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Santiago: A Code Hero sample essay


The Old man and the Sea is one of the novels written by the famous Ernest Hemingway. Just to give a little background, he is a well-known American author. He wrote a number of novels, short stories, and nonfictions. He earned an award for The Old Man and the Sea in 1954.

During the post-war depression, Hemingway created a certain theme in his novels he called “Code Hero.” According to Hemingway, a code hero shows great valor in times of troubles or difficulty; are highly distinctive and free willed; possesses a high moral standard; give importance to someone else’s dignity and respect; and show compassion to the feelings of others. A code hero is brave enough to face his fears like death and darkness. He shows great stamina even if wounded. He is adventurous and has fascination to travel in many places. A code hero may not be completely victorious in all his endeavors. It’s his attitude that makes the difference.

Physical strength is also evident in a code hero. Facing death is the sign of real manhood. Aside from that, his love for his surroundings and good times in his life somehow clearly defines what a code hero is all about. In short, a code hero is someone who after facing too many problems is able to withstand all trials.

The Old Man and the Sea as the title implies, tells about an elderly man named Santiago, a fisherman. His greatest adventure took place in the sea. He has this small boat and he goes out in the sea together with a boy. He’s old but still looks cheerful and unconquered. He lived in this shack all by himself. Thanks to the boy who has been his companion.


Santiago, our lead character, had been in the ocean for 84 days but was unsuccessful in catching fish. Because of this, the boy’s parents stopped him from staying with Santiago. The boy had his own boat and later on, the boy became more successful than Santiago. But he still cares for Santiago. Every now and then they meet and share their good times together. Baseball is one of the topics they enjoyed talking about.

On his 85th day in the ocean, Santiago never gave up. He never lost hope considering the length of time in his pursuit for a really big catch. Then he decided to go much farther in the sea in search of this fish. Time came when the bait of his harpoon seemed to have trapped something in it. It seemed difficult to pull. And Santiago was right. He caught a fish 18-foot long. Something more than what he was expecting.

But there was a problem: How to load this fish on his boat? The fish was strong that he couldn’t do anything but let himself be pulled by this fish. He was determined not to let this opportunity go. So he endured everything just to hold on the fish line so as not to let the fish go away. How he really wish that the boy was right there by his side seeing this great adventure.

When finally he can pull the fish back home, unfortunately, along the way, sharks were following him. He wrestled among these sharks. He defeated the sharks but still lose the battle when he found out that the 18-foot long fish had been almost eaten up by the sharks.

Is Santiago an example of a code hero? Santiago had endured many problems in the story. Even from the beginning up to the end of the story, problems never left Santiago. He was patient in facing each problem because he has this strong sense of faith that somehow all these things happening to him shall come to pass.

It looks impossible but the author makes it seems possible for many things to happen. Santiago wanted to prove that although he was well advanced in years, he was still a good fisherman.

He battled the elements of nature. He doesn’t look in his weaknesses but focus on his strengths. He believed that he could catch many fish. Though Santiago had faced several misfortunes in his life, he was hoping for something good to happen. He experienced being ridiculed, but he just kept going. He was willing to risk his life. He battled with sharks out of his determination to bring home the prize of his labor, in complete pieces.

In spite of the many misfortunes, Santiago was an appreciative person. He admired the strength of the 18-foot long fish. He believed that every man is born to succeed in life, not to experience defeat. Applying what he believed, Santiago was very sorry for the fish because it too, should not experience defeat. This also showed that Santiago had a soft heart. He was concerned not only for his life but for others’ life, too.

With these characteristics could we consider Santiago a code hero? A big yes for that! With everything that happened, with the attitude he showcased, Santiago was a qualified Hemmingway’s code hero. Santiago’s attitude towards life was the key to his success.

The story can be compared to a child animated story of a heroic adventure that captures our imagination. It is a story on courage and endurance in times of troubles. Hemmingway used simple characters yet with outstanding characteristics; a simple setting yet with a great story to tell.

The author gives life to his code hero on a man like Santiago. The mood of the story is a bit serious but a good sense of humor can also be observed. The story will surely make us explore the possibilities of our imagination. With Santiago’s character, we can say that everything is possible to achieve if, like Santiago, we have the guts, determination, skills, and correct attitude in facing the world’s challenges.


A code hero is not for fiction stories alone. Though the characteristics of a code hero could be very idealistic, Hemmingway might want to impart the readers that problems are natural part of our lives. How we react to problems will determine our capacity to solve them. Santiago’s character is a good model for us. Let’s imitate his attitudes. Let’s apply his determination to win the battle to our own struggles in lives. Aside from correct attitude, let’s also adopt Santiago’s appreciative attitude.

The Old Man and the Sea shows that no limitations can hinder a man who has clear vision and purpose for his life. This story is about bravery amidst difficult and challenging situations. Not so much different from what we are currently facing. The difference relies on how we face the problem.

Works Cited

“Characteristics of Hemmingway’s Code Hero.” (2006). Millikin University Home Page. Retrieved June 19, 2008,

Corbett, Bob. (2006). “The Old Man and the Sea.” Webster. Retrieved June 19, 2008,

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