The Old Man and the Sea

By ernest hemingway.

'The Old Man and the Sea' is often considered to be Ernest Hemingway's finest work and one of the most important books of 20th century American literature.

Emma Baldwin

Article written by Emma Baldwin

B.A. in English, B.F.A. in Fine Art, and B.A. in Art Histories from East Carolina University.

Hemingway’s unique style of writing is exemplified through short, concise sentences and a factual approach to the events he portrays. Within the novella, a reader will come across complex themes of strength and perseverance, as well as symbols of perfection and age which are all addressed directly.

The Old Man and the Sea Analysis 🎣 1

The Old Man and the Sea Themes

Hardship and perseverance.

Of the variety of themes to be found in The Old Man and the Sea hardship and the perseverance needed to surmount those hardships is one of the most prominent. The majority of the novel, whether Santiago is onshore or at sea, is punctuated by struggle. It’s clear through context clues, as well as Manolin’s desire to care for the old man, that Santiago is very poor. He suffers without complaint in his poverty. It’s seen through his small shack, the bed he sleeps on, his lack of food, and in the eyes of the other fishermen.

Once he gets to sea his suffering only increases. He bears the weight of the fish as it pulls his skiff along . The line cuts into his hands and his back. His body, which was not in a good state, to begin with, is forced to contend with three days at sea without real rest or respite from the pressures the hooked marlin imposes on his body.

Suffering, at least in the snapshot the reader gets of the old man’s life, seems central. But, so is perseverance. These two themes are linked because Santiago’s perseverance is the reason he continues to wake up every day, go out to sea, and return empty-handed. Only to do it all again during his eighty-four days of bad luck. His ability to withstand pain and hardship, while keeping in mind his end goal of killing the fish, is remarkable and is one of the defining features of his personality. Plus, there is the suffering at the end of the story, after the sharks eat the much labored for marlin to contend with as well. These moments can also be connected to another theme, man vs. nature.

Another prominent theme, friendship, between human beings and amongst the wider non-human animal world spans the length of the novella. The most important human relationship is that between Santiago and his young pupil and fellow fisherman, Manolin . The boy cares deeply for Santiago, often berating himself for not doing more to take care of him. They share a passion for baseball, something that helps sustain Santiago while he’s at sea.

A reader must also consider the relationship between humans and animals. Santiago spends a great deal of time while sailing thinking about the relationship between himself and the marlin. He feels as though they are brothers, connected by their mutual existence on earth and desire to survive. In fact, the old man feels as though he is the brother of every living thing on the planet and shows the utmost respect for the lives he encounters.

Memory, and the power it has over the present and future, is important in The Old Man and the Sea . While Santiago navigates the Gulf of Mexico he often becomes distracted by thoughts of the past. He can recall the strong young man he used to be and believes that some of that strength should still exist inside him. There are moving moments in the novella when Santiago thinks back to one specific memory that doesn’t seem to fade. He recalls the time he spent on a turtle fishing boat along the coast of Africa. While there, he saw lions playing on the beach. He isn’t sure why, but this image continues to come to mind. In fact, it ends the novel.

Analysis of Key Moments in The Old Man and the Sea

  • The novel opens, the reader learns that Santiago hasn’t caught a fish in eighty-four days.
  • Santiago spends time with Manolin, their relationship is defined.
  • He heads out to fish the next morning, prepared to go to a distant spot.
  • The old man considers his relationship with the natural world and thinks about the past.
  • He gets a fish on his line but isn’t sure how large it is.
  • Santiago commits to catching this fish, coming to the understanding that it’s enormous. He wills it to jump and show itself.
  • The old man catches a dolphin and eats.
  • After a prolonged battle, he kills the fish with his harpoon and ties it to the side of the skiff.
  • Sharks descend on the vessel, he kills some but they take the majority of the fish.
  • He returns to land, collapses in exhaustion, and everyone marvels over the fish’s remains.
  • The novel ends with Santiago dreaming about the lions once again.

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

Hemingway was known for his concise, to-the-point style of writing. His syntax is straightforward and simple. This is mostly due to the time he spent working as a journalist. Throughout this novella, he doesn’t employ complicated metaphors or refer to things far outside the average reader’s understanding of Cuba, fishing, and the battle between life and death. He is best known for his “iceberg theory” . When reading, there is a little information on the surface, but a breadth of detail to explore beneath the waves. Hemingway described it as “seven-eighths” of the story existing below the surface.

In regards to mood, it is quite depressing and solemn. Throughout much of the novel, the frailty of life is exemplified through a very human struggle for survival that ends in defeat. The tone is less emotional. Through Hemingway’s style of writing, it comes across as factual and at times sympathetic and hopeful.

Hemingway makes use of multiple narrative perspectives in The Old Man and the Sea. The story begins with a third-person, omniscient narrator that doesn’t have access to Santiago’s thoughts. But, as the story progresses, the reader receives a third-person narration of Santiago’s state of mind and musings on the past and present. He speaks to himself, creating the majority of the dialogue in the novella.

The most prominent uses of figurative language include personification, hyperbole, as well as metaphors, and similes in which two unlike things are compared with or without using like/as. Personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. This is obvious through the way Hemingway treats the depictions of the marlin, as well as other fish and the birds in the sky. Hyperbole is an intentionally exaggerated description, comparison or exclamation meant to further the writer’s important themes, or make a specific impact on a reader.

