Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is the classic tale of an epic struggle between an aged, down-on-his-luck fisherman and a huge marlin. The old man, Santiago, has suffered through eighty-four long days without a catch. On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago sails far out into the Gulf Stream and soon hooks a fish. Unable to reel in the huge animal, he lets the fish pull his skiff, hoping to tire it out, and enduring incredible pain and fatigue. For three days, Santiago struggles against his own weakness and the scavengers of the sea, until finally he arrives home with only the skeleton of the huge fish remaining . .
Most classic heroes in epic tales possess a single, tragic flaw. This flaw seems admirable but eventually causes the hero to founder. Hemingway draws a parallel between Santiago and these ancient heroes; his downfall is the pride that leads him to sail beyond the customary circumfrences established by his companions. This point is emphasized when he ponders the basis of his destruction and decides, "Nothing . . . I went out too far.".
Santiago's undoing is obviously the pride that leads him to sail far into the gulf waters, but Hemingway does not portray this characteristic as completely defective. Instead, Santiago is highlighted as a determined and heroic man. The old man sets out to kill the marlin for practical reasons, but the struggle turns into a battle of pride. Therefore, Santiago's pride is his primary source of strength. Much would have been lost without this pride, surely more than just the battle. .
Santiago does not once consider giving up the fight. He demonstrates a dogged determination to conquer the marlin. No matter how calamitous the situation, his pride fuels his desire to conquer these circumstances. When he comes ashore without the spoils from his struggle, Santiago consoles himself with the knowledge that he has been exonerated by his determination. Santiago's pride and fortitude are what earned his glory, not a physical memento from the encounter.