In The Old Man and the Sea, different readers may place the climax at different points. Where do you think the climax is in this novel? Defend your position using evidence from the novel. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The climactic action of The Old Man and the Sea involves Santiago's ability to successfully pull in the great marlin and tie him to his boat, as well as his brave battle against the sharks who would deprive him of his success.

Because an enduring work such as Hemingway's tale lends itself to extended interpretations and broader meanings, the climax of the narrative is sometimes interpreted as other than the point at which Santiago finally conquers the marlin by impaling it with his harpoon. Some interpretations of this work extend the climax to include Santiago's heroic struggle against the sharks who would deprive him of the great fish. 

With the definition of the hero as,

A man who lives correctly, following the ideals of honor, courage, and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often stressful, and always painful, 

it seems that the climax should include Santiago's enduring struggle against the marlin and the sharks. He never gives up in his effort to bring back the marlin. Although he loses the marlin's meat to the sharks, Santiago finds the inner strength to continue to endure his greatest struggle. There is an extended climax because the high emotion remains as Santiago fights against the sharks for the same reason that he fights for the marlin. This reason for Santiago's fighting is what one critic calls "the intangibles that can redeem his individual life."

 At one point in his struggles, the old man tells himself,

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman.

It is because of his pride as a fisherman that Santiago continues his battle by fighting the sharks. He repeats to himself, "Fight them. . . I'll fight them until I die." This statement also indicates that the narrative is still at a point of high emotion, a climactic point. 

The falling action occurs when Santiago returns to the little harbor, and he carries his mast over his shoulder up the hill. He is so exhausted by his fight that he must rest five times. Nevertheless, Santiago arrives home, lies on his bed, and falls asleep. As he sleeps, the old fisherman can dream since he has met all the challenges presented to him. Because of his endurance against both the marlin and the sharks, along with his perseverance during these climactic moments, Santiago can retain his pride and know that he is still a man. 

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The Old Man and the Sea

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