Analysis of Symbols

The lions on the beach are a mysterious symbol in The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway does not reveal what exactly they represent but the reader can come to a few conclusions. They seem to be symbols of the past, dreams, other worlds, and harmony in nature. Santiago’s mind returns unbidden again and again to the African seashore as a place of respite. The lions represent a perfectly functioning world Santiago would like to return to.

The most obvious symbol in The Old Man and the Sea, the marlin represents the unattainable. It is Santiago’s ideal foe, one against whom he can measure himself. The fish is magnificent, enormous and seemingly one of a kind. It also represents the past and an attempt to return to previous ways of being as Santiago seeks to regain the strength of his youth.

Santiago’s left hand

His hand is a less obvious symbol, but one that connects to the larger struggle in The Old Man and the Sea. His left hand, which Santiago believes he didn’t “train” properly, “betrays” him throughout the novella. It cramps up when he needs to use it, and only comes to his aid, seemingly, when it chooses. As it weakens, along with the rest of Santiago’s body, he becomes angry, punishing it with harder tasks. It represents the fragility of old age and foreshadows disappointment and defeat.

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Emma Baldwin

About Emma Baldwin

Emma Baldwin, a graduate of East Carolina University, has a deep-rooted passion for literature. She serves as a key contributor to the Book Analysis team with years of experience.


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The Old Man and The Sea‎

Introduction the old man and the sea  ‎.

The Old Man and The Sea is a short and terse novelette by the world- famous American author, Ernest Hemingway . He wrote during his stay in Cuba in 1951. A year later, the novel was published in America , bringing a sort of revolution in the field of fiction writing. The novel comprises an aging Cuban professional fisherman who fails to fish due to his age for 84 days. However, in his last attempt, he hooks rather a giant marlin which tests his strength, resilience, expertise, and perseverance beyond his natural abilities. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize that year but went on to bring the Nobel Prize for Hemingway in 1954.

Summary of The Old Man and The Sea  ‎

The Old Man and The Sea is a heart-touching story of an experienced old angler, Santiago, who is dubbed as an unfortunate man on the Terrace where he used to stay when returned his fishing trips. It was the first time during his 84 days record of having arrived without any fish, he has been finally termed “salao” the most unlucky person. However, he is not disappointed with the fact that a young boy, Manolin, is always there to boost up his confidence who’d always say that Santiago is the best fisherman in the world. They also share their interests in baseball and the best players such as DiMaggio’s memories with each other.

On the 85 th day that Santiago leaves quite early in the morning after setting fishing gear in his skiff and goes long and deep into the Gulf Stream for fishing. After setting up various lines with proper baits, he waits for the fishes to come. By afternoon, he catches a giant marlin after seeing which he feels that it is going to test his fishing skill, stamina, and perseverance. By the evening the old man is exhausted, as the marlin does not appear on the surface. Both are hidden from each other, testing each other and trying to free from each other. Santiago believes that fate has something else for them in-store. For two days and nights , the old man continues struggling to kill the fish to haul him around to lash beside his skiff. However, he does not succeed, neither the marlin succeeds in breaking his resolve. On the final day, the marlin starts circling around the skiff after coming to the surface at which the old man becomes quite happy but is exhausted to the point of madness. He starts using his fishing tactics and finally succeeds in placing the harpoon in the heart of the marlin. However, he soon faces the dilemma of confronting the sharks, thinking they will come running amuck toward his skiff on account of the blood trail the dead marlin is leaving behind in the water.

His worst fear comes to pass as the first wave of attack comes from the mako sharks. He also sharpens his weapons and starts using a harpoon to kill them. Soon he succeeds in slashing five of them but many others are on the way. The fight continues until the sharks have devoured almost half of the marlin but the old man does not lose his heart and strength. He continues fighting until he reaches the shore. However, when he reaches the coast, he sees that only the skeleton of the marlin with its head and tail. Santiago, however, has uttered the most memorable sentences during his fight that a man can be defeated but not destroyed and he has shown it through his stamina and prolonged fight with such a giant marlin. Soon he falls upon his bed after reaching his hut and goes to sleep.

When the day breaks, other fishermen gather around his boat to see the giant skeleton. At first, they do not believe Santiago would have caught. Pedrico, a local, gets the head of the fish, while other fishermen feel sorry for the old man for having lost such a great prize. However, the boy only cries for the old man for having exhausted himself without getting that prize home. Finally, Santiago dreams of baseball as well as African beaches with lions while he is asleep in his hut.

