hi, my teachers and readers.
A year ago, one of my professors asked me to write about The Old Man and the Sea.
Here is the Topic :
Some myth and symbolism in
The Old Man And The Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
It is known that a few writers may or would probably introduce in his literary work, some myth or symbol, to make his work more interesting to the reader or onlooker. One of them is the great famous writer, Ernest Hemingway.
Hemingway denied such symbolism saying:
"The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks and no better and no worse."
Although I am not critic, I tried to voice my own opinions about myth and symbolism by reading between the lines, I mean, the thematic structure or underlying meaning.
These two elements defined as follows:
(*)Myth: it is a story, usually, of unknown origin that ostensibly relates actual events to explain some practice, belief, institution or natural phenomenon that is associated with religious rites and beliefs.
(*) Symbolism: it is something that represents something else (often an idea or quality).
I picked up three elements from the novel, which considered, on my opinion, as myths and symbols to be my discussing points.
The sea: the old man always thought the sea as “ la mar” the mother. The sea is the fishermen’s mother who always generously offers diverse types of seafood and provides them with the necessary trade materials. However, when they, fishermen, sometimes sail on the sea and catch nothing or face dangerous and stormy sea, they call their “la mar” bad mother .The same thing can be applied on the human mother who always feeds her children, breeds them up and she sometimes when she occasionally beats them. Her children may call her “ bad mother”.
Africa lions: they actually, in the old man’s view, symbolize strength, bravery and pride of his past happiness. The old man must have had unforgettable experiences, which make him always dream of those lions to get required power if needed.
Psychologically talking, when he faces such trouble on the sea, he tries to fights and do his best based on his bravery and power. However, when it gradually gets worse, he wishes that he dreamed of those lions, the channels of power inspiration through which he can get strength to support him in experiencing the setback. The old man dreamed of those the lions on the night before the sailing day on which he is going to fish solely. It is a sort of psychological preparation for the old man to sail off for fishing. This symbol, during the course of time through the novel, became a myth from which he can apparently have his supportive might and bravery, specially, when he caught a huge fish. Staying up without sleeping; being drawn up by the huge fish, the old man thought:” I wish he’d sleep and I could sleep and dream about the lions…why are the lions the main thing that is left?.
The Baseball: it is the old man’s favorite game, which he always follows up his preferred team through newspapers. He is very fond of his team, which really symbolizes his success and victory. Throwing the line of the bait-clung shank into the sea, the old man feels the line slips down through his fingers; catching such a fish and said:”He has it sideways in his mouth now and his moving off with it”. The phrase “ sideways” used to describe the baseball player’s sneaky movement when he deliberately dribbles the ball; trying to steal through the counteroffensive players for scoring goals. “Do you believe the great DiMaggio would stay with a fish as long as I will stay with
this one?” the old man thought . DiMaggio is a famous baseball player whom the old man praises by saying that he is still young and strong. The old man really describes himself as player who tries to score some goals. Similarly, the old man tries to achieve some of his goals when catching some fish either for eating or for trade. He psychologically reflects his joyful impression on his navy daily life.
The boy, Manolin: He represents the early stages and the happiest times of the old man’s life.Manolin is the boy who always takes care of the old man and helps him out. He is the old man’s left hand. During the novel when the old man is facing hard ordeal and drawn up by the fish, his left hand cramped which denotes he needs someone to help him out. Sailing on his small boat to catch some fish, the old man grabs a huge fish and immediately remembers the boy, Manolin, who helps him all the time. He repetitively thinks:” I wish I had the boy to help me …”. Although the old man wishes, from now and then, he had the boy with him, I, personally, see that the old man is psychologically preoccupied entirely by the power, the energy and health of youth. I see the old man is in need of the boy psychically and allegorically as youth stage.
The caught fish: the hand fighting between the old man and the huge fish, on my part, represents the physical and psychological status of the man when he fought a strong competitive Negro in which the man won eventually. The old man really reflects this transient whiles on himself being drawn by the huge fish.
