The Old Man and the Sea Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Old Man and the Sea

This book is about a stuggle between an old man and the nature. The old Cuban fisherman Santiago has been set out to sea four 85 days and returned home empty handed. So conspicuously unlucky is he that the parents of his young devoted apprentice and friend, Manolin, have forced the boy to leave the old man in order to fish in a more prosperous boat. Nevertheless, the boy continues to care for the old man upon his return each night. He helps the old man tote his gear to his ramshackle hut, secures food for him, and discusses the latest developments in American baseball, especially the trials of the old man's hero, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago is confident that his unproductive streak will soon come to an end, and he resolves to sail out farther than usual the following day.
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On the eighty-fifth day of his unlucky streak, Santiago does as promised, sailing his skiff far beyond the island's shallow coastal waters and venturing into the Gulf Stream. He prepares his lines and drops them. At noon, a big fish, which he knows is a marlin, takes the bait that Santiago has placed one hundred fathoms deep in the waters. The old man expertly hooks the fish, but he cannot pull it in. Instead, the fish begins to pull the boat.

Unable to tie the line fast to the boat for fear the fish would snap a taut line, the old man bears the strain of the line with his shoulders, back, and hands, ready to give slack should the marlin make a run. The fish pulls the boat all through the day, through the night, through another day, and through another night. It swims steadily northwest until at last it tires and swims east with the current. The entire time, Santiago endures constant pain from the fishing line. Whenever the fish lunges, leaps, or makes a dash for freedom, the cord cuts him badly. Although wounded and weary, the old man feels a deep empathy and admiration for the marlin, his brother in suffering, strength, and resolve.
The review of this Book prepared by Andrei

An old man overwhelmed by life is given one last chance to determine the strength of his character. Santiago, a fisherman, is the main character in Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. As he nears the end of his life, Santiago realizes that all he has left are his skills at fishing, a kindhearted boy whom he loves, and the dreams of his youth that he escapes to when he sleeps.

After eighty-four days of fishing to no avail, Santiago hooks a marlin. It is the largest fish he has ever seen. With this marlin, Santiago engages in an epic battle that carries him far from familiar waters. He is presented with numerous chances to relinquish his prize and return home, yet he refuses to admit defeat. Santiago's determination to never give up fuels his quest to conquer the great fish. In a skiff with no food and only a bottle of water, Santiago is pulled by the marlin. It is hooked on a line that stretches across his back, burning and cutting into his skin. Santiago endures the pain in order to achieve his goal.

He demonstrates his determination as he matches his strength against that of the fish, which far surpasses his own. For days, the old man follows the marlin, fighting off bouts of dizziness and exhaustion. In order to kill the fish with a harpoon, Santiago needs it to jump above the water. While the marlin circles the skiff, Santiago labors at maintaining his hold on the line and bringing the fish in. Each time the fish passes the boat, Santiago pulls the line but the marlin escapes his grasp. After catching the fish, Santiago is attacked by a horde of sharks. Shark after shark comes to devour the fish. Santiago fends them off, first with a harpoon, then a knife, and lastly clubbing them to death.
The review of this Book prepared by Joanna

Santiago has had bad luck with fishing for months and he goes out too far into the ocean. Although he goes too far, he catches an enormous marlin, bigger than he has ever seen or heard of. This fish pulls him along in the ocean for days. Santiago is determined. He will die before he gives up. After a long time of holding the line for the fish, his left hand cramps up. His hand is personified in the sense that it is betraying him. Also his head is personified when he tells it to clear up. The man catches the fish with much struggle. The fish wouldn't fit on his boat so he had to tie it to the side of his boat. Sharks of different kinds were attracted to the blood, and Santiago had to kill them in order to save his fish. By the time he got back to the dock where he had left, there was only the skeleton of a great fish. He did not brag. He was only sorry. He felt guilty for destroying such a great fish that he had come to admire.   
The review of this Book prepared by Elena

It is an unbelievable story of man verses beast as well as man verses himself. His fight with his own realization that age takes away many things, but wisdom.
The review of this Book prepared by Ellipses

Hemingway's 'The Old Man and the Sea' revived his literary reputation, which had been in decline, and led to his Nobel prize for Literature in 1954. (The Nobel award is not for a specific book but for an author's overall work.) He had already won the Pulitzer prize in 1953, which is for a specific book that depicts the 'positive and negative aspects of the human condition'.

The book has a narrative structure which is simple and effective. It starts on land with old man and the young boy, which establishes the characters. In the middle he fishes alone, all the action takes place at sea. Alone he must wrestle the great marlin, a prize catch, the catch of a lifetime. He defeats the elements and changes his luck by skill, strength of will, and bodily power. But then, with the element of surprise, the sea takes back the prize he has wrested from it. The story ends as it begins. Back on land, he is bowed and bloodied. The young lad, full of compassion, ministers to his needs and his wounds.

The characters are simple, but well drawn. The old man is proud: after eighty-four days without a catch he does not admit he cannot afford yellow rice and fish. But he has learned enough humility to accept two small fish as bait from the boy. The boy loves the old man, who taught him to fish. As his luck is gone, the boy's parents no longer allow him to sail with the old man. The prose is famously pungent and economical, the descriptions are physical and sharp. They show and do not merely tell: 'His back was as blue as a swordfish's and his belly was silver...The shark closed fast astern and when he hit the fish the old man saw his mouth open and his strange eyes and the clicking chop of the teeth as drove forward...'

The book cannot be said to be deep or perfect. The fisherman may be out on a mile-deep blue ocean, but the worldview of the whole is shallow, secular, and humanist. Religion means nothing to the old man ('I am not religious, he said.'), but he prays - and then blasphemes in close succession. To him it is but a mental manipulation, like his recall of the arm-wrestling match in his young days. There is barely any moral message in the story; it too simple a tale of physical prowess for that. The nearest we get to this is where he tells himself that he hopes because he thinks it a sin not to hope: and this is a true Christian thought. But the comparison between the pain in his hand, cut by the fishing line, to the pain of the nails of crucifixion is an over-finesse, and it is out of place. He tells himself that 'A man can be destroyed but not defeated'; but this is only defiance, not true dogma or metaphysics. Like Dylan Thomas he will not 'go gentle into that good night'…but…'Rage, rage against the dying of the light.' But we would not ask him why: he would only say, if he answered at all, "I will not".
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose

Chapter Analysis of The Old Man and the Sea

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh) Time/era of story    -   1600-1899 Life of a profession:    -   fisherman Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Job/Profession/Status story    -   Yes Exploring into the wild    -   Yes kind of story    -   hunting animal

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   fisherman Age:    -   60's-90's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Hispanic/Latinic


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   6 () Ice Caps/Sea?    -   Yes Where?    -   Ocean Water?    -   Yes Water:    -   sail boat    -   feeding sharks

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog    -   little dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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