Major Themes in The Old Man and The Sea  ‎

  • Perseverance: Perseverance is the major theme of the novel. In spite of the old age, Santiago prepares to fight the giant marlin. He eventually succeeds in catching the fish and also kills and hauls it to the seashore. Above all, he shows his perseverance against the heavy odds of the sharks among which he kills many while they tear most of the marlin’s flesh. Despite this, he continues fighting them until he brings the skeleton of the marlin to the shore.
  • Suffering: The Old Man and the Sea story also shows the sufferings a man can go through. Santiago couldn’t keep himself awake for three days and three nights and then continue fighting a giant fish. He proved that he could suffer without regret for that great prize. The sufferings of Santiago show his power of endurance and his perseverance, the reason that it is the central idea of the novel.
  • Strength and Skill: The story encourages the readers to be courageous through the character of Santiago and Manolin. Strength is not enough for fishing but one must be skillful. Any other person having less experience than the old man in the face of such a giant marlin would have cut down his line to let the fish go. However, the old man has skills as Manolin testifies that other fishermen have guts and strength but not the required skills.
  • Pride: The novel shows pride through the old man, Santiago. However, it does not stay until a backup is there, which in the case of Santiago is the boy, Manolin. He constantly reminds Santiago that he is the best fisherman in the world in terms of skills, and he feels pride at it. Therefore, when he comes to the shore even with a skeleton, he is proud that his teacher has demonstrated excellence in his skills.
  • Memory and Past: Memory and past stayed fresh with Santiago. He has a picture of his wife in his shack that is a relic of the past. He also remembers his exploits of the past in the hand-fighting game and fishing including his visits to the African beaches. These memories of the past continue to rejuvenate his spirits during his tough times with the marlin.
  • Defeat: Defeat is another theme of the novel. The character of Santiago experiences defeated in form of delay and also loss of his prized hunt, marlin. However, the defeat only leads to hope and determination. The old man refuses to accept defeat as he demonstrates in the face of the marlin, saying that a man can be destroyed but not defeated.
  • Respect: The old man, Santiago, comes to know through fishing in the expanse of the sea that if there is respect in profession and skill, then its execution becomes an enjoyment as well as satisfaction. The old man clearly states that he respects the fish but he will have to kill it as it is his profession.
  • Luck: The novel shows the role of luck in a person’s life. However, the old man, Santiago, defies the traditional notions about luck, saying that it is better to be exact then lucky, for when luck comes, a person is ready to grab it at that moment.
  • Friendship: The novel also shows the theme of friendship through Manolin and Santiago, as other fishermen only talk about the old man and his bad luck. It shows that he has not a permanent friend which often happens in the case of professionals.

Major Characters in The Old Man and The Sea  ‎

  • Santiago : Santiago is the main character of The Old Man and the Sea. He is quite an old man, having no living family members. There is only a picture of his wife in his shack that he keeps recalling his past. The old man only depends on the boy, Manolin, for his little needs. When he is unable to catch a fish for 84 days, the other fishermen terms him a “salao.” However, he does not lose heart, as his only disciple has a blind trust in his fishing skills which proves true when he hooks a giant marlin and brings its skeleton to the seashore after spending three days in the sea. This battle with the marlin in the open sea for three days tests the old man, his mettle, his perseverance, his stamina, and also his attitude and sanity in the solitude.
  • Manolin: He is a young boy from the same village. He has been going fishing and other errands with Santiago since he was five. Therefore, his association and love for the old man are genuine, for he is his disciple having blind faith in his skills and abilities. Although his parents have asked him to go with other fishermen, he still comes to Santiago to boost him up and help him in setting up his mast and baits.
  • Martin: Martin is the owner of the place where the Terrace is located. The fishermen stay on this Terrace and take food and drink from his shop. The old man also gets things from his shop, as Manolin brings him a coffee at the end.
  • Rogelio : Although he does not formally appear in the novel, Santiago and Manolin often discuss him with reference to his fishing net.
  • Perico: He also does not formally appear in the novel, nor does he talk to the old man. However, Manolin talks about him that he can bring a newspaper from Perico for Santiago. Therefore, his role is limited to facilitating the old man.
  • Marlin: This giant fish is another active character of the novel that he appears at the point where the old man is about to lose his heart. He proves that the old man is not only lucky but also exact and that he has also faith in his abilities. He also tests the old man beyond his endurance, making him almost dead tired by the end of the exhaustive three-day long struggle. In the end, he is only reduced to a skeleton by the sharks. However, he redeems the old man’s reputation at the Terrace and in the community .
  • Mako Sharks: These are a type of shark. They are important in that they appear in hordes and prove voracious when it comes to taking a bite of the marlin. Although Santiago kills many of them, they take away the major chunk of its meat, leaving only the skeleton for the old man.
  • Galanos: These are also sharks, but different from Mako, though, they also demonstrate the same ferocity when attacking the marlin.
  • Pedrico: Pedrico is the colleague of Santiago. He takes care of his gear and fishing net during his absence.
  • The Tourists: They appear by the end of the novel where they come to see the skeleton of the marlin. They are amazed to see such a huge marlin when a person tells them about having seen this size for the first time.

Writing Style of The Old Man and The Sea  ‎ ‎

Ernest Hemingway ’s writing style in The Old Man and the Sea is direct and concise. He has given a realistic description of the old man, Santiago, and his three-day struggle against the marlin in the vast Gulf of Mexico. Using less figurative language to save words to show the real face of the old man, Hemingway captures the essence of struggles and presents them to the reader. In fact, this simple writing technique shows minimum details of the characters and their achievements, but it is very deceptive in hiding the actual meanings. It does not appear ironizing characters, places, fate, or even the divine power, yet it says many things all together.

