Important Questions Of The Old Man and The Sea | Sparknotes By Educational Lodge

Important Questions Of The Old Man and The Sea

Important questions The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

These are the spark notes on the important questions of The Old Man and The Sea for the B.A students of The University of Punjab. These are set according to the Punjab University Exam’s point of view. The first is a brief note on Hemingway’s writing style.

Question#1 Write a brief note on the Hemingway’s Writing Style | The Old Man and The Sea

Ernest Hemingway is a renowned and famous American prose writer. In his novel, we observe a scientific precision. Hemingway wrote his novel after psychological and philosophical novels had become popular in the twentieth century.
He makes use of modern methods of character presentation and plot construction. The dramatic technique of engaging characters in talks and monologues is also used in the present novel. The connection between society and nature is prominent in the novel.
His use of dialogue is superb and the imagery and diction are matchless. His choice of words is excellent. He proves his master skill not only in writing novels but also in short stories. Almost among all his novels, The Oldman and the Sea can be called the best example of his scientific precision.  
Hemingway has used many quotations in the novel. The most important are 
A man can be destroyed but not defeated, It is silly not to hope, Every day is a new day, I wish I had the boy. The quotations are superb examples of his quotable style.
Hemingway’s style of writing is essentially appreciated by his simplicity, clarity, and brevity. He describes the relationship of Manolin with Santiago only in thirteen words as The Old Man had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him
Another writer might have spent a paragraph or a page describing Santiago and Manolin’s relationship and feelings for each other. Hemingway has often been called a master of dialogue. In his simple, direct but effective dialogues, he creates a very powerful impact of pain, happiness, and misery.
Instead of complex and difficult sentences, he uses simple and compound sentences. About his stories and novels, readers and critics have remarked“This is the way that these characters would really talk.” Hemingway himself has described his writing style in the issue of the Playboy Magazine in 1963.
I do most of my work in my head. I never begin to write until my ideas are in order. Frequently I recite passages of dialogue as it is begin written. I never set down a sentence on paper until I have it so expressed that it will be cleared to anyone


The Old Man and the Sea is mostly a character novel. we find two characters dominating almost all parts of the novel, that is Santiago and Manonli. Santiago works out his destiny on his boat on the sea. His reaction to society made him plan and act in nature to prove his greatness as a fisherman and sailor.
Secondly, it is a superb action novel in which Santiago’s boat was in constant movement. The fishermen and the other people on the coast were engaged in their work. The fishes and other creatures, air, sun, moon, stars, and the universe exhibit nature in flux.
The Old Man and the Sea is called a symbolic novel. Hemingway used many symbols and images in this novel. The characters, powers of nature, and objects performed symbolic roles. In short, the novel shows  Hemingway’s excellent writing style that makes him famous among American novelists.

Question# 2 Describe Santiago’s Encounter with the Sharks The Old Man and The Sea (Novel)

Santiago’s fight against the sharks is a heartbreaking incident of the novel. It shows the old man’s valor and perseverance. It is the most tragic event of the novel but Santiago faces all the odds bravely. It increases his prestige in the eyes of the readers.
Santiago is an old but experienced fisherman. Once, luck does not favor him and he can not catch any fish for eighty-four days. But he is an optimist and has full faith in himself and says.

 Every day is a new day and eighty-fifth is lucky for me 

On the eighty-fifth day, he goes far out into the sea. He throws lines and hooks a big fish. It is Marlin. After a long and hard struggle of forty-eight hours, Santiago kills the big fish, Marlin. The fish is too big to be loaded on his small boat.
So he tries it alongside the boat and sets the sail for home. But the blood of the fish trails behind in the sea. After one hour, a mako shark appears near the boat. Santiago is awfully tired. His hands are sore and the muscles of his back and shoulders are aching.


Yet he drives his harpoon hard into the shark’s head. When the shark attacks the Marlin. He is determined to prove a man is not made for defeat, a man can be destroyed but not defeated. He succeeds in killing the shark, but it moves away like a speedboat and breaks the light rope of the harpoon.


It takes 20 pounds of Marlin’s flesh. The shark sinks into the sea with the harpoon. Santiago is deeply grieved at this loss. He fears that more sharks will come to eat the Marlin. He tries his knife to the handle of an oar to fight with other sharks.

