The old man says, "A man can be destroyed but not defeated," so is he defeated at the end of the story?

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I suppose this citation is from Hemingway's 'The Old Man and the Sea.'

In terms of hauling his fish back home, the old fisherman Santiago is indeed defeated by the sharks in that by the end of his journey, all the flesh from it has been devoured, leaving nothing but the ribs and backbone.  However, in light of the theme of the story, the old man has not been defeated in that his spirit has not been broken; also, the old man has maintained the respect of his village in that the fish's skeleton is proof enough that he had indeed caught the "big one," and that it didn't get away.

The conflict of the story deals with more than just the art of fishing; it portrays the old man's perserverence even in failure and his pride in doing his best even when "best" is not good enough.  The essence of the story lies here and not in the actual events of the story themselves.

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The Old Man and the Sea

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