Analysis of Literary Devices in The Old Man and The Sea  ‎

  • Action: The main action of the novel comprises the old man, the demonstration of his fishing skills, his perseverance, his endurance, and his ethos in the face of his enemy as well as his friend, the marlin. The rising action occurs when Santiago succeeds in hooking the fish and killing it, but the falling action occurs when the sharks attack and the old man loses most of the marlin’s flesh.
  • Allegory : The Old Man and the Sea is an allegorical novel that shows the morality and religiosity of the ideas through the character of Santiago, who undergoes suffering to achieve his goal of catching a fish. Although the goal is lost, the moral reverberates in it that a man must not face or embrace defeat even if he faces elimination, as the old man says, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
  • Antagonist : Although it seems that the marlin is the main antagonist of The Old Man and the Sea, as the old man and the marlin are pitted against each other, yet the old man calls him a friend. Therefore, sharks are the main antagonists as they block the old man and robs him of his prize catch after 3 days’ fight.
  • Allusion : There are various examples of allusions given in the novel, The Old Man and the Sea . Santiago alludes to the figure of Jesus when he erupts the world “ay” which has no translation in emotional language. The second allusion is to DiMaggio, the baseball player, who suffers from bone spurs and has been battling this in the field. The old man thinks that he is a la the Great DiMaggio as both are nearing retirement and both have handicaps.
  • Conflict : There are two major conflicts in the novel, The Old Man The Sea . The first one is the external conflict between Santiago and the marlin. The internal conflict goes in Santiago’s mind about his perseverance and his past.
  • Characters: The Old Man and the Sea presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The old man, Santiago, is a dynamic character . He not only sees the marlin as a friend but also as a foe. He goes through a struggle of catching the fish and mental conflict of thinking that he is standing on the higher ground than the marlin, for he can think and is determined to do, while the marlin cannot think. The marlin is also a static character that makes the old man reflect about it, about self, and about nature.
  • Climax : The climatic takes place when the marlin circles the skiff, making the old man think that as he is already exhausted, he musters up the last iota of his left strength and stabs the fish with his harpoon, leading to the anti- climax of his struggle to save the prize from the sharks.
  • Foreshadowing : The first example of foreshadowing in the novel occurs when Santiago demonstrates his resolve that he is not going to stop fishing come what may and second that he is sailing out to the parts of the gulf other fishermen never dared to. This foreshadows that he is going to do some unusual and different.
  • Hyperbole : Hyperbole or exaggeration occurs when Manolin makes the old man feel that he is the greatest fisherman, though, there is no evidence that Santiago is the greatest fisherman in that area, yet he says that “the best fisherman is you.” This is a good use of hyperbole .

i. The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert. ii. “I can remember the tail slapping and banging and the thwart breaking and the noise of the clubbing. I can remember you throwing me into the bow where the wet coiled lines were and feeling the whole boat shiver and the noise of you clubbing him like chopping a tree down and the sweet blood smell all over me.”

In the first example, the old man has been shown through the images of sight and touch, while the second paragraph displays the use of the senses of hearing, smell, and touch.

i. The Gulf Stream and the sea are the metaphor of natural aspects of man’s life. ii. The lions that the old man sees on the African beaches are the metaphors of vigor and vitality. iii. DiMaggio is the metaphor of victory and retirement.

  • Mood : The novel, The Old Man and the Sea, shows a serious mood in the beginning but it suddenly charges up when the old man catches the marlin and continues to be fast until the old man kills the marlin and fights the invading sharks. When the last shark is killed and the old man reaches the seashore, the mood shifts to calm and peace.
  • Motif : Most important motifs of the novel, The Old Man and The Sea, are life and death and the religious allegorical symbols such as the crucifixion imagery .
  • Narrator : The novel, The Old Man and The Sea, is narrated by a third-person narrator . It is also called an omniscient narrator who happens to be the author himself as he can see things from all perspectives . Here, Hemingway is the narrator.
  • Personification : Personification means to attribute human acts and emotions to non-living objects such as Santiago talks about the Sargasso island where there is weed “that heaved and swung in ‎the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket.” It shows that the sea and the weed have human emotions.
  • Protagonist : Santiago is the protagonist of the novel. He starts the novel and captures the interest of the readers until the last page. Santiago heads to a life-challenging quest after 84 days of no success. He catches a marlin in a great battle and for 3 days, he struggles to get the great fish to the shore. Sadly, the sharks eat marlin’s flesh. He returns with the skeleton but earns the respect, he thought he lost, in his community.
  • Paradox : The Old Man and the Sea shows the use of paradox in its most famous sentence of the old man when he says, “Fishing kills as if keeps me alive.” The statement shows that keeping alive and killing are two contradictory ideas put into the same statement. Fishing is going to kill him as it is quite hard at this age and it is going to keep him alive as he has no other means of livelihood.

i. Where did you wash? the boy thought. The village water supply was two streets down the road. I must have water here for him, the boy thought, and soap and a good towel. Why am I so thoughtless?

This example shows the use of two rhetorical questions posed by Manolin. He himself is supposed to answer these questions.

  • Theme : A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel, The Old Man and The Sea , not only shows man’s love for nature, but also his endurance, his perseverance and his steadfastness against odds.
  • Setting : The setting of the novel, The Old Man and the Sea , is the sea and the coastal area along with the Terrace where all the fishermen of the area have their coffees and meals.

i. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat. ii. The old man “had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert.” iii. The clouds over the land now rose like mountains and the coast was only a long green line with the gray blue hills behind it.

The first simile compares the sail to a patchwork, the second man’s creases to a desert, and the third is the clouds to mountains.

  • Symbol : The Old Man and The Sean shows that the marlin is the symbol of one’s passion for achieving a goal, while lions are the symbol of strength. On the other hand, sharks demonstrate the destructive laws of nature.

i. “What’s that?” she asked a waiter and pointed to the long backbone of the great fish that was now just garbage waiting to go out with the tide. ii. “Tiburon,” the waiter said. “Shark.” He was meaning to explain what had happened.

The passage shows the irony that what others are thinking the great feat is actually nothing as Santiago has to go fishing the next day, the same ordinary routine of fishing every day for livelihood.

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  • The Old Man and the Sea

Read our complete notes on the novel The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway. Our notes cover The Old Man and the Sea summary and analysis.


The Old Man and the sea, published in 1952 is a novella written by renowned novelist Ernest Hemingway. The novel wins the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for fiction. This novel was Hemingway’s last major work of fiction. The plot of the novel revolves around an old fisherman who engages himself in a heroic encounter to hook a giant fish, marlin.

