Grace Under Pressure

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Most of Hemingway’s heroes are loners, operating outside the context of family, community, country or the past. Their successes are not victories over hostile forces, but demonstrations, even in defeat, of courage, which Hemingway once defined as “grace under pressure.” The old man exemplifies Hemingways ideal of exhibiting grace under pressure, as he refuses to submit to the overwhelming obstacles presented by the sea. Santiagos attitude seems to be that although he is faced with tragedy -- he will not cease struggling. It is clear that in, The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago demonstrates “grace under pressure” during the eighty-fourth and eighty-fifth day, having to deal with the loss of his fishing companion and with catching the marlin, the three-day struggle on the sea with the great fish, and the final victory, and at the same time the loss of the marlin.

He shows that he is under pressure because he has gone eighty-four days now without catching a fish. In the first forty days, a boy was with him. But after forty days without a fish, the boy’s parents had told him that he would have to fish in other boats. Due to this, he’s lost his fishing companion, Manolin, due to his unluckiness. Manolin wants to go with him, seeing as the boat he was on, caught three big fish that week, and now he has money. Santiago feels pressured, yet tells the boy that, “If you were my boy I’d take you out and gamble,” he said. “But you are your father’s and your mother’s and you are in a lucky boat.” (pg.1), even though he knows what he truly wants is the boy going with him. He goes out to sea on the eighty-fifth day, and sits patiently in his skiff, awaiting a fish to take his hook. Suddenly, he feels a bite on his line. Remaining calm and focused, he talks to the fish, “Eat it a little more,” he said, “eat it well.” “Eat it so that the point of the hook goes into your heart and kills you, he thought. Come up easy and let me put the harpoon into you. All right. Are you ready? Have you been long enough at table?” (pg44). Santiago shows grace and experience as he quickly reacts to catching the fish, doing everything he can to keep the fish hooked, and preparing himself for what he knew was to come.

Santiago shows “grace under pressure” during his three day struggle with the great fish. As Santiago and his skiff are being towed, the fish was calm and steady. Santiago takes advantage of this time to get some well-needed sleep. As he rested though, Santiago held onto the line, tight in his right hand, passed the line somewhat lower on his shoulders, bracing it with his left hand. Suddenly, Santiago was awakened with a jerk. “The line went out and out but it was slowing now and was making the fish earn every inch.” (pg. 8). Santiago estimated that the great fish was two feet longer than the skiff. The run of the huge marlin caused the line to tear into the flesh of Santiago’s hands. But, determined, Santiago refused to give up. He tells his hand, “You did not do so badly for something worthless,” he said to his left hand. “But there was a moment when I could not find you.” (pg.85). He knows that he needs to eat to keep up his strength, yet at the same time, he’s feeling the pressure knowing that if he eats more of the dolphin, he would become nauseated. But what is better for him? Being nauseated or light-headed? Being under pressure, he thinks of the other flying fish which is cleaned and ready to eat, and calls himself stupid for not thinking of it earlier. In addition, during his battle with the great fish, the old man recalls an arm-wrestling match that he finally won after an entire day of ferocious battling. These thoughts give him the strength to endure the vicious trials of his three-day confrontation with the great fish.

“It is a very big circle,” he said. “But he is circling.” “He is making the far part of his circle now,” he said. I must hold all I can, he thought. The strain will shorten his circle each time. Perhaps in an hour I will see him. Now I must convince him and then I must kill him.” (pg.86-87). He’s feeling the pressure as he’s patiently waiting for the marlin to stop circling, to begin his defeat. “I could not fail myself and die on a fish like this,” he said, “now that I have him so beautifully, God help me endure.” (pg.87). On the next turn, Santiago almost had him. Over and over the marlin righted himself and slowly swam away. Thinking aloud, he said “You are killing me fish. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater or more beautiful, or a calmer or a more noble thing than you.” (pg.). Despite Santiago’s loyalty to the great fish, it was time to defeat him. He was feeling the pressure due to the fact that he felt faint and sick and he couldn’t even see well. Santiago dropped the line, stepped on it to secure it, “lifted the harpoon as high as he could and drove it down with all his strength.” (pg. ). He had his fortune, the marlin. He traveled with the marlin for three days, trying to fight the off all the sharks and hold onto his catch. He felt the pressure knowing also that he was limited to a certain few of tools to help him along the way.

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This is the story of the old, Cuban fisherman, who was down on his luck, a courageous, skillfully talented fisherman, who conducted himself admirably and with nobility, with “grace under pressure.” He is also a simple man who loves the sea for all it has given him and deeply respects the great fish; his worthy, noble, and beautiful adversary. Even though only his marlins carcass is left by the end of the story, Santiago may be considered victorious because he never quit, valiantly fighting off the sharks until there was nothing left to fight for. His supreme ordeal �an agonizing battle with a great marlin, illustrates courage in the face of defeat, and personal triumph defeat through loss.

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