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 Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

A 1952 Novella by Ernest Hemingway that tells the story of a poor Cuban fisherman named Santiago who has not caught a fish in several months. He goes out to sea where he hooks a giant marlin, which he fights day and night, eventually catching it. He lashes it to the side of his boat and tries to take it home to sell. Unfortunately, it is eaten by sharks, despite the old man's valiant effort to fight them off. Defeated, the old man walks home and collapses in bed (although it can still be a moral victory, since he's proved that he can still catch fish).

Due to the symbolism, relatively easy prose and short length, The Old Man and the Sea is a mainstay of high school English courses, and is perhaps one of the most widely-read books in the United States (at least for people under thirty). It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and pretty much sealed the deal on Hemingway's 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature.


The Old Man and the Sea provides examples of:

  • Author Appeal: Santiago really likes baseball. See Game of Nerds for more info.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Santiago still caught his fish, and he promises his apprentice that they will be able to work together again, however he lost his catch to the sharks and it's left ambiguous as to how truthful he is; he may well soon be dead.
  • Cool Old Guy
  • Determinator: Santiago continuously combated the marlin over the course of two days and two nights without rest, all the while feeling the effects it and age had on his body, including hunger, cramps, and even minor injuries. Even after the fish is caught, Santiago remains determined to protect his catch from sharks, and only stops when he runs out of ways to fight off the sharks (AFTER using a harpoon, a club, and and improvised spear made from a knife tied to an oar) and all but the head of the fish has been taken. Keep in mind that this is AFTER going roughly 96 hours without sleep and only a few morsels of fish as sustenance.
  • Everything Is Even Worse With Sharks
  • Face Death with Dignity: He manages to get back safely and return home.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: The marlin earns Santiago's respect due to its strength and will.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Santiago muses about how he used to be an extremely strong and muscular sailor.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Santiago spends the better part of the book fighting the great fish; he finally catches it, and then it's eaten by sharks.
  • Thank Your Prey: Santiago remembers when he and his apprentice did this. Although it was more along the lines of an apology.
  • Worthy Opponent: The marlin.
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