The central character of the novel is an old fisherman, named Santiago, who fishes alone in the sea. Initially, he was joined by a young boy who comes to him to learn fishing. Being unable to catch the fish, Santiago asks him to join the lucky boat. The old man went eight-four days without catching a single fish. The plot of the story moves with the old man catching a great marlin and his heroic encounter with sharks. His strong determination and sportsman spirit never allow him to move to other remote places.

The Old Man and the Sea Summary

The Novel, The Old man and the Sea open with an old fisherman named Santiago, who for eighty-four days has not trapped a single fish. A young boy, Manolin, at first shared with him the bad fortune, however, after forty days the boy’s father asks his son to join another boat. Since then, Santiago sails alone. On daily basis, Santiago clamors his net in the stream of big fishes but is unable to catch single and returns empty-handed every evening.

Manolin loves Santiago and pities his state. When the boy has no money with him, he either begs or snips just that Santiago has sufficient to eat. Though the old man has accepted his kindness but misinterprets it with his humility that illustrates his pride nature. During their dinner, they either talk about the luckier time during which they would catch the fish or about the American baseball plus the great Joe DiMaggio. Alone in his hut, at night, the old man dreams of beaches of Africa, where he had sailed ships a few years back and lions over there. His dead wife no longer comes in his dreams.

On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago clamors out of the port in the calm and cool dark before dawning. When parting the aroma of land after him, he arranges his lines. He has two fresh tunas of his baits that was given by the young boy. Along with it, he has sardines as well to cover his hooks. Into the deep dark water, the lines descend straight down. Towards the only low green line on the sea, Santiago sees other boats soon as the sun rises. A flying man-of-war bird signals him the location of the dolphins chasing the school of fish, however, the school is far away and is too fast. The birds encircle again and the old man sees tuna jumping in the sunlight. A trifling one grosses the knob on his harsh line. Carrying the trembling fish onboard, the old man contemplates it a good portent.

A marlin begins gnawing at the bait toward noon, which is almost one hundred measures down. The old man slightly plays the fish that is a really big one, as known through the weight in the line. Finally, he attacks to settle down the hook. However, the fish does not come on the surface, instead starts hauling towards the northwest. Santiago stretches the line across his shoulder and supports himself. He, being a skilled fisherman and knows many tricks, waits patiently so that the fish exhaust.

After the sunset, the cold increases and the old man starts shivering. He suddenly feels that something has taken one of the remaining baits with him and immediately cuts the line with his sheath knife. The fish suddenly starts motions due to which Santiago is pushed towards it, and his check is cut. His left hand becomes rigid and cramped by down. The fish again starts motion towards northward and now his right hand is cut by the strong pull online. He is now hungry and cut some strips from the tuna and gnaws them, waiting to get warmed by the sun relax his cut fingers.

In the morning, the fish jumps. Santiago, seeing it jump, acknowledges that he has captured the biggest fish ever. The fish goes inside water and turns in the east direction. In the hot afternoon, he sparingly drinks water from the bottle. Meanwhile, an airplane buzzes above his head on the way to Miami. In order to forget his cut hand and hurting back, he tries to remember the scene when men mischievously called him El Campeón and he started a fight with them at Cienfuegos in the tavern.

Santiago rebated the hook and close to nightfall, a dolphin took the hook. He carefully lifts the fish on board so that he does not jolt the line. After taking some rest, he slices the dolphin and cut its bone. He also keeps the two fishes that he discovers in its jaws. He sleeps that night, however, is awakened by the movement of lines in his fingers as the dolphin moves. He tries to fatigue the dolphin by feeding the line slowly. Soon when fish slows down its movement, Santiago washes his hands and eats one on the flying fish that he caught in the dolphin’s jaw. He is very tired and gets faint while bringing the big fish nearer. When he is completely exhausted, he drives his harpoon. The fish is almost two feet longer than his boat. In Havana harbor, no one has ever experienced such a big catch. While setting his course towards the southwest, he thinks of the fortune that the fish will make.

Just an hour later, Santiago witness the first sharks that violently comes towards the dead dolphin with its raking teeth. Fearing his failing fortune, the old man hits the shark with his harpoon. Leaving the dolphin bloody and injured, the sharks roll down and sinks in the water taking the harpoon with it. The old man knows that the smell with spread inviting may predators. He soon watches two sharks approaching towards the dolphin. He hits one with the knife while the other sinks down into the deep water. One after the other shark attacks the dolphin. The old man, fighting with all, is now very tired and fears that sharks will eat all the dolphin, leaving a skeleton for him.

When the old man goes in a boat to the coast, all the lights are gone. In the dark, Santiago only manages to understand the backbone and the tail of the fish. He starts pushing the fish and the boat. Once he falls down due the weight, however, lays tolerantly till he can collect some courage and strength. In the shelter, he immediately goes to sleep after falling in his bed.

Later that morning, the boy discovers him while the other fishermen are gathered around the skiff wondering at the giant dolphin that is eighteen foot long. Manolin brings Santiago a hot coffee while he wakes up. Santiago offers the boy the spear in the fish. Manolin asks him to have some rest so that he can make himself appropriate for the coming days in which they will sail together. While the old man sleeps all that afternoon, dreaming of lions, the boy sits beside him.

The Old Man and the Sea Characters Analysis

He is an old fisherman, the protagonist of the novel, belongs to Cuban. He is a humble, modest man who adores and respect the sea and spent all his life near the sea. Initially, a young boy accompanies him in his search for the great marlin, dolphin. But after forty days, he fishes alone in the sea.

