The Old Man and the Sea Summary and Analysis: Earnest Hemingway

Read our complete notes on the novel The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway. Our notes cover The Old Man and the Sea summary and analysis.

The Old Man and the Sea Introduction:

The Old Man and the sea, published in 1952 is a novella written by renowned novelist Ernest Hemmingway. The novel wins the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for fiction. This novel was Hemmingway’s last major work of fiction. The plot of the novel revolves around an old fisherman who engages himself in a heroic encounter to hook a giant fish, marlin.

The central character of the novel is an old fisherman, named Santiago, who fishes alone in the sea. Initially, he was joined by a young boy who comes to him to learn fishing. Being unable to catch the fish, Santiago asks him to join the lucky boat. The old man went eight-four days without catching a single fish. The plot of the story moves with the old man catching a great marlin and his heroic encounter with sharks. His strong determination and sportsman spirit never allow him to move to other remote places.

The Old Man and the Sea Summary:

The Novel, The Old man and the Sea open with an old fisherman named Santiago, who for eighty-four days has not trapped a single fish. A young boy, Manolin, at first shared with him the bad fortune, however, after forty days the boy’s father asks his son to join another boat. Since then, Santiago sails alone. On daily basis, Santiago clamors his net in the stream of big fishes but is unable to catch single and returns empty-handed every evening.

Manolin loves Santiago and pities his state. When the boy has no money with him, he either begs or snips just that Santiago has sufficient to eat. Though the old man has accepted his kindness but misinterprets it with his humility that illustrates his pride nature. During their dinner, they either talk about the luckier time during which they would catch the fish or about the American baseball plus the great Joe DiMaggio. Alone in his hut, at night, the old man dreams of beaches of Africa, where he had sailed ships a few years back and lions over there. His dead wife no longer comes in his dreams.

On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago clamors out of the port in the calm and cool dark before dawning. When parting the aroma of land after him, he arranges his lines. He has two fresh tunas of his baits that was given by the young boy. Along with it, he has sardines as well to cover his hooks. Into the deep dark water, the lines descend straight down. Towards the only low green line on the sea, Santiago sees other boats soon as the sun rises. A flying man-of-war bird signals him the location of the dolphins chasing the school of fish, however, the school is far away and is too fast. The birds encircle again and the old man sees tuna jumping in the sunlight. A trifling one grosses the knob on his harsh line. Carrying the trembling fish onboard, the old man contemplates it a good portent.

A marlin begins gnawing at the bait toward noon, which is almost one hundred measures down. The old man slightly plays the fish that is a really big one, as known through the weight in the line. Finally, he attacks to settle down the hook. However, the fish does not come on the surface, instead starts hauling towards the northwest. Santiago stretches the line across his shoulder and supports himself. He, being a skilled fisherman and knows many tricks, waits patiently so that the fish exhaust.

After the sunset, the cold increases and the old man starts shivering. He suddenly feels that something has taken one of the remaining baits with him and immediately cuts the line with his sheath knife. The fish suddenly starts motions due to which Santiago is pushed towards it, and his check is cut. His left hand becomes rigid and cramped by down. The fish again starts motion towards northward and now his right hand is cut by the strong pull online. He is now hungry and cut some strips from the tuna and gnaws them, waiting to get warmed by the sun relax his cut fingers.

In the morning, the fish jumps. Santiago, seeing it jump, acknowledges that he has captured the biggest fish ever. The fish goes inside water and turns in the east direction. In the hot afternoon, he sparingly drinks water from the bottle. Meanwhile, an airplane buzzes above his head on the way to Miami. In order to forget his cut hand and hurting back, he tries to remember the scene when men mischievously called him El Campeón and he started a fight with them at Cienfuegos in the tavern.

Santiago rebaited the hook and close to nightfall, a dolphin took the hook. He carefully lifts the fish on board so that he does not jolt the line. After taking some rest, he slices the dolphin and cut its bone. He also keeps the two fishes that he discovers in its jaws. He sleeps that night, however, is awakened by the movement of lines in his fingers as the dolphin moves. He tries to fatigue the dolphin by feeding the line slowly. Soon when fish slows down its movement, Santiago washes his hands and eats one on the flying fish that he caught in the dolphin’s jaw. He is very tired and gets faint while bringing the big fish nearer. When he is completely exhausted, he drives his harpoon. The fish is almost two feet longer than his boat. In Havana harbor, no one has ever experienced such a big catch. While setting his course towards the southwest, he thinks of the fortune that the fish will make.

