant of the old man’s [Hemingway’s] great deeds” (Elizondo, “Summary”).
Ernest Hemingway’s life certainly influenced the writing of The Old Man and the Sea. The similarities between Santiago and Hemingway are remarkable. Both of them were struggling: Hemingway had not written a successful novel in ten years, and Santiago had not caught a fish in 84 days. Therefore, they both had to prove themselves again. Moreover, Santiago’s marlin being torn apart by sharks is symbolic of critics tearing apart The Old Man and the Sea, which is probably what Hemingway expected. Because of Hemingway’s loneliness, which was a result of his failed marriages and rejection by Adriana, Santiago’s wife is dead, and he is lonely and isolated. Furthermore, Hemingway’s negative experiences with women influenced him to portray females in a negative way. He believed that women lack self-control, and they are deceptive. He also felt that Adriana, his wives, or women in general did not recognize his, or any man’s, greatness. The Old Man and the Sea is a manifestation of Hemingway’s life experiences.