Life of Ernest Hemingway and “Old Man and the Sea” Analysis

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Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899. His father was a country physician, Hemingway enjoyed hunting, fishing, and adventures under the influence of his father. His mother, an opera singer and feminist, developed his interest in music and painting. Hemingway spent many summers in his family’s log cabin in northern Michigan, where he often went with his father for professional visits when he was young.(“Ernest Hemingway Biography”). His growing environment built him a man who was passionate for adventure and never willing to give up before any difficulties.

Hemingway was active in every activity during high school. In 1917, after leaving the high school, instead of attending the college, he rejected the possibility of college education and became a newspaper reporter for the Kansas City Star, the leading newspaper of the period. In 1918, Hemingway volunteered for war duty with the Red Cross ambulance corps and left for service on the Italian front. Unfortunately, he was wounded at the front and was sent to hospital because of a wounded soldier. He spent three months in hospital in Milan and was awarded a medal. When he was in the hospital, he committed himself to fiction and short story writing, based on his experiences in war and submit them to magazines. He, therefore, worked as a writer for Toronto Star. In 1921, Hemingway who was armed with a letter of introduction from the successful writer, Sherwood Anderson, set off for Pairs. He was influenced by Gertrude Stein and Era Pound when he studied in Paris. When he was a writer, he always hunted and fished in Africa. This experience is also the important part of his writing (“Ernest Hemingway”).

Based on his own experience, Hemingway published many short stories and long works. Hemingway’s works usually focus on people living essential, dangerous lives, soldiers, fishermen, athletes, and bullfighters, who meet the pain and difficulty of their existence with stoic courage. All his works’ main roles are well-known as tough guys, so is Hemingway himself. Among them, The Old Man and the Sea was highly praised because of its deep and profound ideas and unique writing styles. Hemingway published The Old Man and the Sea which immediately received extreme acclaim. The Old Man and the Sea won not only the Pulitzer Fiction Prize in 1952 but also the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. Hemingway won medals not only in literary but also in world war. He awarded a medal during World War I because he saved a wounded soldier. Then, he was also awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery during World War II in 1947(“Ernest Hemingway Biography”).

Hemingway’s last years were troubled. After two wars, his body was scarred, and he had gunshot wounds to his legs, hands, and knees. In 1954, he crashed while traveling to Africa for hunting, Mary, his fourth wife, breaking her two ribs, and he spraining his shoulder. The next day, they boarded a second plane to a hospital in Uganda for treatment. The plane caught fire on the runway. This time, he had ten concussions and fifty-seven stitches. People thought he was going to die, and the next day many American newspapers reported his death. But, he survived. After middle age, Hemingway suffered from diseases such as anthrax, malaria, pneumonia, skin cancer, hepatitis, diabetes, and hypertension. Hemingway’s depression had worsened, for which he received twenty-five electric shocks in the spring of 1961. In the end, he could not bear to live a life in which he could not triumph. In 1961, Hemingway who suffered from hypertension and depression shot himself at home in Idaho(“Ernest Hemingway”).

A Literary Analysis of The Old Man and the Sea

For eighty-four days, the old fisherman, Santiago, has caught nothing. On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago is determined to catch a big, impressive fish. Therefore, he sets out into the depth of the sea to do something he had never done before. During this time, he catches a big marlin which he takes into his boat. However, on his way back home, Santiago is attacked by sharks because of the blood trails left by the marlin on the sea. Santiago tries his best to fight with the sharks, but his efforts are useless. The marlin is eaten by sharks, and the only remnant left of the marlin was its skeleton. Disappointed and tired, Santiago decides to go back home and sleep.

An old Cuban fisherman named Santiago was not able to catch fish for eighty-four days. Despite this, a young boy named Manolin is convicted to stay with Santiago as his devoted apprentice and friend, but Manolin’s father disapproves and takes Lanolin away, stating that it would be better for Manolin to work in a boat that brought home more fish. From then on, Santiago starts to be alone. Every morning, he rows his boat out to fish and comes back empty-handed at night. At night, Santiago lies alone in his shack and dreams of lions on the beaches of Africa, where he had sailed years before. He no longer dreams of his dead wife.

On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago goes fishing in the cold darkness before dawn. Towards noon, a marlin begins nibbling at the bait. The old man gently played the hooked fish and knew by the weight of the line that it was a big one. But the fish did not rise to the surface, rather, it began to pull the boat northwest. The old man braced himself as the line was tight across his shoulder. He followed the Marlin for three days. On the third day, Santiago is able to kill the big marlin, the largest he has ever seen besides the skiff. After that, he starts to come back to the shore excited about his catch.

