What are the moral lessons of The Old Man and the Sea?

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auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Morality is a funny word here, it seems to me.  It implies the rightness and wrongness of things rather than observations about the character of things. 

Pereseverence in the face of adversity is clearly evident in this novella; however, I'm not so sure that's a moral quality.  Certainly moral people can demonstrate perseverence, but so can immoral people.

The same is probably true for this issue, as well, but it's all I can envision to fit the word moral. I'd have to go to the catching of the fish for any moral perspective from the story.  Santiago is respectful of his environment.  He only takes the bait he needs, and he isn't wasteful--as he only keeps the tuna because he will eat it.  He is respectful of his opponent, his brother, the great fish.  He understands this is a battle, but Santiago does fight like a gentleman and respects his foe. 

Respect for others and one's surroundings (as demonstrated by Manolin's respect for Santiago, as well) is one of the only real "moral" issues I find in this work. 

thetall's profile pic

thetall | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

From the book the Old Man and the Sea, several morals are observed. For instance, Santiago demonstrates persistence in his fishing endeavor. Despite going for more than eighty days without a single catch, each evening going home empty-handed, Santiago does not relent and still goes out to fish. Humility is also shown when Santiago accepts Manolin’s kindness. He put aside his pride and accepted assistance from a young boy that pitied him. Manolin portrays loyalty by ensuring that Santiago has enough to eat. He also ensures that Santiago has fresh bait for his lines, going to the extent of stealing or begging to make sure the above needs are met. He does all this despite his father’s advice to stop associating with Santiago. Santiago demonstrates patience by pursuing the marlin overnight, waiting for it to tire. He is resourceful, eating raw tuna. He also consumes water carefully not to exhaust it, aware that he is long way from shore. 

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jaime11's profile pic

jaime11 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

1. persistence, though sometimes futile

2. respect for natural forces (obvious Man v. Nature thing)

3. appreciation of lore, myth, legend,etc.. 

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