Illustration of a marlin in the water

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway
Start Free Trial

Explain where the following passage occurs in The Old Man and the Sea. What does the old man decide? What happens to the fish? "He knew he was beaten now finally and without remedy and he went back to the stern and found the jagged end of the tiller would fit in the slot of the rudder well enough for him to steer. ... I never knew how easy it was. And what beat you, he thought. 'Nothing,' he said aloud. 'I went out too far.'"

In this passage, which occurs near the end of The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago decides to give up his fight against the sharks and against fate. The fish, therefore, is eaten by the sharks.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This passage in The Old Man and the Sea occurs close to the end of the book, just before Santiago returns to shore. He has exhausted himself, first in catching and killing the giant marlin, then in attempting to defend his catch from the sharks. It is at this point in the story that he decides to give up and stop fighting against his fate. He went out too far and paid the price for it, which means that all the time and energy he spent in catching this magnificent fish must be for nothing. From this point on, he will resign himself to the loss of the giant marlin and concentrate on steering back home. The fish is eaten by the sharks.

Santiago's life is a struggle for survival, and his decision to give up the fight is a momentous one. Although he does not actually give up his life in doing so, there is an implication that he has lost the long battle with the sea that is fought by every fisherman. The ferocity with which he fought for the marlin, killing several sharks with his makeshift weapons, shows how important the marlin was to him, not only as a catch but as a symbol that his luck has turned. By the time he returns to shore, this symbol of victory has turned to one of failure.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on