The Old Man and the Sea Questions and Answers
by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea book cover
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“Everything about him was old except his eyes, and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated” (Hemingway 10). How does this quote impact the story?

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a powerful quote from this story because of what it does in terms of direct and indirect characterization of Santiago. We are directly told that he is old and his eyes are the same color as the sea. In my mind, I see his eyes as a grey color, but I suppose blue works too. The exact color is irrelevant. What is more important is that his eyes, as a window to the soul, are cheerful and undefeated. Santiago may be in a slump when it comes to fishing, but he has not lost hope. It's why he goes out day after day. The cheerful and undefeated aspect of his eyes also speaks to Santiago's spirit of perseverance. We are told this quote in the first few paragraphs, so we haven't had first hand experience with Santiago's never give up spirit; however, the quote alerts readers to the possibility that Santiago has deep reserves of fight within his old body. We will definitely see that as he wrestles the huge fish and ultimately comes back empty handed, yet we never get the feeling that he has been defeated.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The quotation tells us that despite his advanced years and the inevitable physical decay of his body, Santiago's spirit still lives on. His body may have been defeated by the ravages of time, but Santiago's smiling eyes are the window to a soul that retains an almost mystical kinship with the natural world. His eyes are as blue as the shimmering sea that surrounds him, indicating that this is where Santiago truly belongs. He is one with the ocean. Because Santiago is an intrinsic part of the natural world, this gives him the strength and inner resolve to be able to overcome the myriad hardships and challenges that nature throws at him and that he is required to overcome in his epic quest to land a giant marlin.

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