The Old Man and the Sea Study Guide

The Old Man and the Sea By Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is an account of an epic battle between a grizzled but experienced fisherman named Santiago and the biggest catch of his life, a massive marlin, off the coast of Cuba.

Santiago had gone for 84 days without a single catch, and his young apprentice Manolin has been forbidden by his parents to fish with him anymore. Nontheless, Manolin returns to Santiago's hut to feed him and talk about baseball.

On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago sets out alone far into the Gulf. Around noon, he sees that a big fish has taken his line, and he's sure it's a marlin. The fish tows Santiago and his skiff around for two days and two nights, with Santiago bearing the tension on the line with his body. He is in constant pain, but he experiences a compassionate appreciation for the might of his adversary.

On the third day, the fish begins to circle, indicating exhaustion. Santiago, nearly delirious with exhaustion, pulls it in and stabs it with a harpoon, finally the victor in the epic battle. He straps the marlin to his skiff and heads home.

On the way, he sees sharks approaching, and fights them off, first with his harpoon, then with a knife tied to an oar. The fight is brutal, but he succeeds in fending them off for several hours before passing out completely.

Unfortunately, the sharks eat the body of the marlin before he reaches home, but nonetheless, the fishermen back at shore measure the marlin skeleton at eighteen feet and are overawed. Manolin brings Santiago breakfast and promises to return to fishing with him. Santiago slips back into sleep, and dreams of lions on the African beach.

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Although the young fishermen make fun of Santiago, he is not angry with them. What does this reveal about him? Why do you suppose the old men don’t make fun of him?