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The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea


by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea Theme of Strength and Skill

One interesting question in The Old Man and the Sea is whether physical strength is as important as skill and experience. That's right, it's the timeless question: Brains or brawn? 

The old man may, admittedly, not be as strong as in his youth, but he makes up for it and more with his knowledge of the sea and his fishing prowess. Which of the two ultimately prevails over the fish is open to interpretation and an interesting question to debate. In the text, we also get a glimpse of the deterioration of strength over time, and how a man who relies on strength in his profession can fight against this.

Questions About Strength and Skill

  1. What’s more important, skill and experience, or strength?
  2. The old man has both skill and strength. Right? Or not?
  3. What about the fish? Is he just dumb and strong, or is he skilled, too?
  4. Has the old man’s strength faded over time, or not? Look at the physical descriptions of his body. Also look at the huge fish he caught with his bare hands.

Chew on This

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

The old man’s strength is more valuable to him than his skill.

The old man’s skill is more valuable to him than his strength.

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