Just an hour later, Santiago witness the first sharks that violently comes towards the dead dolphin with its raking teeth. Fearing his failing fortune, the old man hits the shark with his harpoon. Leaving the dolphin bloody and injured, the sharks roll down and sinks in the water taking the harpoon with it. The old man knows that the smell with spread inviting may predators. He soon watches two sharks approaching towards the dolphin. He hits one with the knife while the other sinks down into the deep water. One after the other shark attacks the dolphin. The old man, fighting with all, is now very tired and fears that sharks will eat all the dolphin, leaving a skeleton for him.

When the old man goes in a boat to the coast, all the lights are gone. In the dark, Santiago only manages to understand the backbone and the tail of the fish. He starts pushing the fish and the boat. Once he falls down due the weight, however, lays tolerantly till he can collect some courage and strength. In the shelter, he immediately goes to sleep after falling in his bed.

Later that morning, the boy discovers him while the other fishermen are gathered around the skiff wondering at the giant dolphin that is eighteen foot long. Manolin brings Santiago a hot coffee while he wakes up. Santiago offers the boy the spear in the fish. Manolin asks him to have some rest so that he can make himself appropriate for the coming days in which they will sail together. While the old man sleeps all that afternoon, dreaming of lions, the boy sits beside him.


The Old Man and the Sea Character Analysis:


He is an old fisherman, the protagonist of the novel, belongs to Cuban. He is a humble, modest man who adores and respect the sea and spent all his life near the sea. Initially, a young boy accompanies him in his search for the great marlin, dolphin. But after forty days, he fishes alone in the sea. The old man patience is rewarded after a long eight-four days without catching a single fish. He catches a huge marlin of eighteen foot long from head to tail but then again engages in a three-day struggle to place it in a right place. In his encounter with the marlin, the old man starts recognizing himself and identify himself with the fish. He feels a sense of brotherhood with it and guilty for the idea of killing it. The action of the story suffuses through this feeling of unity and interdependence between the fish and the old man. Through the novel, the heroic individualism of the old and his love for the other creatures around him is quite evident. He after catches it completely, attaches it with his boat, however, the sharks, one after another, attacks it. The old man’s next encounter the sharks proves to be impossible to win and Santiago is only left with the skeleton of the marlin that is insignificant but a sign or his victory. Santiago forces himself to both the physical and mental survival in a struggle with the great dolphin. Santiago, a man having innate intelligence and a sturdy will for survival, accepts tragedy with great self-effacement and dignity.


He is a young boy, who lives in Cuban. He learns to fish from Santiago, the old man. He would fish with the Santiago and became his fishing partner till his father stops him. With the passage of time, the young boy becomes the closest and the most devoted friend of the old man and the old man turns out to be his ancillary father. Mandolin is so attached and devoted to Santiago that he often steals and begs for the old man food. Moreover, for the old man, he also discovers the fresh bait. The old man and the young boy talks about fishing, American baseball, and many other things when they are together. In their discussions, the old man, Santiago, often wishes to teach Manolin mental and physical survival, about the sportsman spirit and about being a victor.

The Marlin

It is the eighteen-foot long fish that weighs more than a thousand pounds. It is the largest fish that is ever caught in the Gulf Stream. Marlin, to Santiago, is a mixture of unbelievable beauty and lethal strength. Both Santiago and the marlin are identical in the war against nature and both of them emerges as heroes.


He is the processor of the Terrace who gives food to the young boy, Manolin, to give it to Santiago.


He is a fisherman to whom the old man, Santiago, gives the big fish’s head so that he can use it in his fishing for trapping.


He is a young little boy who on one occasion facilitated Santiago with his fish nets.

The Old Man and the Sea Themes:

The major themes of the novel are:


From the start novel, Santiago, the central character of the novel and the protagonist, is characterized by someone who is struggling against his fortune. Initially, he is struggling against his defeat: he hasn’t caught a single fish since eighty-four days and soon is going to pass his own personal best of eighty-seven days. Moreover, the sail of his boat identifies the “flag” of enduring defeat. However, the old man, having a strong will, at every turn rejects defeat. He decides to sail in that part where the largest fish are found. He hooked the marlin and encounters sharks for the next three days before landing the fish. He wards off sharks from his hooked marlin, although he knows that it is worthless.

 As Santiago sympathizes against the sea creature, various readers also read the novel form as an account of an old man’s battle against the natural world. However, more accurately, the story of the novel is “the place of man in nature”. Santiago and marlin, both, presents the characteristics of honor, pride, and bravery. Both of them are subjected to everlasting law: kill or be killed. Santiago reflects the idea of predators when he watches the exhausted tired warbler’s fly towards shore, where he will fall prey to the hawk and will be killed. He illustrates the idea of the world filled with predators that will one day lead to death despite the inevitable struggle. Hemmingway, through Santiago, reflects the idea of the unconquerable will of the man. According to him, a man can be devastated but not overwhelmed. Death, to him, is inevitable, however, the best of man lies in his refusal to give into its power.

