The old man and the sea is a novel of human determination, struggle, and sufferings at the hands of natural calamities. It is a very interesting and thought-provoking novel, which presents a deep theme of optimism and natural powers of man against the odds of life.
An old man, named
lived in a shack, Santiago , the capital of Havana , in Cuba . There were a bed, a table, and a chair. There were pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Virgin of Cobre on the walls. There was also a picture of his wife that he had put on the shelf because it made him sad. He used to fish in the Mexico Gulf Stream in his skiff. He had gone eighty-four days without a fish and people of the area had begun to call him a “Salao” which was the worst form of “Unlucky’. In the first forty days, a boy had been with him; after the eighty-four days without a fish, the parents of the boy had ordered him to leave the boat and join another one. The boy had to obey their orders and joined a boat, which caught three big fish in the first week, but the boy was not interested because he loved the old man and had been fishing with him since childhood and did not want to stay away from him. It made the boy sad to see the old man coming each day without a fish and he always helped the old man carry the fishing tool home.
Both the boy and the old man were heavily fond of baseball. The boy played this game when he had time but the old man could not as he had other things to do; he read the newspaper to keep updated about the baseball competitions. It was the eighty-fifth day when the old man was leaving his shack in the early morning to possibly hook some thing great. The boy went along to see the old man off at the sea. Both the fisherman had some coffee at the restaurant. The old man started off and the boy wished him good luck.
It was too early in the morning when he went to sea. There were other fishermen along the shore or around it; but he knew that he was going far away. He put his lines in the waters and thought that unlike other fishermen, he always put the lines with great precision, only he had no luck; he thought that he should be ready because no one knew when luck
When the sun had risen, he saw a bird circling over the water of the sea. He knew that the presence of the bird meant fish. He also talked to the bird, which had landed at his skiff because of the strong wind. He felt sorry for the bird and all the delicate creatures in or over the ocean. The fishermen always thought it crazy to talk alone one the sea aimlessly; but the old man thought that the rich had radios to listen to baseball or the newspaper to read. He frequently talked alone on the sea and thought that since he was not crazy, he did not mind it.
He saw one of the lines dipping. A marlin, at 600 feet, was eating the great sardines. The old man hooked the marlin very easily; but the marlin started pulling the old man’s skiff in one direction and the old man desperately became a towing bit. All the sea objects were his companions, even the marlin was his friend; but the old man repeatedly said, “I wish the boy were here.” because, at that critical time, only the boy could be his sole assistant.
Soon it got dark and the old man felt cold. He shifted the line across his shoulder, leaned against the bow and felt comfortable. He recollected a lot of things such as baseball, the boy and he also wished that he had a radio. He also prayed and promised to perform pilgrimage that he might catch the fish and he began hailing Fathers and Mary’s. He had to fight the rain, loneliness, the fear of uncertainty and his physical weaknesses. Thus, he passed the whole night in distress and discomfort.
It was his second day on the sea and he was totally dependant of the fish which was towing him onto the sea in one direction. The old man pitied the fish and was busy adjusting the lines and burden of the fish on his shoulders. He hand was badly hurt and bleeding. Just a few moments later, he saw the great fish bulging out of the sea. The fish was bigger than his skiff by two feet. The old man was left astonished to see it. The fish rose to show it full-length, then went back into the sea, and again started traveling into one direction. It was a great fish and he had never seen one such in his life. The old man had caught a dolphin and he ate a part of it to give himself strength and wondered why the fish had jumped and He said to himself, “Perhaps to show how fish he was.” It was dark now and he wanted to have some rest so that he might not suffer from blackness in the head. His left hand had got cramped and he abused it much and called it a traitor. He leaned over the bow and fell asleep. No sooner did he sleep than he began dreaming of his great hand fight with the Negro. The fight had lasted for long time and the old man won the fight and was called “The Champion”. At this a pleasant smile sprang on his face. He said, “ I feel confident . My left hand is all right. Fish! Bad news for you.”
It was his third day and the sun had risen when he was woken up by a sudden jerk. The fish was rising and the old man began to draw it closer and closer. When the fish was at a proper distance from the skiff, he held the line under his foot, picked up his harpoon and drove it right into his eye so that it pierced his heart. The fished jumped in the air and fell into the sea with a great splash. In an instant, it was dead. Now the old man lashed the fish to the side of the skiff and started way back home. The fish made a trail of blood in the sea because it was bleeding. He guessed the fish to be over 1500 pounds and was very happy about it.
It was two hours when the first shark – Mako hit the marlin. He took a great portion of the fish. The old man targeted the fish with his harpoon. The shark went down into the water trembling with the old man’s harpoon in his belly as well as the fine line, which had to be cut. Now the fish was heavily bleeding which made a highway of blood on the surface of the sea to invite other sharks. The old man knew that bad time was coming so he tied his knife to the end of the oar and made a new weapon.
After some time two more sharks attacked the marlin. The old man fought bravely and killed both of them. He then killed another attacking shark. In this fight, his knife blade was broken and a major part of the fish had been destroyed. He felt sorry for the great fish because he had gone too far. He was tired and beaten by this exercise.
He had lost all his weapons; but his hope, struggle and determination were still with him. He used his club to kill two more sharks by hitting hard on their heads. It was night and a group of sharks attacked the marlin. The old man, desperately, fought against them. He club was taken away by a shark and he also used his tiller for fighting; but to no avail. When the sharks moved away, they left behind them a skeleton of the great fish, which was no more attractive, and beautiful. The old man had been beaten and the whole fish had been eaten by the sharks. The old man was thinking of his home now. When he reached the shore, he put the sail on his shoulder and walked to his shack. He had to sit many times on his way. The boy had been visiting the old man’s shack in his absence. This morning when he came to see the old man, he found him on his bed with his hands bleeding. He ran down to the terrace to bring him some coffee. He was all the while weeping. The boy gave him coffee and told him that he could go with him. The old man told him the story of his miseries and calamities. The boy sympathized with him. Both of them were determined to once again go to the sea to try their luck. When the boy left the shack, the old man was in his bed dreaming of lions.
This is a great story of human struggle, endurance and determination. Hemingway has used a number of themes in this novel; but the most prominent one is, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” The central idea of the novel is that man is not made for defeat. He has unlimited powers of endurance and struggle that nothing in the world can suppress his passions.