The old man: he is the symbol of the primitive man who still clung to the ancient means as follows: he sails by a skiff not a modern boat. He usually measures the depth of the sea in fathom not in metric system. At night, he actually specifies his direction on the sea by looking at the stars in the sky. He does not have a means of communication such as a Radio. He does not have a compass with which he can easily get his right direction. He does not have an emergency instrument that used to send, a wireless signal about dangerous condition, to the nearest ship or port known as “SOS- -save our selves”
Now, I just ask some comments o corrections.
Fathom is imperial system invented by UK.
Emergency instrument – there is no such equipment.
In the old days, mariners’ only communication among ships or ports was using transmitters to send Morse Code . However there is an emergency transmitter stored in a lifeboat. It can transmit SOS in case of emergency.
SOS stands for either “Save Our Ship” or Save Our Soul”.
Thanks to both of you Mr.Ronbee for his rapid stings and Mr.Hong Kong Chinese for his long nickname :wink:
My apologies to HongKongChinese, but I must disagree with him (her?) about a couple of things.
1. The fathom is a unit of measurement (not an imperial system, whatever that is) that has been around a long time. It is an English unit of measure (nautical) that was probably in use before there even was a U.K. (I don't know how old it is. I'd have to check that. Try: www.infoplease.com )
2. I don't know what kind of equipment the old man had in his boat, but that story is over 50 years old. It is unlikely that he even had a radio. He certainly didn't have a transponder or anything like that. It was a small boat. He certainly didn't have anything to send Morse Code with.
3. SOS doesn't stand for anything. It's just a short code designed as a distress signal. (Before that it was QVD, I think (but I am not sure).)
4. There are emergency transmitters stored in lifeboats today, but the old man did not have such things available. Also, he didn't have a lifeboat.
Imperial system – I should have said more precise that it was the British imperial system. One fathom is equal to 6 six feet. About 15 years ago mariners used two systems of nautical charts, i.e. metric system and imperial system. You may ask why using imperial system which is a so complex system. It is because nautical chart companies in Great Britain supply most nautical charts in English worldwide. They need time phasing out the imperial system charts.
That first site relates quite an interesting history of SOS. (Curiously, they didn't mention that the Titanic sent its SOS in 1912.) I now know more than I ever thought I wanted to know about the subject. :wink:
The second site has some rather odd language. (It is, for example, unit of measurement, not unity of measurement.)
Bartleby.com is quite a dependable online reference site.
On my PC, I had downloaded the 4 CDs of the famous official reference“Encyclopeadia Brittanica 2003 Ulitmate Reference Suite CD-ROM”
I searched for “SOS” and I found the following:
“ a method by which a ship at sea can summon assistance. Distress signals are fixed by custom and by internationally agreed-on rules of the road at sea. The most important are:
(1) visual signals, such as a flame, a red flare, an orange smoke signal, or a square flag displayed with a ball below
(2) sound signals, such as a gun or rocket fired at regular intervals, or a continuous sounding of a fog-signal apparatus
and (3) radio signals such as the Morse group SOS, the international code signal NC, or the spoken word “Mayday” (from French m'aider, “help me”), by radiotelephone. Distressed vessels may also actuate alarms of other vessels by aradio signal consisting of a series of 12 four-second dashes or by a radiotelephone signal consisting of two tones alternately transmitted for 30 to 60 seconds”
So, I really trust in E.B much more than in any normal website.
Accept my regards
I have learnt French for about 2 years myself. “m’aider” appears not to fit the pattern of French. We can say ‘(Vous ) m’aidez’ - the pronunciation is the same as ‘m’aider’. It’s better to use ‘Aidez-moi’, if you ask someone to help you with something. But the French calls for Help is ‘au secours’. I hope some native French speaker viewers can unravel my enigma.