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The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

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How does Hemingway describe Santiago’s eyes in The Old Man and the Sea?

Quick answer:

Hemingway describes Santiago’s eyes by writing that everything about Santiago was old except his eyes, which are “the same color as the sea and ... cheerful and undefeated.”

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In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway describes the old man Santiago’s eyes as the only parts of his body that remain young. He writes,

Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.

The fact that Santiago’s eyes remain young and useful while his body ages suggests that his eyes reflect his soul, which has remained passionate and determined about fishing. Hemingway’s use of the words cheerful and undefeated further emphasizes this characterization of Santiago, as they suggest that the man still has courage and energy left in him, even though the aging process has broken his body down.

It is also interesting to note that Hemingway compares the color of Santiago’s eyes to the color of the sea. This comparison draws a connection between Santiago and the natural world around him and emphasizes that Santiago is a part of that world. When Santiago faces the marlin later in the story, his strength and bravery serve as a reminder to himself that he is an extraordinary fisherman and that he is meant to be out on the sea. His experience with the sharks also reminds him of the overwhelming power of the sea and that while he is connected with it, he is also at its mercy.

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