“A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
The quotation above deals with Santiago’s fierce fight with the sharks. The sharks prove an enemy more formidable than the marlin. However Santiago does not lose heart or experience a feeling of helplessness or despair. In fact, Santiago’s basic heroism comes out here to an even greatest extent than in the account of his struggle with the marlin. In his struggle with the marlin, he proved victorious while in his fight with the sharks he suffers a defeat. However, it is a defeat which is in no way less than a victory. In other words, Santiago remains undefeated in spite of his defeat. It also gives the readers a keener awareness of the fact that Hemingway regards moral as well as mental stamina as the most important value in life. Though Santiago has grown old and his physical stamina has declined yet his moral stamina remains strong. That is why his utterance after he has killed the first sharks which attacks his marlin acquires a great significance.
The old fisher man is Hemingway’s code hero who illustrates the values of life that Hemingway cherished and glorified all his life, such as courage, dignity, honor, dedication, endurance, etc. A man may grow old and be wholly down on his luck but can still dare, persist when he is defeated, and thus by the manner of his losing he wins a victory. Therefore it can be said that his defeat is a victory for him, and it is for this reason that Hemingway probably represents that “A Man can be destroyed but not defeated.”