Soon two sharks appear near the boat. He hits them with the knife-lashed oar and kills them. But he knows that he can not stop other sharks from attacking the Marlin. He expects a very tough time coming ahead. He misses Manolin and wishes that he has been there.

Two hours later, he looks at two more sharks. These are very dangerous and hateful sharks. After some struggle, he kills both of them. But they have torn away the best meat of the Marlin. His hands have been badly cut but he says to himself.


I will fight them until I die


Soon another shovel-nosed shark appears near the boat. The old man drives the knife into the shark but unfortunately, it jerks back and breaks the knife blade. Now the old man is left without any weapon except a short club. He cries,


I will try it as long as I have the oars


At sunset, Santiago kills two more sharks to death. He is still resolute to fight but at midnight, a pack of sharks comes and attacks the Marlin. Santiago fights desperately. He hits the sharks with the club in the dark but all in vain. Marlin is reduced to a skeleton. 


He feels helpless as he reaches the shore. Yet his spirit to fight with sharks is still undefeated. Apparently, he losses the battle but he has gained a moral victory. His heroic spirit has made him superman, who can not be defeated. 



Question # 3 Elaborate Santiago as a Tragic Hero


According to Aristotle, A tragic hero is a protagonist who faces catastrophe as a result of his own character flaw(Hamartia). Santiago suffers from downfall but not like Aristotle’s concept of a tragic hero. 

He does not follow the high status of Aristotle’s tragic hero but he has the characteristics of a tragic hero like hamartia, conflict, pathos, and catharsis. He has also imperfection or hamartia in his life and that hamartia is his pride to go far off in search of big fish. His pride leads him to destruction.

He has conflict like all the tragic heroes. He feels guilty to kill the fish but soon realizes by saying that everything kills everything else in some way. He has both internal as well as external conflict.

A tragic hero also arouses feelings of pity and fear. Santiago’s loneliness, poverty, and finally defeat arise feelings of pity in readers. Readers also feel fear for the possible situation with them. But his strong belief A man can be destroyed but not defeated provides them relief.

Santiago was an old and physically weak character. He was sixty years old but instead of retiring, he told Manolin, I may not be as strong as I think…. but I know many tricks and I have resolution. This was Santiago’s tragic weakness. 
Rather he acted on his emotional decision to fight against the forces of nature alone on the high seas. Santiago lived much in his dreams. This was again the hold of emotions on him. He dreamed about Africa and the lions. The lions were the dreamy symbols of his youthful power.
Unluckily, he was not young. Yet he was a lion in his emotions, wild imagination, and dreamy moods. Santiago overpowered and killed the marlin, but could not defeat the sharks. They set up the marlin’s flesh as he hung by the side of his boat.   
If we study the novel thoroughly, we see that Santiago from the old man and the sea is a pathetic character because he tried to achieve his target but in vain. In spite of his old age and less physical strength, he has to face defeat physically but morally he was a strong person.
He was declared Salao but he did not care about the remarks and went to catch fish. Although he caught the fish, big more than his own skiff yet the fish took him into the deep waters and gave him a tough time. He did not lose hope and after two days and two nights of untiring efforts, he killed the marlin.
He was injured, tired, and exhausted and he needed rest. After some time, the caught marlin was attacked by a pack of sharks and he had another challenge to fight with them. Although, Santiago used all his strength, power, skill, and tricks to defend the marlin yet this was not his success.
All his weapons were broken but failed to take the reward of his struggle. More and more sharks came and eaten away marlin’s flesh and only a skeleton remained behind. At the end of the novel, he returned with a skeleton. He was once disturbed, distracted, and frustrated but after taking a rest he forgot everything.

Question# 4  What is the main theme of the novel?/ A man can be destroyed but can not be defeated | The old man and The Sea(Novel)

The Old Man and The Sea is a tale about an old Cuban fisherman and his three days battle with a giant Marlin and later with sharks. Through the use of an excellent theme: A man can be destroyed, but not defeated Santiago strives to give us an important lesson of life.


In the novel, Santiago’s bravery is supreme, yet it is not until he hooks the big Marlin, we truly see his courage and persistence. At first, Santiago’s dilemma seems quite hopeless. He has gone eighty-four days and could not catch a fish.


