Santiago as a code hero in The old man and the sea


Code Hero is defined as a character who preserves honor, courage, and endurance in a life of tension and pain. He is able to live properly in a world of violence and misery. The term “Code Hero” was first coined by the scholar Phillip Young in 1966.    

According to Hemingway’s (1899-1961) code hero definition, this is a person who possesses courage and the determination to succeed. Literary experts said that Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea is the finest, most developed example of one of Hemingway’s code heroes.   

Santiago as a code hero  

Santiago displays many code hero qualities, including the four essential code qualities of honor and integrity, valiant under pressure, extreme courage, and determination to succeed.  

Honor and Integrity  

In the novella, the old man and the Sea, Santiago leads a life with honor and integrity. For this great quality, he is recognized as a code hero. He is a man who knows well how to be respected. He respects others, so he is being respected in return.   

He respected his neighbor’s decisions. He is old enough but he enjoys the company of the young boy, Manolin. Manolin also treats him as a friend. On one fishing occasion, Manolin tells Santiago,   

And the best fisherman is youNo I know others better 

This line indicates the point that Santiago is a man of honor. He is being respected not necessarily for his age and in the field of fishing, but in general life. He deserves much honor that the boy gave him. As Hemingway’s code hero in The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago struggles with the fish. He utters some realistic words that point out his level of integrity. He respects and loves, not only people but also animals. He relates,   

Fish, I love you and respect you very much…But I will kill you dead before this day ends” 

More Notes:  The Old Man and The Sea 

Brave and Valiant, under pressure   

Santiago displays his unbeatable attitude under pressure when he tries to catch the marlin and get it back to the village. It costs him his time, energy, and a good deal of patience to catch the fish. Although he finally becomes successful, it seems impossible for him to draw it into the boat. However, he does not give up. His eyes are set only on his goal. In fact, his hands and fingers ache because of his struggle to pull the Marlin. Here Santiago symbolically encourages himself with the words,  

But I must have the confidence, and I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel 

He fights to imagine a day when he will be as great as DiMaggio, who is a famous baseball champion. He is his model.  

More Notes: Ernest Hemingway

Extreme courageous   

Santiago’s extreme courage proves him as a powerful code hero. He is a man of action. Though is aged, he has shown a lot of courage. He alone fights against the great Marlin fish. He will be destroyed not defeated. So, he said while struggling to catch the Marlin,  

Fish, Ill stay with you until I am dead 

Successfully he has hooked the Marlin. Here he proved his fishing skill and his courage is really appreciated.   

More Notes: Suggestions

Determination to succeed   

Although Santiago has not caught a fish for a very long time, he sails to the sea every day and is determined to succeed in catching it. This reveals determination of Santiago. Even without making any catch, he never gives up. He is an undefeated warrior. His energy proves his determination to live not to die.  

After catching the huge marlin fish, it pulls him for three days and nights, but Santiago never let it go. When the blood of a Marlin spread on the seawater, it attracts a group of sharks. He fights to take the fish from Santiago. In response, he fights them back, killing as many of them as possible. Hemingway rightly remarks,  

a man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated 

Thus, the determination of Santiago leads him to succeed.  


Hemingway’s code Hero is always courageous and confident. He does not let his fears get to him. Hemingway’s code hero will often be placed in an encounter with death, but never defeated like Santiago. Thus, Santiago fulfills the conditions of a code hero.   

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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