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

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

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Tim Mbiti eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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. 

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gwendillen | Student

The message imparted in the story “The Old Man and the Sea” is persistence, mental toughness, and resilience. Santiago, the protagonist, is a seasoned fisherman who has not caught a fish for 84 successive days. His persistence paid when on the 85th day he caught a huge marlin. Santiago quips, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated” (p. 93). This is the core theme of the story. Santiago’s persistence stems from mental toughness. Life can get difficult at times. Sometimes, it is easier to fold than continue fighting. However, quitting means guaranteed failure. Santiago’s persistence to fish means failure is not an option for him. In the end, Santiago’s efforts went naught when the marlin he caught was feasted upon by the sharks as he sailed home. He went home empty-handed. He is still a victor in the end because he did not give up. Despite his old, frail body, his spirit remains strong.

jaime11 | Student

1. persistence, though sometimes futile

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

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