The novel proposes that it is conceivable to exceed this expected regulation. Indeed, the actual certainty of obliteration generates the standings that permit a well-intentioned man or beast to exceed it. It is indeed over the determination to fight the unavoidable that a man is able to attest himself. In fact, the worthiness of the opponent that a man chooses can attest his determination to fight over and over again. Marlin, to Santiago, is worthy to fight with. The way he admires and adores his opponents brings respect into a reckoning with death. Even if they are destroyed, they are not humiliated, but their destruction brings honor and courage that proves and assures the old man’s heroic characteristics. The protagonist of the novel, though is destroyed, at the end of the novel, however, is not defeated. His struggle doesn’t make him change the place is worth, rather provide him a more honorable fortune.

Pride: the Source of Greatness and Determination:

The novel, The Old Man and the Sea, resembles mostly to the classical tragedies. Many characteristics parallels between the protagonist and the classical heroes.

Many resembling qualities occur amongst Santiago and the classic heroes of the ancient world. Besides displaying enormous power, valor, and ethical conviction, they also have a tragic flaw. Though this quality is usually admirable, however, leads to the downfall of the character. Santiago is strongly aware of his tragic flaw-pride. The old man, time and again, apologizes from the marlin, when sharks destroyed it. He concedes that he ruined both, the marlin and himself, sailing beyond his limit.

Being a skillful fisherman, though it is true that it is an insult to the pride of the old man to live eighty-four days without a single catch. The novelist, Hemmingway, doesn’t convict his protagonist for his flaw, however, he presents him the evidence that pride inspires greatness in men. Since Santiago recognizes that he murder the enormous marlin mainly out of pride plus as his detention of the marlin hints in a chance to his valiant perfection of downfall, pride turn out to be the foundation of Santiago’s utmost asset. Deprived of a vicious intellect of pride, that combat would never have tussled, or further, it would have been reckless before the end.

The old man’s pride also encourages his craving to excel in the damaging forces of nature. The old man, throughout the novel, struggles and determines to bring the great marlin to the shore. He encounters the sharks, however, was only left with the skeleton. He even didn’t abandon the skeleton, but bring it with him to his shelter as an award or trophy. The splendor and integrity the old man accumulates originate not from his fight itself yet from his pride and willpower to combat.

The Old Man and the Sea Analysis:

The Old Man and the Sea is a short novel and unlike other novels, it is not divided into chapters. Nevertheless, it is not suitable to call it a short story with 27,500 words approximately. Determinations to fragment it into identifiably distinct portions are disorganized at greatest since its action transfers laterally a timeline of sunrise, midday, dusk, nighttime, and dawning that is then and there reiterated, plus through slight recollecting by the character and no interruptions by the novelist.

The action of the novel is subjective, however, it is divided into various parts: the introduction, three melodramatic segments, denouement, and coda. The readers, in the introductory part, learn about the first forty days of the old man’s fishing aided by the young boy in the Gulf Stream. After forty days, the old man fished alone. He went fishing for eighty-four day without catching a single fish. In the first, the real action of the story begins on the eighty-fifth day when he hooked a giant male marlin. Part two of the novel deals with the efforts of Santiago with the strong fish that tows him northwest into night and more. The subsequent afternoon, Santiago first sees his victim when the fish unexpectedly surfaces. It tows the old him through the second night. The old man hands are cut and back is stressed, still, he efforts to catch the fish completely. Part three of the novel deal with Santiago’s encounter with sharks. A number of sharks attacks and devour parts of the marlin. Santiago fights with all the sharks however, at the end left with the skeleton of the marlin that he brings to the shore. He was very tired and fell asleep soon after falling into his bed. In the last part, the coda Manolin brings him coffee and both of them resolute to fish again.

In the novel, Santiago is the only central character of the novel whose words and thoughts are often recorded. His words are often put into quotation marks when he speaks loudly with himself, and sometimes, Santiago’s thoughts are recorded without the use of quotation marks. The pronouns “I” and “he” are used without obvious discrepancy.

The novel The Old Man and the Sea shows faithfulness to the classical unity of time, place, and action that is with a discrete start, extended middle, and termination. The plot includes three days and nights that mostly occurs on the sea and illustrates one series of events. The events are interwoven with clever prophecy, mainly done through Santiago’s recurrent exhortation of going out too distant, his often calling his excavation his “brother,” his views about baseball and his envisaging about spirited lions that he saw years before on African seashores. We see Manolin in the first part of the novel and in the last part. Hence, the novel or novella has a masterpiece form, with Manolin founding the little first and third subjects and an old man pitted in contrast to the sea and its mortals as the further extravagant subsequent subject.