When Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, the committee singled out the narrative of The Old Man and the Sea's “natural admiration for every individual who fights the good fight in a world of reality overshadowed by violence and death” (enotes). As in Melville's seminal work, Moby Dick, the sea represents the universe in which at any time an inexplicable fate plays a part.
So, despite the obstacles of pulling in the great fish that he has caught and fighting off exhaustion as well as predators who would eat his catch, Santiago, the old man, does not let the sea and its destiny defeat him even though in his conflict with the sea, the marlin is nothing but bone when he returns. For, when he reaches his poor home, exhausted and hungry, he lies down to "dream of the lions" he used to see as a youth when he worked on ships that sailed to Africa.
The Old Man and the Sea is about Santiago, an aged man who has made his living fishing but who now contends with bad luck as he has not caught a fish in 84 days. The story is about his battle with the sea and, eventually, his loss to the power of the sea. He eventually musters the strength to kill a very large marlin, which earns his respect for its power and majesty, and he straps it to the side of his boat. Sharks surround his boat, and Santiago struggles to fend them off. However, in the end, they eat the marlin, and Santiago is left only with the fish's carcass, which fishermen measure at 18 feet after Santiago has come ashore. The story is the tale of Santiago's struggle against the power of the sea, which in the end overwhelms him.
the title refers to the old man, who was out fishing, and the sea, gifted him with an enormous fish, then took it away with the sharks. the old man and the sea is a great book, and a simple one to understand, the old man lives off of the sea, it is his way of life and profit.