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Inner Happiness in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea

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Inner Happiness in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea      

     Hemingway's view of human nature was that happiness was rare and was found within a man and not in his outside circumstances or surroundings.  Hemingway illustrates this in three ways.  First, he portrays the human nature of Santiago, the main character, as being one of humility and compassion, full of strength and pride.  He is shown not as a gleefully happy man, but one who meets life with a serene, quiet resilience.  Second, Santiago's fellow villagers are shown as shallow and materialistic, with a narrow view of life compared to his.  Their focus on appearances is in sharp contrast to Santiago's focus on intrinsic values.  Third, it will be shown that his rare brand of happiness comes from within.


Poignant circumstances surrounded the composition of this novel, which bring out many of the above points. It is widely recognized that Hemingway was possessed of a turbulent personality and suffered from emotional depression.  This was despite the fact that he enjoyed much critical acclaim.  The Old Man and the Sea was written after a ten-year hiatus of public and critical approval. This period saw much of his work receive negative criticism in literary and journalistic circles.  This affected Hemingway adversely and very deeply (Carey 9).  Therefore, Hemingway's personal battle with seeming failure in his life's work and society's attendant criticism parallel Santiago's stoic resolve in the face of his neighbors' disdain.  The author's struggles symbolically match those of Santiago and set the stage for the writing of this novel.


The acclaim generated by this book was due largely to the author's  " complex knotting of spiritual and phys...

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Gardiner, Patrick. Schopenhauer. Middlesex, England: Penguin , 1963. 

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Hutchins, Robert Maynard, ed. Great Books of the Western World. 54 vols. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952. Vol. 1. 

Plato. The Dialogues of Plato. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Great Books of the Western World. 54 vols. Chicago:Encyclopaedia Britannica 1952. Vol. 7.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. Counsels and Maxims. Trans. T. Bailey Saunders. Amherst, New York:Prometheus Books, 1995. 

 - - -.  On the Basis of Morality. Trans. E.F.J. Payne. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.  1965. 

 - - -. The Wisdom of Life. Trans. T. Bailey Saunders. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1995. 

Waggonner, Eric. "Inside the Current: A Taoist Reading of The Old Man and the Sea" Hemingway Review Spring 1998. 


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