“The Old Man and the Sea”: meaning and analysis of the book by Ernest Hemingway

“The Old Man and the Sea”: meaning and analysis of the book by Ernest Hemingway Literature

Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in the Bahamas in Bimini. The year of publication was 1952. This is one of the final works published during the life of the writer. It brought fame, two awards to Hemingway. According to the author, “The Old Man and the Sea” was the best prose. The world got acquainted with the story of an old man who fought the sea in a short story “On the blue water. Gulfstrial Letter, printed in Esquire.

What is The Old Man and the Sea about?

84 days of bad luck for the elderly fisherman Santiago, he cannot catch anything. In his youth, he was a sailor, went to the distant shores of Africa, now he is in poverty. The boy, who is a fisherman’s apprentice, was forced to leave the unlucky old man. (father forbade). Santiago made absolutely nothing: the boat leaves much to be desired, the nets had to be sold, the fishing rods were replaced with thin rods. The fisherman does not lose optimism, he believes that he will be able to catch a big catch. It just takes skill.

The old man goes out to sea, he perceives him as a woman, thoughts are full of tenderness when he thinks about it. Santiago sympathizes, sympathizes with wildlife, perceives the sea, wind, birds, fish as thinking creatures, and carries on a conversation. He even regrets the prey, while saying that it will serve as food for many people.

In the center of the story, the battle of an old man with a marlin is described. First, the fish drags the boat behind it, then it begins to swim in a circle, then approaching, then moving away. The fisherman suffers hardships: his hands are wounded, he has lost a lot of strength, but he tied his prey to the boat. Having completed the most difficult, important task, he goes home.

Marlin attracts not only the old man. The smell of blood attracts flocks of sharks, each time hitting the boat, predators deprive the fish of one piece of meat, the hero loses his prey. Santiago kills sharks, but new ones appear. The fish becomes a skeleton. With this, the fisherman returns home. The rest are amazed at what they saw, even the waiter cannot say anything intelligible about what happened at night. Only the boy reassures his older comrade, promising not to leave him alone, to fish with him.

The meaning of the work “The Old Man and the Sea”

The meaning of the story “The Old Man and the Sea” is not to give up, to fight to the last, to believe in the best. The main character of the story is the fisherman Santiago. The life of the character is bitter, hopeless, deprived of livelihood in old age, lost his wife, but did not bend under the weight of the blows of fate. He still has “cheerful eyes”, powerful shoulders, he is “an extraordinary old man.” He respects nature: birds, fish, elements, he knows that he is alone, but does not feel like that when he is in the sea.

The image of Santiago speaks of fortitude, fortitude. The battle with the fish shows the essence of the battle with fate. The story traces the idea that a person can be destroyed, but not broken.

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Santiago continues to fight with schools of sharks who wanted to profit from fish. An elderly person is not overcome by despair, he does not quit his job, tired, exhausted, he protects difficult prey.

Despite the fact that the old fisherman arrives home only with a fish skeleton, he did not lose, because he went to the end in his struggle.

Through the image of the old man, Hemingway wanted to show the features of a real hero who always followed the principles, did not change himself. At the end of the struggle, humility comes to the old man, he is not upset that he did not manage to bring the whole booty, he resigned himself to his impotence.

Some scholars see biblical meaning in the work. Here is the Old Testament and the 103rd psalm, which praises the creator, created all living things. The names of the main characters are referred to the Bible. Santiago – the translation of the name is associated with St. James, Manolin with Emmanuel – one of the names of God’s son.

Analysis of the book “The Old Man and the Sea”

The title of the story carries a fabulous meaning. The plot also uses a fairy-tale scheme. The hero is unlucky at first, then he gets his way. The narrative uses turns inherent in fairy tales: “an unprecedented fish”, “he found it at such a depth where no one penetrated”, etc. When the old man talks to himself, a fabulous beginning slips through his words: “Once upon a time there were three sisters: a fish and my two hands.” But then everything unfolds not according to the laws of the fairy tale genre: the old man is left without a catch because of the sharks.

The reversal of the plot of “The Old Man and the Sea” is due to the laws of myth. The action has a circular structure. At the beginning of the work, the fisherman’s apprentice pronounces the same phrase as at the end, but changes the intonation. In the story, ordinary things, even body parts come to life. The old man tells his hand that it behaved well. In the mind of Santiago, there is a connection between man and the elements. He calls the fish brother.

In the hero’s thoughts about the fact that a person always fights with the elements, there are motives of traditional myths: people are trying to kill the moon or the sun. At the climax, the consciousness of the old man becomes mythological, he does not distinguish between where he is and where the fish is. He doesn’t care who kills who.

Significant importance is acquired by images-symbols. Pictures of the Mother of God, Christ, which are hung in the old man’s hut, a newspaper with the results of baseball games, lying under the bed. In the work there is a contrast between baseball and faith. It is no coincidence that the “Heart of the Lord”, the great DiMaggio, is mentioned. Even the fish’s eyes are reminiscent of holy faces, and the nose is a sword of a baseball bat. Santiago wants to ask God for help, but relies only on his own strength. He promised the Mother of God to pray if he catches a fish, but then he forgets about the promise, remembers only the great DiMaggio. The old man is not an adherent of faith, he prefers sports. For Hemingway, the meaning is not in victory, but in perseverance, endurance – this is winning.

The style, figurative structure of the story brings the work closer to the parable genre. There are figurative symbols, a certain morality. The story is written about every person, turmoil, struggle, victory. The key is to triumph over yourself, your weaknesses. A person must make a choice: leave everything as it is or fight with fate, hold on to the last, show himself, others the ability to perform great deeds.

