The Old Man And The Sea By Ernest Hemingway | Author’s Intro | Summary | Characters Description

The Old Man And The Sea

The Old Man And The Sea

Author’s Introduction

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was born to Clearance and Grace Hemingway. Ernest was the second of the six children to be raised in a quiet suburban town. His father was a physician and both his parents were devout Christians.
Hemingway also participated in World War 1 as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross. He was wounded on July 8, 1918, in the Italian Army near Fossalta di Piave. Hemingway was given two decorations by the Italian government, and he joined the Italian infantry.
After the first World War, returning from the United States, Hemingway worked for the Toronto Star and lived for a short time in Chicago. Hemingway also lived in Paris from 1921- 1926. This time, stylistic development for Hemingway was at its zenith in 1923 with the publication of “Three Stories and Ten Poems.”
Hemingway got inspiration from Joyce’s Dubliners which forever changed his writing career. He wrote “Torrents of Spring” and “The Sun Also Rises.” Hemingway’s extensive travel in pursuit of hunting and other sports provided a great deal of material for his novels.
During World War II, Hemingway volunteered his fishing boat and served with U.S Navy as a submarine spotter in the Caribbean. In 1950, his books, “Across the River’ and “Into the Trees” were published. “The Old Man And The Sea” publication won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. He also got  Noble Prize for Literature in 1954.
Hemingway’s own life and character are as fascinating as any in his stories. He was successful in both living and writing which is reflected in the fact that Hemingway is a hero among intellectuals and rebels alike. The passions of the man are equaled and shown in his writing.


Brief description of the characters in | The Old Man And The Sea


The central character of the novel. He is an expert fisherman. He teaches Manolin everything he knows about fishing. Santiago is an old and poor man and has gone 84 days to catch fish but could not catch any fish.


A young boy from the fishing village. He has fished with Santiago since the age of five and now cares for the old man. Manolin recently has begun fishing with another fisherman whom his parents consider luckier than Santiago.


An eighteen-foot large fish. It is hooked by Santiago and is killed by him after a struggle of three days.


Mako is a  mackerel shark (dentuso in Spanish). It is a voracious and frightening killer known for its rows of large sharp teeth.

Shovel-nosed sharks

These are called scavenger sharks (galanos in Spanish) that destroy the marlin.


Martin is an owner of the terrace (his name is Spanish for St. Martin), he used to send food and drink to Santiago through Manolin.


A man who lives in the village and on occasion helped Santiago with the fishing net.


He was a man at the bodega ( his name is Spanish for St. Peter, an apostle, and fisherman) who used to Santiago newspapers to read.


Another fisherman in the village. He looked after Santiago’s skiff and gear and received the marlin’s head to use in fish traps.


A man and woman at the terrace who see the marlin’s skeleton and misunderstanding a waiter’s explanation of what happened, think the skeleton is that of a shark. 


Summary | The Old Man And The Sea 

The starting pages of the book establish Santiago’s character. Santiago’s name is Spanish for St. James, an apostle, and fisherman. Even though Santiago loves Manolin and is loved dearly by the boy, he lives as an outsider in the village.
The other fishermen also mock him because of his unlucky and fruitless condition. It shows Santiago to be an alienated figure. Such a different position is a feature of Hemingway’s heroes, who greatly depend, in large part, upon their isolation. 
The first few paragraphs of the novel begin the development of the theme of the novel. Man’s struggle for survival in difficult circumstances. Hemingways’ message in “The Old Man and The Sea” is tragic in many respects. 
Santiago’s story and the destruction of his catch is away from dismal. Santiago is not defeated by his enlightenment. The narrator emphasizes Santiago’s perseverance in the opening pages, mentioning that the old man’s eyes are still cheerful and undefeated after suffering nearly three months(84 days) without a single catch. 
In Hemingway’s narrative style, Santiago is exalted above the normal stature of a hero, assuming near-mythical characteristics. He belongs to the tradition of literary heroes whose superior qualities necessitate their distance from ordinary humans and endeavors.
Manolin constantly shows his dedication to, reverence for, and trust of Santiago, he considers his mentor as a figure of distinct moral and professional stature, in spite of the difficulties of the past eighty-four days. While other young fishermen make fun of the old man.
Manolin acknowledges Santiago’s true value and the extent of Santiago’s knowledge. According to him, a man proves him having a toughness joined with emotionality and proving that he can act gracefully under pressure. 
Additionally, in Santiago’s conversation with Manolin shows two important aspects of Santiago’s personality: the concept of fate and pain. In spite of his ill-luck, the old man still possesses faith in himself and in the fact that his luck will change. An eternal optimist, he dares to believe that tomorrow will be better. 
Santiago was an old man who has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish. He is a widower and there is no mention of any children of his own. He has the only boy Manolin, as a companion and genuine friend. Manolin had been Santiago’s apprentice. 
Manolin’s parents have made him work on another fishing boat because of an attempt to catch “the big one fish.” Santiago rows his skiff out from the Havana harbor far away from the normal fishing waters, being hoped to end his bad luck with a really big goal of catching fish.

