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Ernest Hemingway with marlin. Havana Harbor, Cuba. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston. July 1934

Ernest Hemingway with marlin. Havana Harbor, Cuba. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston. July 1934


In a letter written by Ernest Hemingway to his father about his personal philosophy towards writing he states “You see I’m trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across – not to just depict life – or criticize it – but to actually make it alive.  So that when you have read something by me, you’ve actually experienced the thing.”  This letter is among an exhibition The Ernest Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.


ernest-hemingway-in-cojimar-cubaHis “artistic credo” he established for himself did manifest in his writing career in my opinion.  Especially if you reflect on his last published work “The Old Man and The Sea.”  Ernest Hemingway exhibited deep compassion for the subjects whose lives he wrote about.





This film is based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Old Man and The Sea” written in 1951.   The story was published in 1952 and would be Hemingway’s last major published work.

In the film, Santiago, is an experienced fisherman.  He has even had many admirers over the years for his caliber of skill and strength.

But, he is aging and the conquest of catching large fish has become a bit of a battle at sea for him.  Those in his community mock him now about how many days have passed since he caught a single fish.  Fishing is one’s livelihood, substance for survival and for Santiago, a measure of how independent he can be.  Only further evidence to Santiago that he is aging; old, and as other men in his community are suggesting to him quite openly that perhaps Santiago is not the man he once was.

While out to sea on another fishing trip to brake his dry spell he drifts for days with extended time for personal contemplation on what he may view as personal failures.


He reminisces back to what he holds dear.  His bride.



On the wedding day of Santiago and Maria, immediately after their ceremony, Santiago takes Maria to see his fishing boat on the beach.  She’s overly concerned she’ll ruin her wedding dress running in the sand to which Santiago replies “You won’t need it again.”

He tells Maria he will love her and always bring fish from the sea.

“Love comes in many forms.  I’ll take it in any form.”  Santiago says to himself as he reflects on that part of his life and the reality of his present.

In the present, while out in the ocean, he regrets having gone out to sea so far.  His boat is only a one sail skiff.  The strength he will need to get back to shore tests him.  He wrestles with a large marlin for what seemed like days.  Just as round one was over catching a fish, the real fight begins.  The next fight just getting back to shore he realizes could be life threatening.

He feels tired, inside.


Ultimately, life is not always about being comfortable; safe but this is nice.   Life has obstacles and challenges we must balance and overcome along with periods of smooth sailing.  When life’s challenges come along and even if we feel “tired inside” whether from age or fatigue, these challenges present enormous opportunities to preserver.  In battle we come face to face with our instincts to fight.

Overcoming adversity or setbacks is being resilient.

The true definition of resilience is one’s capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Despite adversities, one can adapt to the challenges they face, and be successful going forward on their own steam.

Santiago does return to shore.

Santiago gained his dignity back.  Self-respect in proving to himself yes, he can be independent.  Still catch big fish.  His dry spell of not catching fish was over.  He was back!  The promise he made to Maria that he would “always bring fish from the sea” restored his dignity as a man and provider.  And, he knew all of this, and more were true for him because one of the men who had mocked his dry spell told Santiago upon his return to shore that he  “Caught a truly great fish.”

“You can be destroyed but not defeated. “

Resource:     The Ernest Hemingway Collection

::::   Until Next Time:  à Donf   ::::

Dr Lawana R Lofton, PsyDDr. Lawana R. Lofton, PsyD –    Psychologist with one simple goal of making concepts of psychology accessible.

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