The Old Man and The Sea - Plot

bill fingleton
Slide Set by bill fingleton, updated 10 months ago More Less
bill fingleton
Created by bill fingleton 10 months ago


A plot summary of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea. Santiago is a Cuban fisherman. Alone he struggles for three days with the greatest Marlin anyone has ever seen. He beats the fish, but loses to the sharks.

Resource summary

Slide 2

    The Old Man and The Sea - Context
    The Old Man and The Sea is a novella by American writer, Ernest Hemingway. The book was written in 1951, though Hemingway had been working the idea for approximately fifteen years .  Hemingway was a keen fisherman and had lived in Cuba for an extended period. The story is focused on an aging Cuban fisherman named Santiago and his relationship with, principally, a large Marlin that he is intent of catching. The sparse narrative has a minimal cast of characters. The only other character worthy of note is the boy, Manolin -  a good hearted neighbor, who takes care of the unlucky fisherman. The language and dialogue of the story is as economic as the character list. Despite the brevity, Hemingway creates a rich world which stays with the reader. Perhaps, this is why the story won a Pulitzer prize in 1953 and the Nobel prize in 1954. The simple story is one of the classics of American fiction. 

Slide 3

    The Old Man and The Sea - Plot
    The Old Man and The Sea is a novella organized in one section.  The narrative opens with the story of Santiago, who has now gone 84 straight days without catching a large fish. In the small fishing community where he lives, this is considered bad luck. However, Santiago is not bitter. Even when his best friend in the world, a young boy named Manolin is encouraged by his parents to abandon the luckless fisherman, Santiago holds no ill will. He is a practical and frugal man. His needs are minimal. Very likely, Santiago would forget to eat if it were not for the kindness of the boy and the villagers, who provide food and sustenance for the Old Man during this lean time.  Manolin and Santiago talk of American baseball and fishing to pass the time. There is nothing else. Except their admiring love for each other. 

Slide 4

    The Old Man and The Sea - Plot
    The Old Man talks in polite reverence of many things. He respects and admires his neighnors. He respects and admires the boy, and the other fisherman who he now sails with. Most of all, Santiago respects 'The Great DiMaggio'.  Joe DiMaggio is seen as a connection between these simple fisherman and a greater world, because they believe that DiMaggio's father was also a fishermen.  Through the subject of DiMaggio, Santiago relates to the boy, the story of his own adolescence. As a young man, Santiago sailed on a larger boat and sailed as far as Africa. This is where he first saw the lions on the beaches, that still visit him in his dreams. 

Slide 5

    The Old Man and The Sea - Plot
    The next morning, Santiago decides to journey further out in the hopes of better fishing. The boy has provided some fresh sardines for bait. The Old Man brings very little with him - a bottle of water, his fishing lines and an unwavering confidence that events will work out.  Santiago uses the smaller fish to catch an Albacore, a tuna that he can use to bait the larger Marlin. By this point, Santiago's relationship with the sea is becoming apparent - 'La what people call her in Spanish when they love her'. Each creature within, brings their own personality. The flight of a bird and the presence of a jellyfish all provide messages to the Old Man, who is experienced enough to read the signs. 

Slide 6

    The Old Man and The Sea - Plot
    Soon, Santiago encounters the Marlin he has been seeking. The deep line goes taut and he knows something large has been hooked. He expects the fish to tire in an hour or two. If it were a normal sized Marlin, he knows it would. It is not a normal fish. The fish is to strong and too heavy for Santiago to pull. Instead, the fish pulls the boat, farther and farther out to sea.  As they travel, the Old Man remembers fishing in the past. This is experience that he will draw on for this catch. The memories also tell us about the type of man that he is - in particular, his relationship with the sea and the creatures within. He respects the great fish he has caught and feels a similar affinity for the fish he now battles.  But the battle is not only with the fish, but also with his own aging body. His hand cramps and his back aches. He knows that either he or the fish will not make it through this ordeal. 

Slide 7

    The Old Man and The Sea - Plot
    Further out to sea, the fish pulls. The Old Man must take the line across his hands and shoulders so it does not break. Santiago suffers as the Marlin suffers, cut and weakening.  Without sleep, the Old Man endures, living from his single water bottle and the tuna and small dolphin he eats raw from the sea. On the third day, the Marlin tires. The final battle ensues and, finally, Santiago harpoons the great fish in his powerful heart.  The huge Marlin, the biggest he has ever seen, is too big to bring inside the boat. Instead, he ties it alongside. The blood from the kill attracts sharks. Santiago is a long way from shore. Exhausted and starving, he wonders how he will bring the fish home. 

Slide 8

    The Old Man and The Sea - Plot
    Blood leaks from Santiago's hands. Blood leaks from the carcass of the Marlin. After an hour, a Mako shark comes, attracted to the Marlin's scent in the water. Santiago notes the beautiful lines of the Mako as he attempts to fight it away from his prize. Using the harpoon, he finally manages to kill the shark, but has lost 40 lbs of good meat and his harpoon in the process. Still unable to see land, he knows more sharks are sure to come. What would DiMaggio think? Santiago lashes his knife to one of the oars. He knows his cause is lost, but fights anyway.  The next sharks - 'hateful, bad smelling, scavengers' - take 1/4 of the Marlin, before he can kill one and injure the other. 'I'm sorry, fish', he apologizes to his friend, the Marlin. 

Slide 9

    The Old Man and The Sea - Plot
    The Old Man fights as long and as hard as he can. By the time he reaches port, it is late at night and noting remains of the Marlin but the skeleton and the head.  Santiago, with his last strength, stows his remaining equipment and climbs into bed. In the morning, the boy calls to see him, as he has done every morning of his long absence. Manolin cries at the scars the fisherman carries. The skeleton tells the story of the great battle, all by itself. 18ft from head to tail. The villagers are amazed. The boy vows to accompany the fisherman as soon as his hands heal. Santiago has apparently also suffered a heart attack on the boat, but lives on and endures. The story closes with some tourists who see the massive skeleton and ask. They confuse it for a shark. The Old Man sleeps and dreams of lions.   
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