One hour later, the blood of the marlin attracts the first shark. It comes quickly and bites the dead marlin with its teeth like a rake. Santiago drives the harpoon with all his strength towards the shark. The maki rolls and sink, carrying the harpoon and leaving the marlin mutilated and bleeding. At the same time, the smell of the marlin’s

blood spreads, attracting two other sharks. He hits one of the sharks with a knife strapped to the end of the oar and watches the scavenger slide into the deep sea. He kills another shark as it tears at the marlin. When the third shark appears, he thrusts at it with his knife. The shark rolls and breaks the knife. Blood attracts more and more sharks.

At first, Santiago tries to kill them with the tiller, but his hands were raw and bleeding, and the sharks come in large numbers. In the dusk, Santiago is exhausted, thinking only of his steering. He knows that the sharks would leave him nothing but the empty skeleton of the great marlin.

Finally, Santiago arrives on the sand, takes the mast and furled the sail and climbs to the shore. When he got into his shack, he throws himself into bed and went to sleep. In the morning, he is still sleeping when Manolin finds him. He promises to refuse his parents’ wishes and go fishing with Santiago again. Meanwhile, some fishermen are surprised by the skeleton of the great marlin. In the afternoon, Santiago is dreaming about the lions again and Manolin sits beside him.

The Old Man and the Sea Character Analysis


Santiago is a steel-willed man. He is confident and optimistic in spirit, and is courageous in action. His qualities are presented during conflicts that happen when he goes to sea, catches a marlin and struggles against sharks.


Manolin is young, friendly and warm-hearted boy. He becomes Santiago’s apprentice since he is five years old. He learns the fishing skills, also inherits the spirit of the self-esteem from the old man. After several years of living with the old man, he has understood the hardship of life and the duty of a man. But his parents want him to leave Santiago because Santiago’s bad luck. The little boy worries about the old man; therefore, he still takes care of the old man.


Santiago is the best expression to “code hero”. Even though he is being poor and unlucky, he is not a man being easily defeated. Santiago lives according to his own observation:” Man can be destroyed but not defeated.” (Hemingway) Santiago also symbolises Hemingway himself because some part of this story is related to the experiences of Hemingway.

The Process of the Old Man’s Fishing

The process of the old man’s fishing is just like the human’s whole life. Everyone in the world lives a hard life and has to face the dangerous sea.

The Sea

The sea is just like society. Only a man faces and fights on it with courage, can he defeat the unchangeable fate and become the strong one of the life. Society contains many hidden treasures or good chances and predators.

The Marlin

The marlin symbolises an achievement in human’s life. Santiago finds the marlin worthy of a fight, so he fights hard. By realizing the life ideal, he proves himself a worthy fisherman.

The Sharks

The sharks have two symbolisms. On one hand, the sharks can be a symbol of the upper class of society. They make their own benefits by hurting others like thieves and robbers. They get achievements from others hard working. But on the other hand, it is different. In the story, sharks brought resistance for Santiago when he finally got a chance to prove himself and to get out the bad luck. Sharks were the only enemy standing in his way symbolising those difficulties and challenges in life.


Hope for the Future

Eighty-four days without a fish is very unfortunate for a fisherman. For a weather-beaten, poverty-stricken and lonely old man like Santiago, the misery might be beyond anyone’s intolerance. Even though he knows that there is no hope for him to bring in the marlin, he doesn’t give up to fighting until the sharks eat up the fish.

Hero’s Spirit of Facing Failures

Although Santiago loses the battle, there is a little brilliance and exciting places in the failure. The spiritual victory goes like the old man’s own words. ‘Pain does not matter to a man’; ‘A man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”(Heimingway). His hero’s spirit of facing failure bravely should be praised and this attitude is good and realistic.


The Old Man and the Sea is influenced by Hemingway’s experiences and values. Ernest Hemingway was a famous modern American novelist and The Old Man and the Sea is one of his most enduring works. It is on the basis of his own life experiences. In the novel, Hemingway created a code hero who actually reflects his own characteristics which are persistent, brave and patient in any conditions. From Santiago’s famous saying, “Man is not made of defeat.” His words not only prove the qualities of his character and himself, but also express the theme of this novel. The Old Man and the Sea is a novel of praise about human spirit. Hemingway highly praised the virtues of action in Santiago’s fights. The Old Man and the Sea encourages those people who have lost hope because of failures and struggles.

Cite this paper

Life of Ernest Hemingway and “Old Man and the Sea” Analysis. (2022, Apr 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/life-of-ernest-hemingway-and-old-man-and-the-sea-analysis/

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