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The Old Man and The Sea: Narrative Technique

Alternate question: Discuss Hemingway’s Narrative Style in The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway‘s writing style wes much to his career as a journalist. His use of language so different that of, says his contemporary William Faulkner is immediately identifiable by most readers. Short words, straight forward sentence structures, vivid description and factual details combine to create and almost transparent medium for his is engaging and realistic stories. Yet without calling attention to itself the language also resonates with complex emotions and larger and larger meanings displaying the writers skill in his use of such subtle techniques as sophisticated patterns; repeated images allusions and themes; repeated sounds, rhythms words and sentence structures indirect revelation of historical fact and blended narrative modes.

In The Old Man and The Sea, nearly every word and phrase points to Hemingway‘s Santiago like description to craft and devotion to precision. Hemingway himself claimed that he wrote on the “principle of the iceberg” of the story lay below the surface part that show. While the writing in The Old Man and The Sea reflects Hemingway’s efforts to pare down language and convey as much as possible in as few words as possible, the Novella’s meanings reason it on a larger and larger scale. The stories brevity ostensibly simple plot and distance from much of this periods political affairs all lend the novella simplistic quality that is as deceptive as it is endearing.

For example Hemingway conveys one of the novellas central theme by repeatedly yoking religious conviction with a belief in luck. These repeated images and allusions, juxtaposed so often suggest more than an appropriate sketch of Cuba’s Catholic culture affection for games of chance, and passion for baseball both religion and luck rely on ritual and have the power to engender the hope, dreams, faith, absorption and resolution that ultimately take people beyond themselves. Supporting these repeated image and allusions is the repetition of certain rhythms and sentence structures that signal a kind of ritual or catechism in, for example the conversion between Santiago and Manolin or the description of Santiago’s precise actions in his fishing or in laying out the fish that will nourish him.

Hemingway the journalist also relies on resonances from historical and factual reference to enrich the story and advance its themes a technique used by T.S Eliot and James Joyce. For example the novellas many baseball references enabled critics such as C. Harold Hurley and Beckford Sylvester to determine the exact dates in September when the story takes place; to infer a great deal about Cuba’s culture, economics and social circumstances at the time; and to who establish Manolin’s exact age these references do more than provide background information, establish the stories cultural context, and advance the plot this reference also indirectly reveal the characters motivation inform the dialogues and uncover the stories integral thematic dimensions.

Hemingway also relies on on blending narrative modes to achieve a shifting psychic distance. The story begins and end with third person omniscient narration that doesn’t dip into Santiago’s thoughts. The two parts of the story that take place no land benefit from this controlled reporting. For example the poignancy of Santiago’s circumstances at the stories beginning and the tragedy of his defeat at the stories end are not last on readers, but instead resonate within them without melodrama because of this psychic distance.

On the other hand the part of the story that takes place at sea draws closer to Santiago’s prospective by letting him talk to himself, by presenting third person narration of his thoughts or by drafting subtly weather of these methods into a kind of interior monologue or limeted stream of consciousness. This prospective is essential to the story’s middle part at sea which is an odyssey into the natural world, a coming to grips with the natural order, in acceptance of the inevitable cycle of life and a redemption of the individuals existence. At the transition into Santiago’s thoughts seems logical and intuitive because he is alone at sea, with no one to talk to, so does the transition back out again because he returns to land so deeply exhausted.