The Old Man and the Sea Questions and Answers
by Ernest Hemingway

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In The Old Man and the Sea, they say "a man can be destroyed but not defeated," explain this quote.

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think the best way to explain this quote is to think of a person as a physical being as well as a spiritual/emotional being. A man (person) can be physically destroyed. That person's body can go through trauma that breaks that person down bit by bit. Ironman triathletes are a good example. By the end of the race, their bodies have been absolutely destroyed regardless of winning or losing; however, that competitive spirit that drives the athlete is still present. Even though that athlete may have lost the race, their spirit to push harder and try again is never defeated. It is similar with the old man in this story. His gear is broken, his hands are wrecked, he hungers and thirsts as his rations...

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