Ernest Hemingway


Summary THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway

A poor old man named Santiago is fishing for a beautiful and large swordfish in the deep waters off the coast of Cuba, near the city of Havana. The difficult struggle between the old man and the fish, which lasts for three long days, is not just an ordinary fishing experience; it represents the metaphor of life itself. Just like the old man's battle with the fish, a person's life is also a constant struggle. Wisdom, courage, patience, experience, and luck are all necessary for this struggle, just as they are needed for fishing. While catching the fish, the old man says, "A man is not made for defeat."
However, in the end, when he finally conquers and catches the fish, the old man's victory is bitter because sharks devour it. His fishing experience is like life, consisting of both victories and defeats. What is unbreakable is the human spirit, as the old man says, "A man can be destroyed but not defeated". His optimism does not waver even after defeat, as he says, "It is not terrible when a man is defeated. I never thought of it that way before. We must not let that happen". That is why he remains optimistic, even after a difficult fishing experience that could have killed him. While lying exhausted in bed, he makes plans with the boy Manolin for a new fishing adventure at sea.


  • The old man Santiago was an experienced fisherman, but he had been unlucky lately. For a long time, eighty-four days to be exact, he hadn't caught a single fish. Other fishermen mocked him for it, and the father of the young boy Manolin, who had gone fishing with the old man for forty days, ordered the boy to leave him and join another fisherman's boat. The boy was sorry about it, he loved the old man because he had learned everything about fishing from Santiago when he was a little boy, but he had to obey his father.

  • Since Santiago lived off his fish catch and hadn't been able to catch anything, he lived in extreme poverty. He didn't even have enough food. Because of that, the young boy Manolin helped him as much as he could, bringing him food and bait for fishing because he had been lucky and had a good catch with the other fisherman.

  • On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago, with the help of the boy in preparation, set sail again towards the open sea to catch fish. This sailing was crucial for him because he couldn't give up. He decided to try his luck farther away from the other fishermen, far out in the open sea.

  • As an experienced fisherman, Santiago carefully followed the signs on the sea, such as the movement of birds and dolphins, who were also fishing, to discover where the fish were. That way, he determined the spots where he threw the bait from the boat and then, pulling them behind him in the depths of the sea, he waited. And then suddenly, he felt the fishing line tighten because a fish was biting. From his experience, the old man sensed that it was a big fish and knew he had to be patient.

  • When the fish swallowed the bait, with its great strength, it started pulling the old man's boat towards the open sea. He had to let it pull him and tire itself out because if he started fighting, the fish would break free and escape. Although he couldn't yet see which fish his hook had caught, he knew it was stronger than him and he had to outsmart it with his patience and experience. He also knew that luck would be crucial.

  • The fish dragged him across the open sea the whole day and the whole night. The old man missed the boy a lot, both as help and as company. Without him, he would sometimes talk to the fish, sometimes to himself. He addressed the fish sometimes in a friendly manner, and sometimes as a hunter who had to kill it, while telling himself that he mustn't give up, that he must win. The fish was big and powerful, but he knew he was smarter than it.

  • When the fish got tired, it stopped pulling the old man and the boat and started circling around the boat, first in large circles and then in smaller ones. When the old man saw the fish, he was amazed: it was a huge marlin, like nothing he or any other fisherman had ever seen. It was longer than his boat. The old man knew that the most important moment was coming soon, in which he would have to overcome the fish or it would escape. He needed as much strength as possible, but he was exhausted. He encouraged himself by remembering his young days, when he was the best baseball player, saying that "a man is not made for defeats" and "I will fight until I die."

  • Finally, when the fish approached enough, he gathered all his strength and killed it with a harpoon. After that, he felt different emotions, feeling victorious but also that the fish he killed was his sister. He pondered whether it was a sin to kill a fish, even to sustain his own life and feed many more people. He couldn't torment himself too much with that because there was still a lot of work ahead of him.

  • He was alone and couldn't put the fish in the boat. Even if someone was there to help him, the boat wouldn't be able to withstand the weight of the fish. That's why he tied the fish to his boat with a rope and started rowing towards the land, which was very far away. Then a large shark appeared and attacked the fish, biting it in one place. The old man pierced its head with the harpoon and killed it, but then he was left without a harpoon which sank stuck in the shark's head.

  • Blood was flowing into the sea from the bitten fish, which after some time attracted two sharks. They started to eat his fish, while he stabbed them in the head with a knife tied to an oar until they sank dead. They ate a quarter of the fish and his knife was broken.

  • With the arrival of dusk, new sharks appeared and attacked the fish. The old man had only a mallet (hammer) in his hands for defense, hitting the sharks as they tore the fish apart. He somehow drove them away, but half of the fish was eaten.

  • At midnight, a flock of sharks attacked the fish again. The old man hit them with the mallet until it fell into the water and then with his bare hands. But it didn't help anymore. The sharks ate the fish all night. The old man was defeated. However, he thought to himself: "It's not terrible when a man is defeated. I have never thought that defeat could be endured so easily".

  • Finally, before dawn, the old man arrived at the harbor and tied the boat. He dragged only the head and tail of the fish, which were connected by a long spinal bone. Exhausted, the old man reached his shack and collapsed from fatigue.

  • In the morning, he was found by the young boy Manolino, who cried when he saw the condition the old man was in. Fishermen and tourists looked at the huge skeleton of the fish and admired its size. The old man gave the beak of the fish as a souvenir to Manolino, who promised to help him rebuild his fishing gear and from now on, only go fishing with him and learn from him because he had proven to be the best.

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