The old man patience is rewarded after a long eight-four days without catching a single fish. He catches a huge marlin of eighteen foot long from head to tail but then again engages in a three-day struggle to place it in a right place.

In his encounter with the marlin, the old man starts recognizing himself and identify himself with the fish. He feels a sense of brotherhood with it and guilty for the idea of killing it. The action of the story suffuses through this feeling of unity and interdependence between the fish and the old man. Through the novel, the heroic individualism of the old and his love for the other creatures around him is quite evident.

He after catching it completely, attaches it with his boat, however, the sharks, one after another, attacks it. The old man’s next encounter the sharks proves to be impossible to win and Santiago is only left with the skeleton of the marlin that is insignificant but a sign or his victory. Santiago forces himself to both the physical and mental survival in a struggle with the great dolphin. Santiago, a man having innate intelligence and a sturdy will for survival, accepts tragedy with great self-effacement and dignity.

He is a young boy, who lives in Cuban. He learns to fish from Santiago, the old man. He would fish with the Santiago and became his fishing partner till his father stops him. With the passage of time, the young boy becomes the closest and the most devoted friend of the old man and the old man turns out to be his ancillary father.

Manolin is so attached and devoted to Santiago that he often steals and begs for the old man food. Moreover, for the old man, he also discovers the fresh bait. The old man and the young boy talks about fishing, American baseball, and many other things when they are together. In their discussions, the old man, Santiago, often wishes to teach Manolin mental and physical survival, about the sportsman spirit and about being a victor.

It is the eighteen-foot long fish that weighs more than a thousand pounds. It is the largest fish that is ever caught in the Gulf Stream. Marlin, to Santiago, is a mixture of unbelievable beauty and lethal strength. Both Santiago and the marlin are identical in the war against nature and both of them emerges as heroes.

He is the processor of the Terrace who gives food to the young boy, Manolin, to give it to Santiago.

He is a fisherman to whom the old man, Santiago, gives the big fish’s head so that he can use it in his fishing for trapping.

He is a young little boy who on one occasion facilitated Santiago with his fish nets.

Themes in The Old Man and the Sea

From the start novel, Santiago, the central character of the novel and the protagonist, is characterized by someone who is struggling against his fortune. Initially, he is struggling against his defeat: he hasn’t caught a single fish since eighty-four days and soon is going to pass his own personal best of eighty-seven days.

Moreover, the sail of his boat identifies the “flag” of enduring defeat. However, the old man, having a strong will, at every turn rejects defeat. He decides to sail in that part where the largest fish are found. He hooked the marlin and encounters sharks for the next three days before landing the fish. He wards off sharks from his hooked marlin, although he knows that it is worthless.

  As Santiago sympathizes against the sea creature, various readers also read the novel form as an account of an old man’s battle against the natural world. However, more accurately, the story of the novel is “the place of man in nature”. Santiago and marlin, both, presents the characteristics of honor, pride, and bravery.

Both of them are subjected to everlasting law: kill or be killed. Santiago reflects the idea of predators when he watches the exhausted tired warbler’s fly towards shore, where he will fall prey to the hawk and will be killed. He illustrates the idea of the world filled with predators that will one day lead to death despite the inevitable struggle. Hemingway, through Santiago, reflects the idea of the unconquerable will of the man. According to him, a man can be devastated but not overwhelmed. Death, to him, is inevitable, however, the best of man lies in his refusal to give into its power.

The novel proposes that it is conceivable to exceed this expected regulation. Indeed, the actual certainty of obliteration generates the standings that permit a well-intentioned man or beast to exceed it. It is indeed over the determination to fight the unavoidable that a man is able to attest himself. In fact, the worthiness of the opponent that a man chooses can attest his determination to fight over and over again.

Marlin, to Santiago, is worthy to fight with. The way he admires and adores his opponents brings respect into a reckoning with death. Even if they are destroyed, they are not humiliated, but their destruction brings honor and courage that proves and assures the old man’s heroic characteristics. The protagonist of the novel, though is destroyed, at the end of the novel, however, is not defeated. His struggle doesn’t make him change the place is worth, rather provide him a more honorable fortune.

Pride: the Source of Greatness and Determination:

The novel,  The Old Man and the Sea , resembles mostly to the classical tragedies. Many characteristics parallels between the protagonist and the classical heroes.

Many resembling qualities occur among  Santiago and the classic heroes of the ancient world. Besides displaying enormous power, valor, and ethical conviction, they also have a tragic flaw. Though this quality is usually admirable, however, leads to the downfall of the character. Santiago is strongly aware of his tragic flaw-pride. The old man, time and again, apologizes from the marlin, when sharks destroyed it. He concedes that he ruined both, the marlin and himself, sailing beyond his limit.

Being a skillful fisherman, though it is true that it is an insult to the pride of the old man to live eighty-four days without a single catch. The novelist, Hemingway, doesn’t convict his protagonist for his flaw, however, he presents him the evidence that pride inspires greatness in men. Since Santiago recognizes that he murder the enormous marlin mainly out of pride plus as his detention of the marlin hints in a chance to his valiant perfection of downfall, pride turn out to be the foundation of Santiago’s utmost asset. Deprived of a vicious intellect of pride, that combat would never have tussled, or further, it would have been reckless before the end.

The old man’s pride also encourages his craving to excel in the damaging forces of nature. The old man, throughout the novel, struggles and determines to bring the great marlin to the shore. He encounters the sharks, however, was only left with the skeleton. He even didn’t abandon the skeleton, but bring it with him to his shelter as an award or trophy. The splendor and integrity the old man accumulates originate not from his fight itself yet from his pride and willpower to combat.