The history of the creation of “The Old Man and the Sea”

In “The Old Man and the Sea” the author describes in detail the process of catching fish and marine life. This is no coincidence. Ernest Hemingway was fond of fishing, as a child he already had knowledge of all the creatures living in the Midwest. According to rumors, the largest “winged fish” went to him.

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The piece is based on a real case. A fisherman from Cuba has been fishing off the coast of Havana for a long time without success. He was lucky: a large fish caught on the hook. But the sea creature was gnawed by toothy predators so that one skeleton remained. The writer enriched the story with details, symbols, the story came out with an instructive meaning. It is believed that Hemingway’s acquaintance Gregorio Fuentos became the prototype of Santiago, since he is similar in appearance to the main character. But most likely the image of the fisherman absorbs the features of the inhabitants of the settlement of Kohitmare, with whom the writer communicated.

One of the symbols of the story – a boat, also has a real background: once the writer noticed that the boat was chasing a big fish, became interested, asked to swim closer. In the boat I saw an old man and a boy, perhaps this is how the key images of the book arose – a fisherman, a boy, a fish, the sea.

The meaning of the title of the book “The Old Man and the Sea”

The title of the story “The Old Man and the Sea” has a deep meaning. The sea appears as life itself, the struggle of the old man with the elements is a battle with the difficulties of life. He copes, which means that he has strength left, he can take everything from life. The title of the story refers to the tale of the fisherman and the fish, and is almost fabulous.

The problems of the book “The Old Man and the Sea”"The Old Man and the Sea": the meaning, analysis and problems of Hemingway's story

The work reveals several problems. The first is awareness of a place in the world. The author shows that Santiago had a good attitude towards birds and fish, but he was forced to fish, as it was income.

The second problem is the problem of defeat, victory. The hero through defeat won a real victory. He, despite his age, wounds, managed to achieve his goal, catch a large fish, he passed the test.

Another problem is religion. The old man is not an adherent of faith, but in difficult times he remembers God and prays. The author pays attention to the topic of attitude to religion, belonging to it.

There is a problem of fate. The old man did everything to catch the fish, even more, but the rock turned out to be stronger, the prey was eaten by sharks.

What does the book “The Old Man and the Sea” teach?

The book “The Old Man and the Sea” teaches not to give up, to fight to the last. The old man did not catch anything 84 times, but he believed, tried that he was lucky 85 times. He wasn’t wrong. So in life, even if the circumstances are stronger, nothing will work out, you need to hold on, show stamina, no matter how hard it is. Do not give up what you have started, follow your dream, discarding weaknesses and doubts.

Explanation of the ending of The Old Man and the Sea

Santiago sails home with the remains of the fish. Manolin meets him, saying that now he will not leave the old man, he will bring good luck. The boy puts the old man to bed, he has a dream with lions.

At the end of the story, there is no alienation of the old man from people, withdrawal from life, isolation. The ending is open, the reader can finish the story. Most likely, Santiago, Manolin will go fishing together again. The image of lions is a symbol of faith in the future, victory over defeat.

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Another theme that is present at the end of the book is the inability of people to listen, to understand each other: tourists are not interested in the personal drama of Santiago, but only in the skeleton of a big fish.

So, “The Old Man and the Sea” is a significant work for world literature. It has a huge philosophical implication that is difficult to unravel the first time, but after re-reading it is quite possible.

I hope I helped you find the meaning of The Old Man and the Sea, as well as understand its ending. If you have a different vision of the book – write your own version in the comments.


The theme of the work is a test of the strength of human willpower, character, faith, as well as the theme of dreams and spiritual victory. The theme of loneliness and human destiny is also revealed by the author.

The main idea of ​​the work is to show a person in the struggle with nature itself, its creatures and elements, as well as the struggle of a person with his weaknesses. A huge layer of the author’s philosophy is drawn clearly and clearly in the story: a person is born for something specific, having mastered this, he will always be happy and calm. Everything in nature has a soul, and people should respect and appreciate this – the earth is eternal, they are not.

Hemingway is amazingly wise in showing how a man achieves his dreams and what follows. A huge marlin is the most important trophy in the life of old Santiago, he is proof that this man won the battle with nature, with the creation of the sea. Only what is given with difficulty makes it difficult to pass, brings happiness and satisfaction to the protagonist. The dream, inherited by sweat and blood, is the biggest reward for Santiago. Despite the fact that the sharks ate marlin, no one cancels the moral and physical victory over circumstances. The personal triumph of an elderly fisherman and the recognition of “colleagues” in society is the best thing that could happen in his life.


Conventionally, the composition of the story can be divided into three parts : the old man and the boy, the old man at sea, the return of the protagonist home.

All compositional elements are formed on the image of Santiago. The ring framing of the composition consists in the departure of the old man to the sea and his return. The peculiarity of the work is that it is saturated with internal monologues of the protagonist and even dialogues with himself.

Hidden biblical motifs can be traced in the speeches of the old man, his position in life, in the name of the boy – Manolin (abbreviated from Emmanuel), in the image of the giant fish itself. She is the embodiment of the dream of an old man who humbly, patiently meets all trials, does not complain, does not swear, but only quietly prays. His philosophy of life and the spiritual side of existence is a kind of personal religion, very reminiscent of Christianity.


In literary criticism, it is customary to designate the genre of “The Old Man and the Sea” as a story-parable . It is the deep spiritual meaning that makes the work exceptional, going beyond the traditional story. The author himself admitted that he could have written a huge novel with many storylines, but preferred a more modest volume in order to create something unique.

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