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The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

Isolation Theme

The old man is a character isolated from people – and in fact from the world of humans entirely – in his time on the sea. This isolation defines who he is, and emphasizes the unique nature of his character. Isolation becomes both a weakness (he suffers from loneliness), but also a necessary element to his battle with the fish. Although the old man accepts and admits help from others, it is alone that he does battle with the marlin, that he must prove himself and his capabilities.

Questions About Isolation

  1. From what and whom is the old man isolated?
  2. What is the effect of isolation on the old man? Does it help or hurt him? What does he do when isolated?
  3. For what reasons does the man believe he wants the boy to be present? For what reason(s) does he really want him present?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Isolation is a necessary element of the old man’s struggle with the marlin. Although he wishes for the boy to be present, he must do battle alone to truly prove himself.

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