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The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Bearing a good formal education is a prized notion. It allows the bearer the opportunity to acquire knowledge and wisdom on a specific set of aspects albeit with little or no impartation of practical experiences (Oleson and Hora 3). Formal education entails abiding by the rigorous discipline as required in formal institutions under guidance of older persons with higher educational credentials and time proven expertise in knowledge application and teaching it to others. For instance, Santiago willingly educates the young boy who reveres him greatly, “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you” (8). However, gaining knowledge through experience requires a person being a peculiar situations and the self-driven will to acquire knowhow in a manner that is informal (Oleson and Hora 3-4). For example, after Santiago hooks the marlin, he acknowledges that, “What will I do if he decides to go down, I don’t know. What I’ll do if he sounds and dies I don’t know. But I’ll do something. There are plenty of things I can do” (15). This implies that through trial and error, which formal education looks to overcome, an individual like Santiago gains a social status that is greater than money and gold; he attains a timeless legacy.
The protagonist in Earnest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, projects an attitude about life emanating from the wisdom drawn out from failure and learning informally from his mistakes. Left with meager resources, he performs a feat that an educated individual of his age cannot do without expensive equipment and the hiring of skilled labor. For instance, though he does not clearly see the fish, he is able to discern that the fish grew to be so big by gaining knowledge and wisdom on how to dazzle fishermen, “Perharps he is to wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush” (16). The narrative underscores that while formalized education charts an easier path for individual accorded the opportunity, understanding how to get things done is a degree of knowledge that incorporates wisdom gained as one matures. The old fisherman quips, “I wish I had the boy. To help me and to see this” (16). In this regard, Santiago is a special man, one whom persons with a good educational foundation would be quick to look up to for wisdom just in the same way as people from his village did. He understands the worth of hard work and the wisdom of being able to live with self after all is said and done.
Every man desires to attain a distinctive measure of success. To some it is all about achieving the highest educational credentials through groundbreaking scholarly research while to another, it is amassing wealth that ensures his grandchildren’s great grandchildren live among the affluent. This is not the case with Hemingway’s Santiago, “Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated” (5). Santiago is a naturally born fighter and strongly holds true that “I may not be as strong as I think….but I know many tricks and I have resolution” (8). Years as a fisherman opened his mind to the truth that every man has to nurture within self an indomitable spirit. This can be taught through formal education but can only be actualized from practical experiences in the unpredictable sea of life. Having not caught fish for 84 days does not dishearten him but rather allows him to understand that overfishing in his area’s fishing grounds have depleted fish stocks. To harvest a good catch requires him to reach out further into the sea further than any man has dared to do before. He operates based on facts derived from an analysis of raw information, a great understanding of the sea, and upward development of personal skills. As opposed to education, what Santiago has as knowledge and wisdom is gained from lifelong experiences that also brings about a level of spiritual enlightenment that avails unbounded opportunities. He attains these attributes without using a single cent. On the contrary, education is dependent on the socioeconomic status of a student’s family and in some cases, a learner’s ingenuity, gifts and talents.
In conclusion, Santiago gained his knowledge through pain, struggles, sheer determination, and positioning himself to grab any luck that came his way. He is contented to understand that what the sharks did to his catch is a fact of life. The only trophy he is able to salvage is the marlin’s head which Santiago offers to his mentee for free. It is an indication that he will impart his knowledge and wisdom gained through experience to the young Perico by educating him on how to relate with the sea on a higher level of thinking.
Hemingway, Ernest. The old man and the sea. Munich, Germany: Hueber Verlag. 1995.
Oleson, Amanda, and Matthew T. Hora. “Teaching the way they were taught? Revisiting the sources of teaching knowledge and the role of prior experience in shaping faculty teaching practices.” Higher Education 68.1 (2014): 29-45.