Introduction to The Old Man and the Sea

Initially appearing in a special November 1951 issue of Life Magazine, The Old Man and the Sea was published in book form in 1952. It quickly became a best seller and one of Hemingway’s most celebrated works, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and contributing to Hemingway's receipt of the Nobel Prize in Literature the following year. The novel encompasses the exploits of its title character—the old, impoverished, but admirable Cuban fisherman Santiago—over the course of five days. While Santiago is not the novel’s narrator, the tale's third-person narration closely reflects his experiences and thoughts. Alone at sea, Santiago struggles to reverse his recent bad luck by bringing ashore an enormous marlin, which is ultimately torn apart by sharks. Through Santiago’s battle with the marlin, his respect for the sea, and his relationship with his protege, Manolin, Hemingway explores ideas of courage, love, and the human condition.

A Brief Biography of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) played a major role in defining twentieth-century American literature, but his life, art, and image are so deeply intertwined that it is hard to separate them. This is largely because Hemingway had such high standards and because he insisted on a certain type of intense truth in his writing. Since he often wrote about the sort of experience that tested a man’s mettle, he repeatedly risked his life in high-adventure situations. Hemingway served as a Red Cross ambulance driver in World War I (where he was injured by both mortar and machine gun fire), reported on the Spanish Civil War and World War II, worked as a deep-sea fisherman, and went on big game safaris throughout Africa. He was in two plane crashes while visiting Africa and was so badly injured in one that some newspapers reported he had been killed. All of this and more made its way into his writing.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

Toward the beginning of the book, Hemingway writes that the old man "thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her." Later in the story, we learn that the...

Latest answer posted February 3, 2021, 12:07 pm (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Old Man and the Sea

In The Old Man and the Sea, the protagonist, Santiago, idolizes the baseball star Joe DiMaggio. Throughout the story, he references DiMaggio or invokes his image as an ideal. For Santiago, DiMaggio...

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 12:25 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago is able to kill the giant marlin with his harpoon, but later, after he uses the harpoon to kill sharks, the harpoon gets stuck in the head of one of the sharks. This large shark does not...

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 12:45 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

At the end of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man And the Sea, the titular old man, Santiago, accepts that his enormous fish has been lost after a battle with sharks that he could not win. He manages to...

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 11:57 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago, a man who earns his living by catching and selling fish, needs a catch, because he has gone out for eighty-four days and come home with nothing to show for it. He is depending right now...

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 1:28 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago has always had difficulties with his left hand, which he says has always been a "traitor" to the other. It sometimes cramps at inopportune times. Early in the story, he sustains a mild...

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 12:37 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago fights against the sharks and other creatures that are trying to take his enormous marlin for him for several hours. For some time, he holds out hope that a stroke of luck will overtake...

Latest answer posted February 3, 2021, 11:54 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

The old man, Santiago, is an extremely experienced fisherman. As such, he is very critical of himself on a number of occasions for having traveled out too far into the water. He feels sure that...

Latest answer posted February 3, 2021, 12:49 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

The old man in this novella by Ernest Hemingway, Santiago, is defined by his great age. Everything about him is old, readers are told, except for his eyes. Hemingway describes him as being...

Latest answer posted February 3, 2021, 11:43 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

The main points of any story are usually entertaining and enjoyable or thought-provoking. The Old Man and the Sea is both of these: it is enjoyable because it is dramatic, and it is...

Latest answer posted February 3, 2021, 11:46 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago first tries to drive away the sharks who come to eat his marlin by using his harpoon to kill them. This is successful until a shark fights back too hard, jerking away from the boat and...

Latest answer posted February 5, 2021, 12:17 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago calls the giant marlin "brother" because he realizes that it is a kindred spirit to him, a noble animal who will fight the good fight with everything that it has. He is glad it is not a...

Latest answer posted February 5, 2021, 12:41 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

In Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago manages to catch a fish greater than any he has ever seen. When the fish jumps, he notices that it's two feet longer than his skiff (a small fishing...

Latest answer posted February 5, 2021, 12:53 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago, the old man in this story, has spent many hours wrestling with and coaxing the fish. He has come to gain a respect for it, even before he fully recognizes quite how enormous the fish is....

Latest answer posted February 5, 2021, 1:26 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

It is mentioned several times throughout this story that Santiago, the old man of the title, dreams about lions. Santiago wonders to himself why the only thing left to him in his mental landscape...

Latest answer posted February 5, 2021, 11:56 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

In The Old Man and the Sea, the marlin that Santiago (the old man) catches is eighteen feet long. The fish is at least two to three feet longer than the typical skiff (small fishing boat)....

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 12:22 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago is not a prideful man, but he is a proud man. The word prideful carries a strong negative connotation of having too high an opinion of oneself and feeling superior to others. Pride can...

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 12:25 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

As The Old Man and the Sea begins, we learn that Santiago hasn't caught any fish in eighty-four days. For the first forty days, he had help from an assistant, a young boy named Manolin. However,...

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 12:49 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of Santiago and his epic struggle with a huge marlin. Santiago has been a fisherman his entire life, and he knows that some days, a catch is not to be had....

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 1:29 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Old Man and the Sea

The old fisherman in Hemingway’s novel is named Santiago, and he lives in a fishing village in Cuba. After attempting to bring in a great catch for many weeks, Santiago takes his boat out deeper,...

Latest answer posted February 4, 2021, 2:11 pm (UTC)

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Summary