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

The Old Man and the Sea book cover
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The classic The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, with its use of sparse, almost elementary-level writing, may on the surface seem like a simple story about a fisherman and the big one that got away. However, we must keep in mind that Hemingway was the author that once pointed out that 7/8 of an iceberg is submerged beneath water, meaning you can't arrive to conclusions by what exists on the surface alone. In terms of themes, this novella provides many interesting interpretation possibilities. What exactly is the message of this tale? What does the old man represent? What does the great fish represent? Can we find symbolic value in them individually and in the great fight they each put up?

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One indication of Ernest Hemingway’s central focus is the title, which presents the opposition between a human being and a natural element rather than another creature. Although Santiago, the fisherman, finds a worthy adversary in the huge fish that he lands, the sea is both his opponent and his source of sustenance; the story is about the man and the sea, not versus the sea. This central paradox creates the tension that Hemingway explores.

Santiago’s age is also significant: he has a long lifetime of experience in coaxing a life from...

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