LITERARY TREND AND AUTHOR CANON
Modernist fiction characterised by:
- Minimalist style (as opposed to complex, ornate sentences);
- Emotionally detached point of view;
- Understated irony;
- Omission of key information from the story’s telling;
- Psychological states are conveyed through exterior details;
- Experiments with style and narrative form (in his later work, he uses more complex sentence structures and forms).
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (published 1952)
The old man is trying to catch a fish and encounters many obstacles (pain, excess) and the reader learns about the protagonist as he struggles to achieve his goal.
Shorter than a novel, it depicts Santiago’s struggle with the elements and the fish in his attempt of catching the fish.
- Cuba, the 1940s, near Havana;
- Mostly on the water, in the old man’s boat.
Main theme: Perseverance.
The old man, Santiago proves his relentless perseverance in battling the fish and the elements. He is willing to withstand hunger, physical pain, isolation from the rest of the world just to battle the fish. He and the fish both show an incredible endurance that separates them from the rest of the world.
- Memory and past
- Man and the natural world.
Santiago, an old fisherman, hasn’t caught anything in 84 days. He is not eating very much. He goes to sleep and dreams of the lions he used to see in Africa. When he wakes up, he goes fishing and hooks a very large fish. For three days, he struggles with the fish and manages to kill it. Then he heads home. He straps the fish to the side of his boat, but sharks eat it. The old man tries to beat them off but fails. He returns ashore with nothing more than the skeleton of the fish. He goes to sleep and dreams of the lions in his youth.
Characters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the fragment itself.
- Santiago – the old man in the title. He is a Cuban fisherman who has had bad luck fishing, being unable to catch a fish for 84 days. Humble, he is still proud of his abilities. He has a deep understanding of the sea and its creatures and it helps him preserve his hope. He is used to life’s tests and proves to have a lot of strength and endurance. The marlin which he catches in the story represents his greatest challenge and also his greatest victory, although he loses the fish.
- The marlin – a very large fish (18 feet) which Santiago catches on the first afternoon of his fishing expedition. Santiago cannot pull the fish in, because of its size, and they become engaged in a fight. Santiago feels connected to the fish through the fishing line and perceives it as similar to him. When sharks eat the marlin, Santiago also feels torn. Santiago and the fish are both implicitly compared to Christ.
- Manolin – an adolescent, he is Santiago’s apprentice. When he was five years old, the old man brought him out on a boat for the first time. His parents force him to go out on a different fishing boat due to Santiago’s recent terrible luck. He remains devoted to the elderly man, whom he regards as a mentor. Manolin and Santiago discuss baseball and the boy helps Santiago when he has financial problems.
POINT OF VIEW
- 3rd person omniscient; the reader has access to the characters’ thoughts.
- Sympathetic towards the character through the simple statement of emotions and thoughts.
- A minimalistic style which is based on the author’s belief that the core meaning of a literary piece should be hidden beneath;
- Focus on the details at the surface of the text;
- Short, factual sentences;
- Declarative nature of words;
- Iceberg principle: the character presented on the page represents 10% of who he actually is. The other 90% is implied in the mind of the reader.