What is the main theme or message of the novel?
Describe two plot actions that support your theory of the main theme.
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There are several important themes in The Old Man and The Sea, but probably the main one is an examination of the human condition. Hemingway is asking what it means to be human, and how our dreams and hopes are realized and/or destroyed.
Two plot actions that illustrate this are the two main tasks Santiago has; One is to land the fish. He uses all of his human intelligence and physical capabilities to catch the massive fish. This represents the struggle to achieve that most people feel. Second is the failed attempt to get the fish back to shore, as Santiago must again struggle to maintain what he has achieved and ultimately is unable to despite all his work. These two plot points provide an insight into the human condition. In the end, Santiago is still dreaming, even after having struggled and suffered to achieve his dream.
The Old Man and the Sea contains many themes. The first is
the Honor in Struggle, Defeat & Death Santiago
is characterized as someone struggling against defeat. But the old
man refuses defeat at every turn: He lands the marlin after a
brutal three-day fight, and he continues to ward off sharks from
stealing his prey, even though he knows the battle is
useless. Because Santiago is pitted against the creatures of
the sea, some readers choose to view the tale as a chronicle of
man’s battle against the natural world, but the novella is, more
accurately, the story of man’s place within nature. Both Santiago
and the marlin display qualities of pride, honor, and bravery, and
both are subject to the same eternal law: they must kill or be
killed. Another major theme is Pride as the Source of
Greatness & Determination. Santiago exhibits
terrific strength, bravery, and moral certainty; however, he also
seems to possess a hero’s tragic flaw—in Santiago’s case this is
pride. Santiago is acutely aware of this flaw. After sharks
have destroyed the marlin, the old man apologizes again and again
to his worthy opponent. He has ruined them both, he concedes, by
sailing beyond the usual boundaries of fishermen. Indeed, his last
word on the subject comes when he asks himself the reason for his
undoing and decides, “Nothing . . . I went out too far.”
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