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The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

Luck Theme

The Old Man and the Sea begins with a declaration that the old man is unlucky. He agrees with such an assessment, but by the end of the story the reader is left wondering what it really means to be lucky or unlucky, and whether the old man truly is salao. At one point, the old man states that, although he believes in luck, he would "rather be exact," suggesting that skill and preparedness are more important than superstition. He does still, however, base many of his decisions and actions in a persistent belief in luck.

Questions About Luck

  1. Does his belief in luck help or hurt the old man in his struggle against the fish?
  2. At what times does the old man discuss his superstitious beliefs? See any common threads here?
  3. Heads or tails?
  4. After he has caught (and lost) the huge marlin, is the old man lucky or unlucky?

Chew on This

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

While the old man is deemed and admits to being "unlucky" at the beginning of the novel, the end of his tale proves that he is neither lucky nor unlucky: luck is ultimately irrelevant in his world.

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