The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

Read time: about 6 minutes

A story which is absolutely simple and minimalistic and yet makes you reflect on the various notions and emotions of an individual.

Accoladed with the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize for his masterpiece, Ernest Hemingway considered this as his finest work. What started off as an essay for a magazine, culminated into a novel after almost a decade of his career.

Cover Page

The novel comes in various cover pages. The black background with a tint of blue and the stormy sea waves lashing around gives one an idea of what the storyline could be based on.

The stormy sea, a definite obstacle for a fisherman, is perfectly depicted on the cover page.


Here, we have a minimal and strong line of characters. The old man, Santiago, around whom the story revolves, is like any other fisherman in his everyday whereabouts, but his determination and strength is what sets him apart from the rest.

The boy, Manolin, who is taught the art of fishing by the old man, from a very young age, is the one Santiago can lean on if, need be and is also a constant help to the old man out of gratitude and respect.

There is, of course, the huge Marlin, definitely an important character, the one who keeps the old man at the sea for three whole days; giving him a good fight and to whom the old man refers to as his brother, enemy and dear friend.


The story starts with the description of how the old man hasn’t been lucky with his fishing for eighty-four days in a row. The boy is made to leave the old man’s company for his misfortune but does not miss taking care of him. Hence, Santiago considers the boy, his very good companion.

On the eighty-fifth day, the boy decides to help the old man by bringing him the sardines. The old man ventures into the sea determined to return with a prize, telling himself that eighty five is a lucky number. After a long day at the sea and a couple of unlucky attempts at his various lines, he has a big, long, marlin, hooked to his line. But this isn’t like any other fish the old man has encountered. Being a strong one, he isn’t easy to get. When the old man realizes this fact, he has a new found respect for his fish. He fights for three long days to get him ashore.

The entire book gives the reader a detailed glimpse of the struggles of Santiago at sea, with references to his age taking a toll on his strength required at that point of time, to how he misses having the boy around to help him, to his conversations with the Marlin and the other elements of nature he is surrounded by – which was his means to survive in the sea (one is never alone at the sea), to how he tackles the giant attacks of the sharks at his prize.

The old man constantly apologizes to his marlin throughout the struggle against the sharks as he feels the marlin put up such a good fight before being caught. All through the struggle, he could not keep his thoughts at bay and they finally did end when his fish was ruined by the sharks. It is the numbness that creeps into him at that point of time, clearing his mind of every thought related to the past three days.


Hemingway’s language is one of a kind. Void of drama and meandering of events, the whole story is described in a simple display of emotions, thoughts, events, and characters involved which is definitely the beauty of this novel.

Good Points

The whole story is just what it means without any kind of interpretations to it. Even though one’s determination is dampened by a change of events, it is hope that makes you face the next day with a renewed force. Hemingway has clearly made a point of the same through this wonderful story.

Bad Points

I have enjoyed the story ever since I read the first page of the book. So no pointers down for this.


This novel can definitely turn a non-reader into a bookworm.

Who Do I Recommend This To

Written in a simple language, this one is for those who appreciate a light, to-the-point, non-dramatic read, without expecting a sharp turn of coincidental events.

Quotable Quotes

Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

He always thought of the sea as ‘la mar’ which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as ‘el mar’ which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.

It is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.

If the others heard me talking out loud they would think that I am crazy. But since I am not, I do not care.

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.

He is a great fish and I must convince him, he thought. I must never let him learn his strength nor what he could do if he made his run.

It’s silly not to hope. It’s a sin he thought.

Pooja Ram

Bibliophile, believer in the magic of the rain and mountains, an occasional realist.

Bangalore, KA