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The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway
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In what specific ways does the old man struggle with economic forces in his life in The Old Man and the Sea?

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From the outset, it's perfectly obvious that Santiago isn't a very successful fisherman. We're told right away that he's gone eighty-four whole days without catching a fish. For someone who makes his living as a fisherman, that's a very long time indeed. Santiago is in the same boat as all other fisherman—no pun intended—in that he's very much at the mercy of economic, as well as natural forces. If fishermen don't catch enough fish, then that's it, they'll find themselves struggling financially.

It quickly becomes apparent that his lack of success at sea is having a serious impact on Santiago's ability to provide for himself. The old man is thin and gaunt, indicating that perhaps he hasn't eaten very well in a long while. In addition, the condition of his skiff is nothing to write home about. Santiago has been strugglingly financially for so long that he has to make do with patching his sail with flour sacks.

It's notable also that Santiago lives in a small, run-down shack, a further indication that he's seen better days. Unlike the other fishermen, whose catches are already heading their way to Havana in ice trucks, Santiago has nothing to show for his efforts. As fishing is all he knows, he has no choice but to head out to sea once more in the hope that he will land the big one, the catch that will transform his economic fortunes for the better.

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