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Ernest Hemingway And The Art Of Stoicism

964 words - 4 pages

Stoicism is not just another Greek philosophy – it is a way of life. Common belief characterizes a Stoic as lacking emotion. Stoic reasoning behind a lack of emotion, or indifference, is to prevent passion from blinding rational judgment. Indifference is not the sole identifier of a Stoic; other characteristics include moderation and virtue. Stoicism teaches that happiness can only be obtained through virtue. To achieve indifference and virtue, certain sacrifices need to be made, which is where moderation comes into play. For example, hatred and love are opposing emotions. Because Stoicism calls for indifference, a Stoic must be moderate and avoid both extremities. Despite having been conceived nearly two thousand years ago, the principles of Stoicism remain relevant even now. Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and “Indian Camp” relate to Stoicism because the two pieces echo the Stoic ideas of moderation, indifference, and virtue.
Moderation is fully evident in Hemingway’s characters. Santiago, the protagonist of The Old Man and the Sea, firmly balances two contrasting qualities - his humility and pride. Santiago reveals his humble nature when Manolin asserts that he is the best fisherman to which Santiago replies “No. I know others better.” (The Old Man and the Sea 23). Meanwhile Santiago’s attempt to capture the fish and prove that he is a capable man despite his old age signifies that he retains a certain level of pride for his masculinity. Humility is the antithesis of pride, yet, the old man has the ability to retain both through moderation. Emotions are not the only characteristics to be moderated; actions as well as speech must be balanced. In “Indian Camp”, the father explains a mature topic –the act of giving birth - to his young son, Nick. He doesn’t want Nick to be completely ignorant, nor does he explain the process in incomprehensible adult terminology:
Listen to me. What she [the mother] is going through is called being in labor. The baby wants to be born and she wants it to be born. All her muscles are trying to get the baby born. That is what is happening when she screams. (“Indian Camp” 2)
The father’s diction is restrained to be lucid, conveying just enough information so that a boy of eight or nine may understand the meaning of “being in labor”. Both the father and Santiago exemplify the characteristic of moderation, emphasizing Stoicism within Hemingway’s literature.
Noticeably, many of Hemingway’s characters lack emotion, a quality integral to Stoicism. The marlin Santiago endeavors to catch for four days is ravaged by sharks. The typical and expected response to such a loss is destructive rage and violence. Instead, the old man “…sailed lightly now and he had no thoughts nor any feelings of any kind.” (The Old Man and the Sea 119) Santiago’s indifference to the situation is disconcerting, but allows him to remain rational and concentrate on arriving...

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