The twists and turns of life are blocked by ominous obstacles. A man climbing a mountain faces the bitter cold, harsh weather, and has to struggle up steep slopes. A student faces the challenges of juggling sports, schoolwork and friends. The obstacles in someone's path can seem to block the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's their choice whether or not to persist.Facing the disparaging challenges in your life shape your character, challenge your demeanor, and shape the way you live your life. The old man was no exception to the fact that lives are full of obstacles. He had to struggle and fight against pain, being old and alone on the journey, the daunting size of the marlin, and the threatening sharks.
Throughout the book the old man stayed strong despite all of the pain he had to endure. He sat in the boat, holding the weight of the fish on his line. “He was comfortable but suffering, although he did not admit the suffering at all” (64). The old man’s determination helped him to ignore the pain of his back and his cramping hand. Many people would succumb to pain and choose to let go of the fish but Santiago did not. “I must hold his pain where it is, he thought. Mine does not matter. I can control mine. But his pain could drive him mad,” (88). He stayed optimistic and convinced himself that he could deal with his pain to catch the fish of a lifetime. Santiago never even thought of giving in, instead he stayed persistent. His determination and willpower paid off, helping him to reel in an enormous fish even with the pain.
Santiago was an old man alone on a skiff, which immediately gave him a disadvantage in catching a fish of that marlin’s stature. “He had seen many that weighed more than a thousand pounds and he had caught two of that size in his life, but never alone,” (63). The lonely, old man had very slim chances of bringing in a fish that big. His body wasn’t as strong as other younger men’s were and he needed all the strength he could get to reel in his catch. The obstacle of old age was inevitable and posed a serious threat. Santiago stayed confident in himself, despite the odds. He accepted his old age and lack of help and used all of the strength that he was capable of to succeed in catching the marlin.
The size of the marlin would be intimidating anyone. Reeling in and taking home a 1500 pound fish is an overwhelming task. He realized "...he was fast to the biggest fish that he had ever seen and bigger than he had even heard of..." (63.)Not only was the marlin huge, but it was even bigger than his skiff. Just imagining catching a fish of that size seems impossible.
The marlin was caught and secure and the hardest part of the journey seemed to be over, but once again another obstacle reared its ugly head in this novella; sharks. The appearance of the sharks broke the happy, accomplished mood the old man must have had and set him in a tense, practically unwinnable situation. “When the old man saw him coming he knew that this was a shark that had no fear at all and would do exactly what he wished,” (101.) The audacious old man still fought against the sharks, cleverly attaching a knife to the oar and trying to kill them. He fought with all his strength, punching the sharks in the head long after he lost all weapons and hopes of prevailing. The aggressive sharks tore away at the marlin, destroying what the old man had worked so hard to achieve. Santiago still faced this challenge no matter how bleak the outcome looked.
Obstacles are everywhere, some unbeatable and some easy to conquer. The old man faced both types of obstacles during his journey out at sea. He prevailed and failed, recognizing both as the way that life works. Facing challenges is an inevitable part of life, the old man being no exception. How people choose to deal with them is a whole other story. It’s not every day that people face the same challenges as the old man. He was challenged by old age, pain, the marlin's size, and sharks, which shaped and led him on the journey of a lifetime. The challenges that we have to deal with shape our lives and the adventures in them, which Hemmingway shows throughout the novella.