A short novel written by Ernest Hemingway in 1951 in Cuba. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded for this great novel. The story of the book is about an old fisherman and his efforts to catch a giant fish. Simply, the battle between hopes and the reality.

Summary of the story

The whole story was written around an old man called “Santiago”, a fisherman who was unable to catch a fish within 84 days. He had a young trainee called “Manolin”, but that boy was not allowed by his parents to go with this unsuccessful old man. However, on 85th day, he went to Gulf Stream by his skiff. At noon, his bait was taken by a marlin (A big fish). The old man kept on struggling for two complete days to kill the marlin. He was so tired and wounded because of the struggle. Finally on third day he stabbed the fish with a harpoon and began to return to the shore.

Unfortunately the second battle began when sharks were attracted to the blood of marlin. Although Santiago killed 5 sharks successfully, he was unable to defeat those sharks. Only the head, tail and the skeleton of marlin was left. Sharks had killed his dream entirely. On next day, he went his home by carrying the heavy mast on his shoulder and felt into a deep sleep. He dreamed about the way he struggled with a lion in Africa when he was young. Finally that young boy worried about the old man and promised to fish together.

Symbols and the literary value

  1. Mast – represent the sacredness of Santiago’s perseverance and struggle.
  2. Lion – represent the pride, strength and the lost youth of old man.
  3. Manolin – there is no one to take care of this old man except that young boy. So he is the one and only hope for the old man.
  4. Skiff – this denotes the life struggles of old man.
  5. Sea – represent the life and its hardships. (Struggles and barriers of old man’s life)
  6. Marlin – there is no any other option instead of catching marlin. (This symbolizes the redemption mentioned in a religious context.)

Other characters

Martin: The owner of the Terrace, he sends food and drink to Santiago through Manolin.

Rogelio: A man of the village who on occasion helps Santiago with the fishing net.

Perico: A man at the bodega who gives Santiago newspapers to read.

Pedrico: A fisherman in the village who looks after Santiago’s skiff and gear and receives the marlin’s head to use in fish traps.

KWD Sandun Sirikumara

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