The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea Defeat Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Day.Paragraph). We artificially created chapters by defining "days," because there are no chapter breaks in The Old Man and the Sea. Here’s how we divided up the days:
- Day 1 = the start of the book until the old man falls asleep for the night
- Day 2 = begins when the old man wakes up and goes until sunrise of the next day
- Day 3 = begins at sunrise and goes until the old man dreams about the lions
- Day 4 = begins when the old man wakes and ends when the old man gets back to his shack for the night
- Day 5 = begins with the boy seeing the old man in the morning and goes until the end of the book
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat. (1.1)
The Old Man and the Sea opens with a discussion of defeat, but ends on a note of resilience.
As he watched the bird dipped again slanting his wings for the dive and then swinging them wildly and ineffectually as he followed the flying fish. The old man could see the slight bulge in the water that the big dolphin raised as they followed the escaping fish. The dolphin were cutting through the water below the flight of the fish and would be in the water, driving at speed, when the fish dropped. It is a big school of dolphin, he thought. They are widespread and the flying fish have little chance. The bird has no chance. The flying fish are too big for him and they go too fast. (2.38)
The old man’s future defeat is foreshadowed by the bird’s failure to catch a fish.
For a long time after that everyone had called him The Champion and there had been a return match in the spring. But not much money was bet and he had won it quite easily since he had broken the confidence of the negro from Cienfuegos in the first match. After that he had a few matches and then no more. He decided that he could beat anyone if he wanted to badly enough and he decided that it was bad for his right hand for fishing. He had tried a few practice matches with his left hand. But his left hand had always been a traitor and would not do what he called on it to do and he did not trust it. (3.91)
The old man separates, in his mind, his left hand from his own self, so that the hand is defeated, not him.