The Old Man and the Sea Literary Analysis

The Old Man and the Sea  is a short novel and unlike other novels, it is not divided into chapters. Nevertheless, it is not suitable to call it a short story with 27,500 words approximately. Determinations to fragment it into identifiably distinct portions are disorganized at greatest since its action transfers laterally a timeline of sunrise, midday, dusk, nighttime, and dawning that is then and there reiterated, plus through slight recollecting by the character and no interruptions by the novelist.

The action of the novel is subjective, however, it is divided into various parts: the introduction, three melodramatic segments, denouement, and coda. The readers, in the introductory part, learn about the first forty days of the old man’s fishing aided by the young boy in the Gulf Stream.

After forty days, the old man fished alone. He went fishing for eighty-four day without catching a single fish. In the first, the real action of the story begins on the eighty-fifth day when he hooked a giant male marlin. Part two of the novel deals with the efforts of Santiago with the strong fish that tows him northwest into night and more.

The subsequent afternoon, Santiago first sees his victim when the fish unexpectedly surfaces. It tows the old him through the second night. The old man hands are cut and back is stressed, still, he efforts to catch the fish completely. Part three of the novel deal with Santiago’s encounter with sharks.

A number of sharks attacks and devour parts of the marlin. Santiago fights with all the sharks however, at the end left with the skeleton of the marlin that he brings to the shore. He was very tired and fell asleep soon after falling into his bed. In the last part, the coda Manolin brings him coffee and both of them resolute to fish again.

In the novel, Santiago is the only central character of the novel whose words and thoughts are often recorded. His words are often put into quotation marks when he speaks loudly with himself, and sometimes, Santiago’s thoughts are recorded without the use of quotation marks. The pronouns “I” and “he” are used without obvious discrepancy.

The novel  The Old Man and the Sea  shows faithfulness to the classical unity of time, place, and action that is with a discrete start, extended middle, and termination. The plot includes three days and nights that mostly occurs on the sea and illustrates one series of events. The events are interwoven with clever prophecy, mainly done through Santiago’s recurrent exhortation of going out too distant, his often calling his excavation his “brother,” his views about baseball and his envisaging about spirited lions that he saw years before on African seashores.

We see Manolin in the first part of the novel and in the last part. Hence, the novel or novella has a masterpiece form, with Manolin founding the little first and third subjects and an old man pitted in contrast to the sea and its mortals as the further extravagant subsequent subject.

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The Old Man and the Sea Essays

Hemingway’s fight with old age jessie yu, the old man and the sea.

The Old Man and the Sea is a novella that “should be read easily and simply and seem short,” Hemingway writes in a letter to his friend Charles Scribner, “yet have all the dimensions of the visible world and the world of a man’s spirit” (738).

A Different Outlook on Christian Symbolism in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea Ashley Elizabeth Harrison College

A Different Outlook on Christian Symbolism in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

The ideas revolving around Christian symbolism in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea have run rampant ever since the novella was first published in 1952...

Santiago: Transcending Heroism Elaina Smith 11th Grade

In Ernest Hemingway’s work of literary brilliance, The Old Man and The Sea, Santiago finds himself pitted against a beauty of nature – a beast in the eyes of man. At first glancetranscending thetask of slaying the marlin is what makes Santiago a...

Chasing Fish: Comparing The Ultimate Goals Found in "The Old Man and The Sea" And "Dances with Wolves" Haley Parson 11th Grade

We are all chasing our own fish. We're all trying desperately to grasp something that is just out of our reach. For Santiago, the main character in Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea , he is chasing a literal fish. He exhibits exceptional amounts...

Hemingway the Absurdist Paul Patterson College

Hemingway’s beliefs are generally understood to be existential. This is a largely accurate generalization, but Hemingway’s writings lean toward a more pessimistic view of existentialism than that of his peers. His novels and short stories do not...

Nature in The Old Man and the Sea: From Transcendentalism to Hemingway's Modernism Nathan Young College

Thoreau writes that “This curious world we more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.” This seems to be a philosophy that Hemingway’s character, Santiago, would adopt....

Christian Symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea Anonymous College

“But man is not made for defeat…A man can be defeated but not destroyed”. These eternal lines from Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea reflect the strong Christian motif of hope and resurrection that is present as a strong undertone in the...

Pride: A Virtue or a Curse? Anonymous 10th Grade

Though pride can have a negative connotation and is often thought of as a synonym for being full of one’s self, it can also be an honest and healthy feeling of genuine satisfaction with one’s own achievements. In other instances, pride can also...

Vivid Description Used in The Old Man and the Sea Anonymous 11th Grade

Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and The Sea" is undoubtedly a truly brilliant classic story. One writing technique that Ernest Hemingway used extremely well in this book is a vivid description. Because the bulk of the story takes on a small skiff...