He became a cause of jokes of his small village people. They called him Salao and unfortunately, since he did not catch any fish for a long period of time. Santiago did not discourage by their insulting remarks and went on fishing, having full trust only on God.
Moreover, reading Heminway’s words about his hero, in which he says: Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the Sea and were cheerful and undefeated, highlights the notion that Santiago is triumphant and victorious.
Metaphysically speaking, if someone’s eyes are glimmering and are bright, this means that he is having a strong will and persistence regardless of how much his body seems pale or tired like Santiago.
Although Santiago has many troubles yet he has faith in Manolin, in the Yankees in Joe DiMaggio, and the most important in himself. This is perhaps his greatest attribute because without it he would never have the strength to defeat the giant Marlin and later the sharks.
Some may argue and say that Santiago is defeated as he is the one who says: They(sharks) beat me Manolin they truly beat me. However, It can be said to them that it is a physical defeat that the Oldman is suffering from but as far as his faith is and persistence is concerned, he is well built and is willing to fight more and more.
He is the one who says Fight them I’ll fight them until I die. In addition, he is the one who says, It is silly not to hope, besides I believe it is a sin. Through the novel, the old man proves that man is not made for defeat. He can perform marvelous anytime in his life.

Question # 5 Discuss the Sea as a living entity/ character in the novel
The Old Man and The Sea

Santiago had an experience of perhaps more than half a century of sailing and fishing (in the Gulf Stream). He could tell the current flowing in the ocean. He said, Tomorrow is going to be a good day with the current. 

He knew about the directions of the winds or wind shifts. He started his voyage when the wind was strong. In the novel, Hemingway has presented the Sea as a living character.

He has given many characteristics of a man to the Sea. Hemingway has personified the Sea as a kind, gentle as well as a cruel agent of Nature. The Sea influences Santiago, the Marlin, and the Sharks in its various moods and ways.

The Sea has played a very important role in the growth of human life and civilization. It is a big source of food for human beings and countless sea creatures.

The Oldman is fully aware of the qualities of the Sea. Although the Sea does not treat the old man kindly, yet Santiago has his own sympathetic views about the sea. The old man always considers the sea as Lamar which is feminine in Spanish poetry.
The other fishermen speak of the Sea s El mar which is masculine. Santiago thinks that it is kind, loving, and generous like a woman. He believes that it is something that gives and withholds great favors.
The Sea has a great symbolic significance in the novel. It is a symbol of one of the mighty forces of Nature. Its role in the novel can be called the role of Nature, Destiny, or Fate. It has its own colors. It has its own atmosphere, both good and bad.
The Sea is a powerful and dangerous force of Nature. Sometimes it becomes wild or wicked. The Sea kills and destroys human beings. The Oldman believes that it is the nature of the sea to be unreliable.
The Oldman talks to the Sea as a friend. Storm, rough weather, Marlin and sharks show the cruel nature of the Sea. In short, the Sea in the novel is not something dead but it is a living character.

In fact, along with his close companion and pupil Manolin, the Sea was Snatiago’s close companion and friend  In this sense, the Sea is the main important character of the novel with its all-time presence and power in the background.

The Sea keeps the boats afloat. It feeds the world of the fish. The Sea keeps the birds above water vapor to the sky and causes to bring the rain.

Santiago compared the vastness of the Sea to that of the sun, to the atmosphere, and to the sky also. He saw the sea alone in its greatness and majesty and as a part of the circumambient(surrounding, enclosing) universe.

Question# 6 Every day is a new day, Elaborate in the novel/ Discuss the element of optimism in the Old man and the Sea


Optimism is a tendency to expect the best in all things, confidence in the success of a course of action. An optimist is a person who expects the best. It is a positive trait of a person who always believes in hopefulness.


Hemingway’s spokesman Santiago suggests throughout the novel that man should not lose heart in all circumstances. The old man remained hopeful even when he could not catch any fish.
Never was the old man or the boy disappointed. Hope was their habit and inner joy was their nature. Every tomorrow was a good day for the old man and every day was a new day. 
Santiago lives in a small hut. Despite of his unlucky days, he believes in luck. When he did not catch any fish for 84 days, the people of the village called him Salao. Only Manolin, his disciple believes in his expertness and luck.
Santiago ensures that the 85th day will be lucky for him. He does not show any sign of ill luck. But struggle was the old man’s practice. He embarked on the greatest voyage in his small boat to catch, kill, or defeat the strongest fish.
He was alone but was moving with the courage of Hercules ( a hero of Greek and Roman stories) and Tarzan( the hero who overpowered huge animals) without their youth and bodily strength.
He used his oars, harpoons(weapons for killing huge fish), and fishing gear with the utmost skill and ability. He was a hopeful and optimistic person. he says to Manolin.

