In a novella like The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, the conclusion, also known as the resolution, is the final part of the story, where the writer resolves conflicts and ties up loose ends. The conclusion to this story begins as Santiago, the old man, sails back into his home harbor after his fishing expedition. To understand it, though, we need a quick summary of what has already occurred.
Santiago used to have a partner, a boy who would go fishing with him, but after many days of catching nothing, the boy's parents forbade him from accompanying the old man. As a result, Santiago sails his boat out all alone. He hooks an enormous marlin, and after a long, difficult struggle, he brings it in. However, it is too large to fit in the boat, so Santiago lashes it to the side.
Sharks attack the marlin carcass, and Santiago fights them as long as he can, but he loses his weapons and eventually can do nothing as sharks consume the marlin, leaving nothing but the skeleton, head, and tail. As he enters the harbor, he has been gone three days, and during that time, he has eaten and slept very little.
In the story's conclusion, Santiago wonders what beat him, but he decides that nothing defeated him—he just went out too far. He sails into the harbor late at night when everyone else in the village is asleep. He pulls the boat up as far as he can and then ties it to a rock. Putting the mast on his shoulder, he looks back at the huge skeleton of the marlin, which is a symbol of both his defeat and his triumph. He lost the meat to the sharks, but he fished and fought well and managed to make it back home alive.
Carrying the mast, he is so exhausted that he has to rest five times before he makes it home. This indicates that he gave everything he had in his struggle on the sea and held nothing back. He staggers to his shack and falls asleep.
When the boy, his former partner, finds him in the morning, he is still asleep. The boy weeps as he sees the wounds from the fishing line on the old man's hands. In the town, astonished men are measuring the length of Santiago's marlin. The boy gets coffee for Santiago and then sits with him until he awakens. He assures Santiago that he will start going out with the old man again, because he has a lot to learn from him.
We see, then, that in the conclusion to The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago's fish has been devoured; but after his terrific battle, he returns home safely. He is exhausted, but he has nothing to be ashamed of, because he has fought bravely and well. He loses his fish but regains his partner, the boy, who loves him very much.