Old Man And The Sea Summary

Powerful Essays
The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

Type of Work:

Symbolic drama


North Coast of Cuba; early twentieth century

Principal Characters

Santiago, an old, weathered fisherman Manolin , a boy, Santiago's young fishing companion The Marlin, a gigantic fish

Story Overveiw

Eighty-four days had passed since Santiago, the old fisherman, had caught a fish, and he was forced to suffer not only the ridicule of younger fishermen, but

near-starvation as well. Moreover, Santiago had lost his young companion, a

boy named Manolin, whose father had ordered him to leave Santiago in order to

work with more successful seamen. But the devoted child still loved Santiago,

and each day brought food and bait to his shack, where they indulged in their

favorite pastime: talking about the American baseball leagues. The old man's

hero was the New York Yankees' Joe DiMaggio. Santiago identified with the

ballplayer's skill and discipline, and declared he would like to take the great

DiMaggio fishing some time.

After visiting one particular afternoon, the boy left Santiago, who fell asleep.

Lions immediately filled his dreams. As a boy he had sailed to Africa and had

seen lions on the beaches. Now, as an old man, he constantly dreamed of the

great and noble beasts.

He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of Great occurrences, nor

of great fish, nor fights nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only

dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach ... He loved them as he

loved the boy.

Before dawn of the next day, the fisherman, as usual, hauled his salt-encrusted

skiff onto the beach and set out by himself. But today, in hopes of breaking his

unlucky streak, he was determined to sail into deep waters, out much farther

than the other anglers would go. He followed the sea birds and flying fish; they

would tell him b y their movements where the fish congregated.

He watched the turtles swimming near his boat. He loved the turtles, "with their

elegance and speed... "

Most people are Heartless about turtles because a turtle's heart will beat for

hours after he has been cut tip and butchered. The old man thought, I have

such a heart too ...

Early on, Santiago managed to land a tenpound tuna. Thinking this a good

omen, he used the fresh meat to bait one of his lines. By n...

... middle of paper ... manly courage, endurance, and noble suffering.

In fact, the novel would be little more than an adventure story were it not for

Santiago's dialogues with himself - his repetitive and symbolic musings,

daydreams and plottings.

Unlike other fishermen, who see the ocean merely in terms of economic gain,

Santiago looks on the sea and its inhabitants with love and respect. Notably, he

prefers to call the sea "la mar," its feminine form, rather than the harsher,

masculine "el mar."

Some readers may see Christian symbolism in the story: Santiago means St.

James in Spanish; the battle with the fish lasts three days; Santiago, arriving at

the shore, carries his mast, like a cross, on his shoulders, and, like the biblical

Christ, stumbles under its load. Later, the fisherman lies down exhausted on the

floor of his hut with his arms stretched out stiffly and the palms of his hands up.

But the giant fish - representing the hopes and dreams of mankind - and the old

man's relationship with it, is what creates the extraordinary pathos of the novel.

And, in the end, even Santiago's (humankind's) modest expectations are

snatched from his grasp.
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