He puts his lines and learns the signals of the sea, finding them suitable. His deepest line shows signs of a fish nibbling at the bait. After a final strike, he sets the hook and the fish begins to tow the boat with ease. Santiago feels that this is not a normal fish. 

The fish continues to pull Santiago’s boat out to sea as a child pulls a toy wagon. Still, the fish is a captive and Santiago starts feeling pity for this great catch. But this does not soften his decision to “stay with you until I am dead”.

Santiago feels tension on the line to the breaking edge, trying to make the fish jump. The line has been stretched over his back for hours now. He begins to feel intense pain. When the great fish stumbles unexpectedly, the line cuts his right hand.

And to make matters even worse, his left hand became cramped like the gripped claws of an eagle. The fish surfaces for the first time. While seeing the fish, Santiago has hooked a marlin larger than the skiff. By noon his left-hand uncramps, and he repeats prayers for success as the fish towing the skiff.
They are now far beyond the sight of the shore. Baseball, an intense interest he shares with Manolin, occupies his thoughts, particularly his idolization of DiMaggio. Santiago remembers his youth when he too won a daylong arm-wrestling match with a powerful rival.
Santiago has caught another fish on one of his other lines, starts eating it and sleeps for the first time. Then a furious jerk of the line wakes him and his handset badly cut. The great marlin is jumping. This is a good thing to fill its air sacs.
The fish will not sink to the bottom and die, unable to be pulled back. On the third day, marlin begins to circle the boat rather than towing it. This is a major breakthrough in the struggle to bring in the fish. Santiago puts as much tension on the line as possible make the circle shorter.
On that day, the fish is close enough for Santiago to see it well. The fish is enormous beyond belief. After several more circles, Santiago gets the marline close enough to kill it with his harpoon.
The fish he has caught is much larger than his skiff, it must be waved to the side rather than pulled behind. Santiago sets the mast and starts sailing to the southwest, back towards Havana. But a mako shark hits the marlin and tears off at least forty pounds his flesh before Santiago.
He loses his harpoon in killing it. Now there is a massive stream of blood and scent in the water, which is the essential attractive sign to other sharks. More sharks start appearing. The sharks are shovel-nosed, scavenger sharks, and galonos. 
Santiago kills one with his knife that goes to an oar, he kills another then, with much difficulty. But a quarter of the size of marlin meat is now gone. Before Santiago can kill him, another galano destroys even more of the marlin, and the knife blade breaks in this fight.
At the time of sunset, two more come. He is tired and unable to kill them but hits them with a club made from an old broken oar. Santiago sees the reflected glow of Havana lights. But the galanos now come in a pack. He fights them with a club but they strip the remaining flesh from the marline.
So now Santiago pilots his small craft home, bringing only a skeleton. He arrives in the middle of the night, because his skiff, carries the mast to his shack and falls into an exhausted sleep. Manolin finds him sleeping. 
There has been disturbance among the village fishermen over the unbelievable size of the skeleton still tied to Santiago’s skiff. Manolin goes to a pain-ridden old man and vows to fish with him again. Tourists looked with detached amusement at the skeletal remains of Santiago’s three-day battle. 
They do not understand the nature or significance of Santiago’s experiences. Manolin, who has been worried over the old man’s absence, is moved to tears when finds Santiago safe in his bed. 
The boy brings some coffee for the old man and the daily newspapers with the baseball scores and sees him sleep. When the old man wakes, the two agree to fish as partners once again. The old man again sleeps and dreams about lions at play on the African beeches.

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.

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