Liminal Figures in Shaw and Hemingway Anonymous College

Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession both follow characters who are portrayed as existing on the limits of their respective societies. Santiago and Mrs. Warren both maintain their fringe positions...

the old man and the sea analysis essay

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The Old Man and the Sea Literary Analysis

Ernest Hemingway

The novel Old Man and the Sea was written in 1951 by Ernest Miller Hemingway. It is considered one of his most famous works and his last creative writing work during his life. The book tells the story of an old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, and his symbolic and actual altercation on high seas with an enormous marlin he had caught. He follows the Gulf Stream far from home and captures the huge marlin. Storms, sharks, and fatigue make it difficult for him to go back home. Hemingway’s metaphors clarify why Santiago never gave up, despite a deceitful journey that almost killed him. These metaphors help the readers to appreciate human nature. They are used to represent life and to portray the role that individuals play in it.The sea and the Gulf Stream are images of the powerful, impulsive aspects of nature. The Gulf Stream takes Santiago far from home, allowing him to make contact with the marlin and ultimately capture it. Santiago has huge respect for the sea, as it leads him to the marlin.The sail on Santiago’s old fishing boat is a symbol of suffering, aging, and defeat. The sail was patched with sacks and, furl. As a result, it looked worn and torn from age and use. Other fishermen seem to consider Santiago himself as a walking symbol of permanent defeat, as he does not catch a fish for several days. The sail still carries out its function, carrying Santiago out into the deepest water where his large marlin awaits. Likewise, the old Santiago proves himself when the time comes, giving a lasting impression of endurance. The scars on his hands are introduced in an opening description of Santiago. His hands had the deep-creased scars from handling massive fish on the cords. But none of the scars were fresh. Later, during his encounter with the fish, the line cuts his right hand when the marlin lurch. Santiago understands, what the fish was feeling and says that God knows he does. As his hand cramps, and he begins to worry about the possibility of sharks, the old man’s suffering is evident. This image of Santiago’s bleeding hands, together with his plight at sea, reminds the readers about the image of Jesus Christ’s hands bloodied by the nails used to crucify him. Correctly, it is when the boy saw

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the old man and the sea analysis essay

The Old Man and the Sea

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The Old Man and the Sea Full Book Summary

This essay about Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” explores its enduring significance and themes of resilience, dignity, and personal conquest. It delves into the narrative’s key moments, such as Santiago’s epic battle with a marlin, his reflections on life, and his triumphant return home. Through Hemingway’s terse prose, the novella vividly portrays the interplay between man and nature and the profound insights gained from adversity. The essay highlights how “The Old Man and the Sea” transcends a simple fisherman’s tale to become a profound exploration of human fortitude and the essence of existence.

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Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece, “The Old Man and the Sea,” endures as a quintessential gem in American literary annals, capturing the monumental clash between a weathered, elderly fisherman and a formidable marlin. Hemingway’s succinct yet potent novella garners acclaim not solely for its straightforward narration but also for its profound allegorical layers and themes of resilience, dignity, and personal conquest. This treatise offers an intricate summation of the tome, delving into its pivotal junctures and the profound doctrines encapsulated in Hemingway’s characteristic terse prose.

The narrative orbits around Santiago, an aged Cuban fisherman who has endured eighty-four days of fruitless fishing, deemed “salao,” the epitome of ill fortune in angling folklore. His youthful apprentice, Manolin, has been prohibited by his progenitors from accompanying the old man due to this streak of misfortune and has been directed to join a more prosperous vessel. Nevertheless, Manolin retains a profound affection for Santiago, assisting him in ferrying his paraphernalia to his vessel each dawn and engaging in discourse about American baseball—particularly their idol, Joe DiMaggio.

On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago embarks solo, venturing deeper into the Gulf Stream than customary, buoyed by hopes of breaking his streak of misfortune. Here, he ensnares a colossal marlin, acknowledging it as his most formidable adversary and comrade. The marlin proves indomitable and resolute, dragging Santiago’s skiff for two days. Amidst this trial, Santiago harbors a profound admiration for the marlin’s vigor and nobility, deeming it a worthy adversary. He reflects on his past, his ardor for baseball, his youth, and the lions he once beheld on the African shores in his reveries.

As Santiago grapples with the marlin, he contends not solely with the fish but also with his weariness and physical limitations. The marlin, too, engages in a valiant struggle, epitomizing the reverence for nature central to the novella’s themes. Hemingway vividly delineates the interplay between man and nature, the reverence for adversaries, and the personal epiphanies derived from adversity. On the third day, Santiago ultimately draws the marlin close enough to harpoon it, securing his triumph. However, this victory exacts a steep toll. He latches the marlin to the flank of his skiff, yet en route to shore, sharks are lured by the marlin’s blood. Despite Santiago’s endeavors to repel them and his slaying of several sharks, they devour the marlin, leaving naught but its skeletal frame.

The homecoming to his hamlet is lugubrious. Santiago returns fatigued and despondent, towing the remnants of the marlin behind him. He retreats to his hovel to slumber, dreaming of his youth and the lions on the African beach, emblematic of his enduring vitality and fortitude. Meanwhile, the other fishermen, having beheld the impressive skeleton of the marlin, garner a newfound reverence for Santiago. Manolin, tearful and apprehensive upon discovering the old man unharmed, pledges to fish with him anew. They chart a course to fish together, perpetuating the cycle of mentorship and camaraderie.

“The Old Man and the Sea” transcends the mere chronicle of a fisherman and a fish. It constitutes a profound expedition into human fortitude, the battles we wage in the seclusion of our existence, and the dignity inherent in striving fervently despite often insurmountable odds. Hemingway’s austere prose and stratified metaphors weave a narrative that delves as deeply into the internal human condition as it does into external struggles. The novella, bestowed the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and hailed as a pivotal factor in Hemingway’s Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, endures as a testament to Hemingway’s acumen and his philosophical inquiry into life’s essence through literature. It beckons readers to contemplate their trials, the essence of their adversities, and the homage owed to all beings in the theater of existence.


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    The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway. The Old Man and the Sea essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. The Old Man and the Sea Material. Study Guide; Q & A; Essays; Lesson Plan; Join Now to View Premium Content

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