Study Guide

The Old Man and the Sea Friendship

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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 man’s mad fishing skills. 

The old man also finds brotherhood with certain creatures of the sea. These types of relationship are always based on similar characteristics such as nobility or determination. 

Lastly, the text draws no distinction between friend and enemy. In fact, the two are repeatedly associated. That's right, we're talking about the classic frenemy. Just like Paris and Nicole, the marlin is the old man’s friend and enemy, as is the black man in Casablanca. The two roles are tied together, again, with the idea of respect. Sing it, Aretha

Questions About Friendship

  1. What is the basis of the old man’s friendship with the boy? How does their relationship function? Who helps whom?
  2. Why does the old man identify the fish as both a brother and an enemy? How is this possible?
  3. The old man identifies kinship with lots of creatures, but few or no men. What’s up with that?
  4. What’s the effect of the old man’s only friend being a young boy? What’s age got to do with it?

Chew on This

The old man only forms friendships on the basis of respect.

The old man’s relationships with the creatures of the ocean eclipse his friendship with the boy in importance.

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