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The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

Man and the Natural World Theme

The old man is unique in his relationship to and understanding of the natural world. He talks about the sea as though it were a woman, the birds as friends, the sharks as personal enemies. He examines the relationship between turtles and jellyfish, between fish and birds. The creatures and the natural world become a lens through which we examine the old man; they become parables and analogies that allow us to gain insight into his character. The lions function in this same way, as they have much to do with the way the old man views himself. The Old Man and the Sea also incites discussion as to the natural order of things; the old man justifies and interprets his actions and the actions of others as things that they "are born to do." We see a sense of inescapability in these ideas.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. How are things "supposed to be," according to the old man?
  2. Is the old man more at home and happier with the boy, or chilling out in his boat?
  3. How does the old man characterize the creatures he sees? What kinds of personalities does he give them? Does the fact that he does this at all make him crazy, or kind of endearing?
  4. Which animal is the old man most similar to?

Chew on This

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

The old man seems to prefer the natural world to the world of people, but his struggles with nature and creatures are only for the purpose of his status back on society.

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