Article summary on Hemmingway’s “The old man and the sea”.

Article summary on Hemmingway’s “The old man and the sea”.

The journal article “The inside the current: a Taoist reading of “The old man and the sea” written by Eric Waggoner represents an outstandingly interesting Hemingway review as it analyzes the writings from the position of the Tao theory. Taoism is a separate philosophical and religious concept which concentrates on the person’s individual path in this life. This path is based on compassion and moderation within the person’s mortal life. The article analyzes the “The old man and the sea” as a Taoist reading due to the fact that the main character Santiago in his internal leanings reveals a unique interpretation of every single act within the writing. He views the world around him as an action-response scheme and sees the premises and consequences of each action. This allows the author Eric Waggoner to present a vas interpretation of the story. The author lists several “Christian” interpretations offered by Hamilton and Baker. The article decides to examine “The old man and the sea” in its relation to the Taoist concept and particularly on the Taoism of Lao-Tzu. Such Tao understanding brings a lot to the literary contents of the story as it converts it into Santiago’s search for “harmony”. In the article “The old man and the sea” is compared to a sort of teaching and this statement it proved through the Tao postulate that the best teaching is teaching based on a shown example. According to Eric Waggoner the story has a “mysterious quality” which can be noticed from the time it is perceived by the reader as it is a confrontation of spiritual and physical origins.
The article reveals “The old man and the sea” as a writing which actually has three tenets of Taoist thinking. The first one deals with the notion of the existence of a certain balance between two opposite origins. In other words the good and the bad make one whole unity where one eventually converts to another and vice verse. The second tenet is the unity of the person (The old man) with the surrounding environment. The third tenet is based on the fact that changes can happen not only in the earthly existence but also in the spiritual life of the person. The article calls Santiago a “salao” which is "the worst form of unlucky” but he faces the point where he understands that his eighty-four day of unlucky existence (“the bad”) gradually transform into the luck (“the good”). This becomes a point where Santiago’s optimism is born. Eric Waggoner shows it as the unity of the opposing forces. Just like Santiago’s unluck gives birth to luck, in the same way Santiago’s connection with the sea and his love for it gives birth to the devastating pain for the creatures he kills in its waters. The author supports it with a great example with a marlin from the text: “…I wonder if he has any plans or if he is just as desperate as I am”. Then Santiago observes the attack of the shark on this very marlin and feels sorry for the Marlin but the next moment he experiences a strong desire to kill it as: “He is my brother. But I must kill him and keep strong to do it”. The author puts up the question whether Santiago is a “loser” or a “winner” and in this way reveals the dualism of Santiago’s spirituality. The article also offers several other interpretation of this situation. For instance, Gerry Brenner analyzes it as a deep struggle with himself in the two edges: self vindication and self-glorification. Christophe Kuhn together with Charles Taylor compare it to the “Nietzsche's notion of tragic affirmation”. Nevertheless, the author points out the fact that such interpretation of the depth of “The old man and the sea” lacks symmetry and balance. The article comes to the key idea that it is Santiago’s “salao” that gives the story a profound meaning and makes it match the Taoist way of thinking. In other words it is what converts “The old man and the sea” into a Taoist reading.

“The old man and the sea” actually fits the Taoist interpretation as is has a lot to do with the world of nature, which lives according to the laws of the universe and cannot be controlled be a human being. The article presents the point of view stating that the main hero Santiago is not just an old man who fishes to get food. The process of such “hunting” is the way to find and understand himself. It is the path of the search of inner spiritual stability. Santiago remains within the borders of Tao. Each action he conducts he tries to conduct with corresponding exactness and dignity. For him it is not enough just to do something, as he has to know and understand that whatever he is doing – he is doing a right thing and therefore stays within his own path. The constant spiritual changes which Santiago experiences all the time are the ones, according to the article that lead him to the balance of the yin-yang. His two sides of spirituality, being completely different actually complement each other and work in a “tandem”. Santiago was to be aware of the reality to see his path and his Taoist aim. The marlin and the shark make Santiago see the Tao and redirect his energy to rearrange the balance in the world around. Santiago goes eighty -four day without catch but nevertheless his path is clear as he still hopes that one moment he is going to get right “the catch” he needs. The article reveals Santiago as an example of an undefeated morality, which ca be seen as a direct parallel with Taoism as only the balance of the opposites gives birth to an undefeated morality.
The analyzed above journal article “The inside the current: a Taoist reading of “The old man and the sea” written by Eric Waggoner is a very deep and detailed analyzes of the true essence and the message which can be read between and within the lines of the story. The article clearly shows that there is much more in the writing then just a strict plane interpretation of a human superiority or failure. The article itself is a detailed and very well-built philosophical interpretation of the novel as it actually tries to reveal the meaning that Hemmingway wanted to put into it. It is not only despair that the article wants to see in the Old man. The Taoist thought gives a very balanced vector to the novel as it from a thought to a reading, from a reading to a general philosophical concept, and from a philosophical concept to infinity. The article can be extremely useful for students of literature as it lists not only the author’s opinion but also other interpretations of the novel making the article very objective and leaving the reader a lot of space for deciding either to agree or to disagree with it. It teaches to see what the essence of life is and the end of one phenomenon is the birth of another one. It teaches the immortality of Hemmingway’s “The old man and the sea”.

Works cited
Waggoner, Eric. “Inside the Current: A Taoist Reading of “The Old Man and the Sea.” The Hemingway Review, Vol. 17 (1998). Questia: the online library of book and journals database.
http://www.questia.com/read/5001341406?title=Inside%20the%20Current%3a%20A%20Taoist%20Reading%20of%20'The%20Old%20Man%20and%20the%20Sea.