Discuss the aesthetic design of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s famous novella The Old Man and the Sea has a clearly discernible rhythm. It starts off on a soft note. We are introduced to Santiago and follow the quiet strains of his daily life as revealed in the dialogue between the old fisherman and his devoted young friend, Manolin. We get the impression that this first act, as it were, is a prelude to more crucial events that lie ahead. The tone is one of quiet anticipation of the events to come on the following day. The preparations in the black of night retain the foregoing calm qualities.

At dawn, on the Gulf Stream, a small pulse-beat of action is felt in the endless life-death struggle for the survival of the sea creatures. The presence of Santiago is a moving force behind the quickening of the tempo. Excitement mounts as a big fish nibbles at the bait. A climax is reached in the strike of the marlin. The feeling of agitation is sustained in the drive for the open sea and in the peril of the situation. Although the agitation abates, the tension is maintained while Santiago reflects on his spiritual kinship with the fish, which stems from his basic respect for all life. On the third day, a radiant note of success and joy is sounded as Santiago wins his battle with the fish. Tragedy almost immediately follows. At first, Santiago fights back in the clash between good and evil, but eventually, he resigns himself to his loss. The tone then changes from somberness and painful struggle to serene acceptance and spiritual triumph.

The drama comes full circle as Santiago docks. The tone at the end is not tragic but triumphant; the dignity of man has prevailed. The design of the whole is carefully wrought. Hemingway deftly modulates tone and changes tempo and makes compelling the triumph spawned from the seeds of defeat and despair. Hemingway’s accomplishment here is remarkable, for, in enabling Santiago to prevail he has remained free of sentimentality and artificial contrivance.

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