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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 Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Perseverance

The old man’s battle with the fish is not only a battle of strength, but a battle of wills. The old man makes up for his old age with incredible endurance, willing to withstand hunger, physic...

Suffering

In The Old Man and the Sea, the ability to withstand physical pain is one of Santiago’s defining characteristics. Suffering is a necessary step in his battle with the fish. It adds intensity...

Strength and Skill

One interesting question in The Old Man and the Sea is whether physical strength is as important as skill and experience. The old man may, admittedly, not be as strong as in his youth, but he makes...

Pride

In The Old Man and the Sea, pride and humility are not mutually exclusive qualities. The old man is declaratively characterized as humble, yet he "suffers no loss of pride" in being so. Later, howe...

Memory and the Past

Memory is a dominant theme in The Old Man and the Sea. Because of his age, the old man can recall a strength and prowess of his youth. We at first wonder if such elements have faded from his charac...

Defeat

Is the old man defeated? This is a persistent question by the end of the story. The Old Man and the Sea asks its readers to define defeat, to struggle with what it really means to be beaten. Intere...

Isolation

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 nat...

Man and the Natural World

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 exami...

Hunger

The old man is almost superhuman in his eating patterns. He never professes hunger, despite eating very little or not at all. For him, eating is not about pleasure, but is instead a painful act tha...

Respect and Reputation

Although he does not recognize it himself, what makes the stakes of the battle with the marlin so high is the notion of respect. The old man derives respect from others with displays of strength an...

Luck

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...

Friendship

In The Old Man and the Sea, friendship is always based on mutual respect. The old man’s relationship with the boy is characterized as "love," and Manolin expresses deep admiration for the old...
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