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THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA

1. Brief Summary
2. Quotations with explanations


                                                        Key Facts


full title ·  The Old Man and the Sea

author · Ernest Hemingway

type of work · Novella

genre · Parable; tragedy

language · English

time and place written ·  1951, Cuba

date of first publication ·  1952

publisher · Scribner’s

narrator · The novella is narrated by an anonymous narrator.

point of view · Sometimes the narrator describes the characters and events objectively, that is, as they would appear to an outside observer. However, the narrator frequently provides details about Santiago’s inner thoughts and dreams.

tone · Despite the narrator’s journalistic, matter-of-fact tone, his reverence for Santiago and his struggle is apparent. The text affirms its hero to a degree unusual even for Hemingway.

tense · Past

setting (time) · Late 1940s

setting (place) · A small fishing village near Havana, Cuba; the waters of the Gulf of Mexico

protagonist · Santiago

major conflict · For three days, Santiago struggles against the greatest fish of his long career.

rising action · After eighty-four successive days without catching a fish, Santiago promises his former assistant, Manolin, that he will go "far out” into the ocean. The marlin takes the bait, but Santiago is unable to reel him in, which leads to a three-day struggle between the fisherman and the fish.

climax · The marlin circles the skiff while Santiago slowly reels him in. Santiago nearly passes out from exhaustion but gathers enough strength to harpoon the marlin through the heart, causing him to lurch in an almost sexual climax of vitality before dying.

falling action · Santiago sails back to shore with the marlin tied to his boat. Sharks follow the marlin’s trail of blood and destroy it. Santiago arrives home toting only the fish’s skeletal carcass. The village fishermen respect their formerly ridiculed peer, and Manolin pledges to return to fishing with Santiago. Santiago falls into a deep sleep and dreams of lions.

themes · The honor in struggle, defeat, and death; pride as the source of greatness and determination

motifs · Crucifixion imagery; life from death; the lions on the beach

symbols · The marlin; the shovel-nosed sharks

foreshadowing · Santiago’s insistence that he will sail out farther than ever before foreshadows his destruction; because the marlin is linked to Santiago, the marlin’s death foreshadows Santiago’s own destruction by the sharks.



The Old Man and the Sea is a book for everyone to sort out life problems, to find out what a man is born for, to make it clear that people are indivisible from nature. The story has got so many vital aspects that it is almost impossible to discuss all of them at once. Each of us can find something in the plot and in the idea that is to one’s liking. One of the most outstanding messages of the book is that we mustn’t give up notwithstanding any hardships or difficulties. This idea is justified through the image of an old fisherman fated to give himself a try.  

Eighty-four days without taking a fish – this is what pushes old Santiago to make sure he is still a capable fisherman. He is not desperate, he doesn’t seek for anyone’s help – now he is determined that this time he is going out to the open sea not only to have the bait rotten. His attitude to nature is really noteworthy declaring itself through the dialogs with the gigantic fish he’s taken. "Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends”. This is an evidence of Santiago’s holistic view on things. His attitude to natural objects and phenomena could be put as "Respect and Subdue”.  Though Santiago seems to be very close to nature, the main character’s isolation from other people stands out a mile. "Many of the fishermen made fun of the old man and he was not angry. Others, of the older fishermen, looked at him and were sad.” How painful it might be for him to realize he can no more enjoy universal esteem. But this is also a story about human confidence – unalterable resolve to go on living, staunch belief in one’s abilities and strength.

(by MissJane)



From the beginning of the story we see Santiago – an old fishman. He was thin and gaunt, with the brown blotches of the skin cancer, his hands had the deep-creased scars, and none of them were fresh. So we understand that he is devoted to his work, but he is too old to discharge his duties. But his eyes were not old, they were cheerful and undefeated, confident and loving, and had the same colour as the sea. We see that the only person Santiago communicated with is Manolin. Manolin was with the old man from the very childhood, he learned how to fish and moreover how to leave. He was very devoted and thankful to his teacher. Although his parents forbad him to go with Santiago in the sea, he tried to help him with other ways. Now Manolin was better fishman than Santiago, but he loved him, he said that he needed deeper knowledge, but I think that he only wanted to be with him. Manolin brought him coffee, bought him baits, worried about him, looked after him and protected from everyone. But the most important detail is that he believed in him, he agreed that Santiago was born for fishing. He saw how, in spite of all his failures, old man continued battle with the sea. But Santiago decided to go to the sea alone, he believed, that he still could fish and the sea would help him. He didn’t want anyone else to help him, because it would be an acceptance of his old age, of his loss. He had doubts that he would catch a big fish, but he was also full of resolution, he prayed, he perceived the sea as a friend, he asked it for help, he was thankful to everything, sorry for the birds that always flying and looking and always never finding. And it gave him force to continue live, achieving his goal. And when the fish was hooked by him, he was unworried, he understood that it would be difficult to take it out alone and he thought of the small boy, Africa, his youth, and these memories gave him hope, that he could overcome all the difficulties. So, although sharks ate his catch, he won.

(by Ayayulia)

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The main character is an old man Santiago? Who is absolutely poor. He tried to catch a fish that would be the biggest in the world but he wouldn't lucky in it. Every day Santiago fished alone and to my mind it was because everybody thought that he wouldn't ever catch anything. In the first forty days  a little boy fished with Santiago.  But then his parents didn’t allow it. Santiago was born in Africa and spent his childhood there. African nature would be in his memory forever and he always recollected his past in Africa.

On the one hand we see the main character weak, but on the other hand he is very strong. Of course, he is old, helpless and that makes us feel pity for him. But Santiago is very strong inside. He had a dream and he has done everything to make his dream come true. Eighty-four days without any extraction will make any person uninterested in what he/she doing. That proves that usual fisherman Santiago is a very strong person.

(by Megastarosta)


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