Every day is a new day it is better to be lucky  

However, with all his courage and skill, the old man knows how to achieve his target. He was very simple and humble. He also knew the limits of his strength and age. He also talks to himself about that. 

Then when luck comes, you are ready anytime luck can turn to man

He believes that man should be ready every time for the achievement of his goal all the time. The old man felt that struggle against Marlin could cause his death but never let his hope. Religion also demands us not to get proud and remember death.
Santiago had love, respect, and honor for the great Marlin. He was neither jealous nor hateful of him. He truly admitted that he had gone far away  into the ocean and his optimism proves it true when he achieves his target

Question #7 Write a note on Hemingway’s symbolism in the novel

A symbol means an object or person that stands for something superior, clearer, higher, and suggestive. The characters and incidents in the novel having deep symbolic significance makes it a great novel. Hemingway remarked about the novel:

I tried to create a real old man, a real boy, a real sea, and a real fish, real sharks. But If I am good enough they must mean many things 

The Old Man and the Sea is an exclusively symbolic novel. There are meanings that are hidden and it also has symbols in it. Hemingway uses the symbols to give the readers a message that is deeper than what they read or understand 
First, Santiago stands for man pitted against heavy odds of life. He is a true representative of mankind. He is also the symbol of a Christ-like figure. His struggle indicates the struggle of man to survive in this world.
Secondly, Manolin is the symbol of hope, loyalty, love, faith, and consolation. He is the symbol of a good companion in the world. He takes care of the old man. He says:

Keep warm old man. Remember we are in September

Thirdly, Marlin is the symbol of man’s goal and mission in this world. It is also a symbol of Santiago’s mission to win his lost reputation. It also represents strength, beauty, and the last challenge, we all go through.
Fourthly, the Sea is a symbol of the universe. It is also the symbol of a great challenge in the life of man. Fifthly, The Lions is a symbol of power, courage, youth, and a better future. 
Sixthly, Sharks are the symbol of hindrance and hidden enemies in the life of a man. Seventhly, JoeDiMggio is the symbol of the human spirit and the cause of inspiration for Santiago.
Santiago’s final sleep seems to be an image of the crucifixion of Christ painting. He appears as an embodiment of Christian virtues like pity, humility, endurance, and struggle. On these grounds, the novel can be called a symbolic novel

Question # 8 Write a note on Manolin in the Novel The Old Man and The Sea

Manolin is the second most important character of  The old man and the Sea. He is a very young boy. He goes with Santiago for fishing. Santiago, the hero of the novel is spiritually associated with the boy. 

Manolin is very faithful, obedient, and trustworthy. His role is very important in the novel. Manolin’s love for the old man is very deep. He is related to the old man since the age of five. He goes with the Santiago on fishing trips for the forty days.

When the old man fails to catch any fish, Manolin’s parents consider the old man Salao and unlucky person. They send him with another fisherman, but Manolin does not break with Santiago. He provides him meals, beer, and coffee.


Manolin has a personal and spiritual relationship with the old man. He is really a devoted disciple. He is a great well-wisher of Santiago. Manolin is a great fan of Santiago. He has full faith in his experience and skill and calls him the best fisherman.

 There are many good fishermen and some great ones, but there is only you


Manolin helps the old man with full devotion. He takes good care of his health, food, his professional and practical needs like having tools, bringing sardines, and baits. Manolin says to Santiago;


Keep warm old man. Keep the blanket around you. You will not fish without eating while i am alive

Manolin got much worried when the old man did not return even after three days. He got sad when he saw Santiago poor condition and injured hands. Manolin became a ray of hope for Santiago.

His concern and care for Santiago shows the concern of one human being for another human being. Manolin is a dutiful son, an obedient pupil, and a faithful friend of Santiago. Manolin was a pleasant companion and an attractive listener, an audience, to Santiago

Therefore, Santiago narrated his experience of youth, his baseball matches, and the performance of DiMaggio to him. Without the presence of Manolin in the story, the plot of the novel would have been a hollow structure. 


