The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
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Character Role Analysis

The Birds as a Reflection of the Old Man

The birds seem to come in at conveniently contemplative moments. When the old man is talking to them, we get the feeling he’s really talking about someone else – himself. He says of one bird that he won’t catch a fish, because the fish are "too big for him and they go too fast." Sounds a lot like doubts he might have about himself. When he’s feeling worn-out, he chastises a bird for being tired. "What are birds coming to?" he wonders, which could just as easily be read as, "What am I coming to?"

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