Through ages, human beings have always been in pursuit of the perfection of everything. Not all things, however, are perfect in the world. Both Hemingway and Santiago, the hero in his famous work The Old Man and the Sea are perfectionists. In their daily lives, perfectionists have endless sadness since they always demand more and more. When a person wants more and his present situation could not satisfy him, he is bound to involve in a strange circle, which will make his mentality full of contradictories. It is uneasy for him to let himself free. Perfectionists could not be easily understood by others. Though an analysis of the tragedy of the old man and Hemingway, this thesis mainly discusses the tragic color in The Old Man and the Sea, and draws a conclusion that their perfectionism leads to their tragedy. In that way, the paper challenges perfectionism. Just like an old saying goes: “No one is perfect”. There is no absolute perfectionism in the world. In fact, pursuing perfection is a good medicine for those who are vacuous to remedy, but on the premise that they know their potential well in pursuit of perfection. If a person does not know his potential of perfection and over-pursues it, not only does he live without happiness, but he gets nothing in the end as well. The world is imperfect. Therefore, it is essential to accept the imperfection of the world and learn to abnegate some unrealistic pursuits. This thesis tries to elucidate the truth that people who over-pursue perfection cannot but hurt themselves in the end.
tragic color; perfection; perfectionism; Hemingway; Santiago
Hemingway’s life is filled with kinds of adventures, and from his rich and colorful life experiences，his life seems like an unusual book which many other people in the world admire and envy. Indeed, Hemingway is a great writer, a code man with white beard; even today he had left us for a few decades, his brave figure has still been living in people’s memory. His adventurist spirit made him create many novels, so that people always say he directs his own stories in his works. From his works and life experiences, Hemingway is indeed a perfectionist. Many of the heroes that he createdin novels are represented his code man spirit---perfectionism, especially in The Old Man and the Sea. The old man named Santiago represented Hemingway’s perfectionism characteristic more vividly than other code man in his works. Hemingway left many myths to the literary world after his shocking death, more and more researchers discussed his works; a lot of discussions are talked about his writing style, life experiences and his own code man spirit. Hemingway’s name had been staying in literary world forever because of the whole world’s attention.
Perfectionism is a double-edged blade which brings both honor and sadness to Hemingway. He chose to die in the prime of his life. Hemingway left many unsolved questions to the whole world, people regret for his choice. Meanwhile, we could find a real Hemingway when we stand in his shoes, he is a complete perfectionist. He would prefer regretting for the whole world to regretting for himself, that’s a perfectionist’s choice.
Even though Hemingway chose another way to express his hero spirit and his perfectionism, some people suspect what his perfectionism brought to him. Perfectionism brought honor, wealth, wonderful life to him, but he decided to discard all honor because he had been tortured by sickness greatly, he chose to die in the end. Hemingway was involved in strange perfectionism circle. At the same time, the code man spirit made him pursuit perfection of everything. As a perfect man in people’s eyes is Hemingway’s aim. The old man who Hemingway created in The Old Man and the Sea is also a person represented Hemingway’s perfectionism spirit. He has his own sadness.
The paper focuses on The Old Man and the Sea，find out the tragic color in the novel, meanwhile, explains Hemingway’s tragedy in order to challenge the perfectionism which is held by the author---Hemingway and his creative code hero---Santiago.
A． To the Author: Earnest Hemingway
Earnest Miller Hemingway was born in a well-to-do family in Oak Park, Illinois near Chicago, on July 21st, 1899. He was an American Nobel Prize winner in literature (1954), a spokesman for “The Lost Generation”. After he got the Nobel Prize, he ended his life by himself. His life was filled with many kinds of adventures that represent in his works. He styled the particular type of the tragic hero in his novels, and his life attitude had been widely recognized and imitated in English-speaking countries and all over the world as well. Hemingway was a myth in his own time and in American literature.
After the publishing of The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, this novel had played a crucial role in the development of Hemingway’s critical reputation. Prior to the appearance of this crisp and lyrical novel about an old Cuban fisherman’s struggle with a titanic fish, Hemingway had published nothing of distinction during the twelve years since For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940); the early promise of the brilliant short story collection, In Our Time (1925); and his finest novels, The Sun Also Rise (1926); and A Farewell to Arms (1929), seemed distant and unfulfilled; Hemingway’s nonfiction of the 1930s; Death in the Afternoon (1932) and Green Hills of Africa (1935), had been disappointing by comparison, and a “novel” like To Have and Have Not (1937), two previously published short stories hastily cobbled together, seemed a shocking performance from a craftsman once so exacting; Across the River and into the Trees (1950) had been savaged by the critics, and Hemingway was widely considered to be a has-been. The Old Man and the Sea (1952), however, was hailed as Hemingway’s triumphant return. William Faulkner as Hemingway’s strong competitor was ever said “Time will show that this novel (The Old Man and the Sea) would be the most brilliant medium-length novel for our time”.
B. The Medium-Length Novel
Among all of Hemingway’s works, The Old Man and the Sea, it is a work that leads to the top of Hemingway’s career of writer and made him receipt the Nobel Prize. It is a poetic tragic novel about Santiago---an old Cuban fisherman who has gone for 84 days without catching anything. Therefore, the boy, Mandolin, who used to sail with him, is forced by his parents to leave the old man and catch in another “good-lucky” ship. The old man insists on fishing alone and at last, he hooks an eighteen-foot, giant marlin, the largest he has ever known. But the titanic fish is very powerful and disobedient. It tows the old man and his boat out to sea for 48 hours, with the old man bearing the whole weight of the fish through the line on his back. The old man, with little food and sleep, has to endure much pain and fights against his treacherous hand cramp. To his great excitement, on his third day at sea, he succeeds in catching the weakened marlin to the surface and harpoons it. On his way home, he lashed marlin alongside his boat because it is too big to be pulled into the boat. But, unfortunately, the sharks in different directions assaulted the old man and the giant marlin for four times. The old man fights to kill the sharks with as much might and many weapons as he can summon, but only to find a giant skeleton of his marlin left after his desperate defense. At last, Santiago, having lost what he fought for, reaches the shore and struggles to his shack. He falls into sound sleep, dreaming of Africa and the lions again. His struggle wins him much respect; meanwhile, he still made himself indulge in the atmosphere of tragic color, no one understands his sadness except himself.
2. The Social Background of This Work
Literature is the reflection of society. Therefore, in order to prove this novel’s tragic color, the social background is one of the necessary factors for us to appreciate this work.
Hemingway lived in the period that the World War One broke out; many young volunteers took part in “the war which also called a war end all wars”. But the harsh realitymade them aware that modern warfare was not as glorious or heroic as they thought. As a young writer and spokesman of the “The Lost Generation”, and influenced by the frivolous, greedy and heedless way of life in America. Hemingway’s works all vividly recorded the life of those physically and mentally wounded soldiers, revealed the frustration, loneliness when “God is dead”. That period’s tragedy made Hemingway’s works full with tragic color, such as A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, The Sun Also Rise and TheOld Man and the Sea. The menace, the anguish dereliction, the futility and sterility expressed in these works had been afflicting all sensitive members of the post-war generation.
The other circumstances that made Hemingway wrote the novel was Hemingway’s writing capability had been questioned by people at that time. Under kinds of gossip, Hemingway decided to write The Old Man and the Sea which had been constructed in his mind for more than 10 years. At last, this masterpiece proved his writing talent.