Question # 9 Describe the Old Man’s Loneliness or Isolation in the novel
The Old Man and The Sea

The novel The Old Man and the Sea deals with the loneliness and isolation of Santiago. Santiago lives in a small cottage near Havana. The hut has only a bed, a table, a chair, a pitcher, and a fireplace with charcoal.
Santiago’s wife has died and he is living alone. He has no children. He has no friend except a small boy named Manolin. Manolin visits him regularly and looks after him. The old man has taught him the art of fishing.
This is why Manolin regards him as his teacher and his master, It is only human company available to Santiago and he knows the value of it. He says: The boy keeps me alive.
Santiago fights against the Marlin and later with the sharks all alone. He felt lonely and remembered Manolin in his boat. He said loudly and repeatedly: I wish I had the boy. But the wonderful thing is that he is never depressed or frustrated. He says:
Man is not made for defeat
Santiago badly wishes the boy during his adventure. He addresses God by saying aloud God help him to take it. He also addresses the fish by saying Eat it a little more, eat it well. He talked aloud to get rid of his loneliness. 
Santiago talked loudly about or to the flying birds, sea animals, the sea, the sun, the stars, the moon, the wind, other objects of nature, his left hand and head. He thought of his aims and his confidence, his past and his present. 
It was a cobweb of observation, thoughts, plans, and actions in which he was involved. Even when he got tired, his active mind took him to idealistic heights of glory and success.
The war of man bird and the flying fish kept Santiago on the move. The flying fish rose above the water and the blackbird lowered or dipped from above. They activated Santiago’s thoughts.
Santiago’s thoughts about the great DiMaggio, the baseball champion, and McGraw, the baseball manager uplifted him. His dreams about the lions and memory of his hand fight moved him.
Santiago had no radio to listen to the news, sports commentary, and other entertainment programs. Though the old man is a very lonely and isolated person, yet he expresses his thoughts and feelings to Manolin, the sea creatures, birds, big Marlin, sharks, and especially with himself. 
No one should be alone in his old age

Question # 10 Santiago’s talking to himself is a source of strength to him. Discuss Santiago’s soliloquies in the Novel

Soliloquy is a technique used by a writer to reveal the inner self of a character. A 
character falls into soliloquy when he is alone. Soliloquy or talking to himself helps to understand the inner working of the character’s mind and his future plans.
A soliloquy is a speech by one person. As critics, it is a kind of talking to oneself that does not affect others. It can be a private debate, the character debating with himself. It can be a prayer, an address to some near or far, an expression of sad thoughts, or even a love song
In the novel, Hemingway has also used this literary term. In his loneliness, Santiago did not have any choice except to talk to himself or to address the objects of Nature, fish, birds, or whatever he saw in the sky.
Hemingway writes about the old man’s soliloquizing that he “did not remember when he had first started to talk about when he was by himself(alone)”. The old man had mostly started talking alone after the boy, Manolin, had left him.
Resultantly, when the old man talked to the sea, the fish, the birds, the sky, or any other natural object he, in effect (in fact), talked to himself. These “silent companions” could not reply or talk and the silent replies came from the old man’ heart or soul.
Now, the first theme or central idea of Santiago’s soliloquy was his sad memories, regrets, and fears. In one of his first short  soliloquy at the start, after hooking the grand marlin, he remembered Manolin aloud:


I wish I had the boy


Then he spoke about the fish that was pulling his boat along under the writer. Santiago has no companion except Manolin. He says to himself: The boy keeps me alive. He fights against the Marlin and the sharks by encouraging himself
Man is not made for defeat, a man can be destroyed but not defeated.
His remarks regarding the fish give out a clue to his love and admiration for the birds and beasts of the sea. At another time Santiago says God pity him(Marlin) and me. He also addresses God and says aloud God help him to take it. Santiago thinks aloud to avoid his loneliness. 
He says to himself No one should be alone in this old age. He thinks aloud to show that he is a man of strong resolution, persistent and indomitable faith. After reading the novel and the character of Santiago, we get the idea that his habit of talking to himself is the prominent part of his personality.

About the Author

Anila Ibrahim

An educationist, web content writer, equipped with an LLB and a Master’s degree in English Literature, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship. I have a comprehensive understanding of both the English language and the educational landscape. This academic background empowers Anila to deliver content that is not only informative but also thoroughly researched.

142 thoughts on “Important Questions Of The Old Man and The Sea | Sparknotes By Educational Lodge

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