What is the major conflict of The Old Man and the Sea?

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sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The central conflict of Hemingway's novella is man vs. nature.  Santiago is at odds with nature because he makes his living by it, as a fisherman.  However, the sea is not providing him with enough catch to survive on.  He is able to catch the large marlin, but the sea will not allow him to have it, and he returns to shore with nothing but the skeleton.

Symbolically, however, the conflict is representative of man's conflict with overpowering forces in society, and man's resilience against those forces.  Despite being beaten by the sea, Santiago goes to sleep dreaming of more adventures.  He may have been physically beaten, but he is not emotionally beaten.

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maus1 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

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The main conflict is the epic struggle against nature, Santiago is not only struggling with bad luck but also with aging, and adversity, fighting the inevitable- a struggle all people endure .The supreme ordeal of this novel is of course his relentless agonizing battle with a giant marlin in the Gulf Stream, but simple on the outside, the story has more beneath the surface with many layers of internal and external struggle, and the universal battle that will be fought by all, physically and psychologically...Those who do not recognize the approach of age and death are onlookers.

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kakkassery | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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the old man and the sea is a story of epic struggle between an old experienced fisher man and a huge marlin.it is a struggle for survival.he struggle to catch a fish for his extistence but nature is not providing him enough.a single human being strugggling the battle with hope but nature defeated him with his bad luck.hemingway has stripped down the basic story of human life to the fate of unlucky.

annakat101's profile pic

annakat101 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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The major conflict is that santiago is trying to prove that he can catch fish and that he still is strong and willing, no matter how old he is. 

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sakthi | College Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

The character of Santiago stand for herosim. Every human being has the dream as to be hero. Here santiago has the dream even his attempt failed, he never lose his faith about success. The great success not come to our life with single stoke. The confidence of santiago make him successful in attempt. Here the conflict is between the nature and the of the man.

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