Old Man And The Sea Summary

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Old Man And The Sea Summary

The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

Type of Work:
Symbolic drama

Setting
North Coast of Cuba; early twentieth century

Principal Characters
Santiago, an old, weathered fisherman Manolin , a boy, Santiago's young fishing companion The Marlin, a gigantic fish

Story Overveiw

Eighty-four days had passed since Santiago, the old fisherman, had caught a fish, and he
was forced to suffer not only the ridicule of younger fishermen, but

near-starvation as well. Moreover, Santiago had lost his young companion, a
boy named Manolin, whose father had ordered him to leave Santiago in order to
work with more successful seamen. But the devoted child still loved Santiago,
and each day brought food and bait to his shack, where they indulged in their
favorite pastime: talking about the American baseball leagues. The old man's
hero was the New York Yankees' Joe DiMaggio. Santiago identified with the
ballplayer's skill and discipline, and declared he would like to take the great
DiMaggio fishing some time.

After visiting one particular afternoon, the boy left Santiago, who fell asleep.
Lions immediately filled his dreams. As a boy he had sailed to Africa and had
seen lions on the beaches. Now, as an old man, he constantly dreamed of the
great and noble beasts.

He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of Great occurrences, nor
of great fish, nor fights nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only
dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach ... He loved them as he
loved the boy.

Before dawn of the next day, the fisherman, as usual, hauled his salt-encrusted
skiff onto the beach and set out by himself. But today, in hopes of breaking his
unlucky streak, he was determined to sail into deep waters, out much farther
than the other anglers would go. He followed the sea birds and flying fish; they
would tell him b y their movements where the fish congregated.

He watched the turtles swimming near his boat. He loved the turtles, "with their
elegance and speed... "

Most people are Heartless about turtles because a turtle's heart will beat for
hours after he has been cut tip and butchered. The old man thought, I have
such a heart too ...

Early on, Santiago managed to land a tenpound tuna. Thinking this a good
omen, he used the fresh meat to bait one of his lines. By now he was far away
from land, and much farther out than all the other fishermen. Resisting the
temptation to sleep or to let his mind wander, Santiago concentrated on his lines
reaching deep into the dark green waters.

At noon he felt a bite. Testing his line, he guessed that it must be a marlin
nibbling at the tuna bait. "He must be huge," the old man thought, and waited
anxiously for a strike. Suddenly, the fish took the bait entirely and began to swim
furiously out to sea, dragging the boat behind him. The fish was so powerful that
Santiago was helpless to stop him; he could only brace himself against the
weight placed on the taut line that cut across his shoulders and hold on until the
fish exhausted its strength. Darkness fell, and still the fish swam steadily out to
sea. The seaman spent a grueling night with the line looped painfully round his
back. Though he was weak, old and all alone, Santiago knew many tricks, and
possessed skills the young men yet lacked. Besides, he loved the sea with a
passion and had faith that she would handle him with reverent, though bitter,
kindness. Once, when the fish gave a sudden tug, the line slashed Santiago's
cheek. "Fish," the old man vowed softly, "I'll stay with you until I am dead."

Then he began to pity the great fish that he had hooked. He is wonderful and
strange and u)ho knows how old he is, he thought ... Perhaps he is too wise to
jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush. But perhaps he has been
hooked many times before and he knows that this is how he should make his
fight. He cannot know that it is only one man against him, or that it is an old man
...

His choice had been to stay in the deep dark water far out beyond all snares
and traps and treacheries. My choice was to go there to find him beyond all
people .... Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to
help either of us.

By morning of the second day the fish was still beading northward; vigorous,
seemingly tireless strokes of its tail guided it forward. There was no land in sight.
A stiffening cramp in Santiago's left hand, a wicked slice in his right, and his
shivering from cold was hampering his work. "I wish I had the boy," he said aloud.

All at once the fish surfaced and leaped into the air. Santiago marveled at the
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