The Old Man and the Sea | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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The Old Man and the Sea | Quotes


Everything about him was old except his eyes and they ... were cheerful and undefeated.


Speaking about Santiago, the narrator explains that despite his old age and going out to fish every day and returning without a catch for 84 days in a row, Santiago is not daunted and his spirit is unbroken.


It is better to be lucky. But I'd rather be exact.


Despite what others call his string of bad luck, Santiago believes he can turn things around with his skill, experience, and knowledge. Ultimately, luck may have nothing to do with success.


All my life the early sun has hurt my eyes. Yet they are still good.


Although the old man has lived a long and hard life as a fisherman, his body is still strong. He has persevered in the struggle to carve out a life despite the harsh elements by his willingness to suffer pain.


The iridescent bubbles were beautiful ... But they were the falsest thing in the sea.


Speaking of the jellyfish that can hurt with their sting, the narrator explains that nature is both beautiful and cruel in its ability to give and take life.


No one should be alone in their old age ... But it is unavoidable.


Santiago refers not only to his loneliness after his wife's death, but also to the loneliness of a fisherman out on the sea. Neither situation can be avoided; in the end each fisherman must face his catch by himself, and all men must die alone. It is the human condition that cannot be avoided and therefore must be accepted.


'Fish,' he said softly, aloud. 'I'll stay with you until I am dead.'


The old man is willing to give his all to keep the magnificent fish he has hooked. While lesser men might give up, the old man vows not to, even if it costs the ultimate price: his life. This is the fundamental expression of the old man's strength of will and persistence.


He felt the line ... with his right hand and noticed his hand was bleeding.


The narrator shows Santiago as so focused on his work he does not notice his injury. This wound is one of three bleeding wounds the old man suffers during his struggle with the marlin, likening him to Christ on the cross. The old man's ability to endure pain and suffering is his ultimate strength.


He is my brother. But I must kill him and keep strong to do it.


The old man feels kinship to the marlin he has hooked. Like the fish, the old man is part of the circle of life, and in that eternal struggle to survive, man must kill even a magnificent animal.


I wish I could show him what sort of man I am.


The old man wishes Manolin were with him so the boy could help dispel his loneliness and help him catch the fish. Most of all, Santiago wishes Manolin could witness the greatest catch of Santiago's life. He wants to show Manolin that despite old age and a long streak of bad luck, Santiago is still a great fisherman.


The thousand times he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again.


The old man's previous catches might be testaments to his great skill, yet past accomplishments mean nothing. A fisherman has to prove his physical prowess and his skill each time he hooks and reels in a fish. A man can never rest on his laurels.


The punishment of the hook is nothing.


Referring to the fish, the old man admires that despite the pain the hook must cause, the fish has pulled him along for several days instead of trying to rid itself of the hook or allowing itself to be reeled in. This action elevates the fish to a worthy opponent.


A man can be destroyed but not defeated.


Somewhat defenseless after having lost his harpoon when protecting his catch from the sharks, the old man shows an individual's willpower and resourcefulness will ultimately help him persevere.


It is silly not to hope.


The old man recognizes that even when a person faces insurmountable odds, hope is what keeps people going. Hope is eternal and ultimately leads to triumph.


He leaned ... against the stern and knew he was not dead. His shoulders told him.


The narrator explains Santiago knows he is alive because of the pain he feels in his shoulders. At the moment the old man faces the struggle that could kill him, he feels most alive.


Then he shouldered the mast and started to climb.


As Jesus carried his cross, Santiago carries his mast and accepts his fate. Pain and suffering notwithstanding, he will go back to fish the next day, regardless of whether he wins or loses. The old man does not succumb but rises above his fate by accepting it willingly. Triumph is not the same as success. Triumph is never giving up.

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