The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

The Old Man and the

by Ernest Hemingway (1899
- 1961)

Type of Work:

Symbolic drama


North Coast of Cuba; early twentieth century

Principal Characters

Santiago, an old, weathered fisherman

Manolin , a boy, Santiago\'s young fishing

The Marlin, a gigantic fish

Story Overveiw

Eighty-four days had passed since Santiago,
the old fisherman, had caught a fish, and he was forced to suffer not only
the ridicule of younger fishermen, but near-starvation as well. Moreover,

Santiago had lost his young companion, a boy named Manolin, whose father
had ordered him to leave Santiago in order to work with more successful
seamen. But the devoted child still loved Santiago, and each day brought
food and bait to his shack, where they indulged in their favorite pastime:
talking about the American baseball leagues. The old man\'s hero was the

New York Yankees\' Joe DiMaggio. Santiago identified with the ballplayer\'s
skill and discipline, and declared he would like to take the great DiMaggio
fishing some time.

After visiting one particular afternoon,
the boy left Santiago, who fell asleep. Lions immediately filled his dreams.

As a boy he had sailed to Africa and had seen lions on the beaches. Now,
as an old man, he constantly dreamed of the great and noble beasts.

He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of
women, nor of Great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights nor contests
of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the
lions on the beach ... He loved them as he loved the boy.

Before dawn of the next day, the fisherman,
as usual, hauled his salt-encrusted skiff onto the beach and set out by
himself. But today, in hopes of breaking his unlucky streak, he was determined
to sail into deep waters, out much farther than the other anglers would
go. He followed the sea birds and flying fish; they would tell him b y
their movements where the fish congregated.

He watched the turtles swimming near his
boat. He loved the turtles, "with their elegance and speed..."

Most people are Heartless about turtles
because a turtle\'s heart will beat for hours after he has been cut tip
and butchered. The old man thought, I have such a heart too ...

Early on, Santiago managed to land a tenpound
tuna. Thinking this a good omen, he used the fresh meat to bait one of
his lines. By now he was far away from land, and much farther out than
all the other fishermen. Resisting the temptation to sleep or to let his
mind wander, Santiago concentrated on his lines reaching deep into the
dark green waters.

At noon he felt a bite. Testing his line,
he guessed that it must be a marlin nibbling at the tuna bait. "He must
be huge," the old man thought, and waited anxiously for a strike. Suddenly,
the fish took the bait entirely and began to swim furiously out to sea,
dragging the boat behind him. The fish was so powerful that Santiago was
helpless to stop him; he could only brace himself against the weight placed
on the taut line that cut across his shoulders and hold on until the fish
exhausted its strength. Darkness fell, and still the fish swam steadily
out to sea. The seaman spent a grueling night with the line looped painfully
round his back. Though he was weak, old and all alone, Santiago knew many
tricks, and possessed skills the young men yet lacked. Besides, he loved
the sea with a passion and had faith that she would handle him with reverent,
though bitter, kindness. Once, when the fish gave a sudden tug, the line
slashed Santiago\'s cheek. "Fish," the old man vowed softly, "I\'ll stay
with you until I am dead."

Then he began to pity the great fish that
he had hooked. He is wonderful and strange and u)ho knows how old he is,
he thought ... Perhaps he is too wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping
or by a wild rush. But perhaps he has been hooked many times before and
he knows that this is how he should make his fight. He cannot know that
it is only one man against him, or that it is an old man ...

His choice had been to stay in the deep
dark water far out beyond all snares and traps and treacheries. My choice
was to go there to find him beyond all people .... Now we are joined together
and have been since noon. And no one to help either of us.

By morning of the second day the fish was