Old Man v. New World

In the last week or so I read both The Old Man and the Sea and A Brave New World. I was struck by the exceptionally different views of mankind each book contained.

The old man is the story of a man who has been a fisherman for all of his life. He catches swordfish. The story starts as he is nearing the end of his life. He goes out by himself and manages to hook an enormous fish. The way that he fishes if to hold the line himself, without any pole. The line runs over his shoulders and into his boat. His own strength is all the keeps the fish hooked. Over the course of days, the man stays with the fish as it fights itself out. He fights all kinds of physical ailments (cramps thirst hunger age etc.) and in the end he manages to catch and kill the fish. The fish however, is too large to fit into the old man's boat. He has no choice but to tie the fish alongside his boat and begin to row back to his port, days away. As he is rowing back, sharks get the scent of the dead swordfish and begin to attack and eat the swordfish. The old man fights off the sharks but loses the battle until all that is left if the head, tail, and skeleton. The old man finally makes it back to the port. An interesting subplot is how the other people from the old man's town respond to the old man before and after he catches the fish.

The new world is a futuristic dystopia. the story follows a man who does not fit into society because according to some he had a form of futuristic fetal alcohol syndrome. he goes to a "savage" reservation, and brings back a savage fathered by his boss. this makes him popular with society because the civilized people all want to see the savage and he is the savage's guardian. The resolution is that the head of europe sends the man to an island for discontents. This leader also reveals that he at one time did not fit into society, but chose to give up honesty for power. The savage is forced to live in society, until a mob of people beat him senseless when he tries to escape from society.

The contrast of these books is how each author views the human spirit. the old man triumphs over all obstacles, and even when he fails he manages to be triumphant and unbroken. the new world humans are nothing more than what they are conditioned to be. fleeting happiness is more important than anything else. man has no or very little choice in what he or she is. i do not think that the author of new world thought this was good, but he believed that man could become that.

This has caused me to wonder about myself, do I believe man to be a majestic and triumphant creature, or pathetic and weak? I do not know yet, but i want to believe in the old man, and not the new world.

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