The Old Man and the Sea - Language, nature and dreams


Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010

17 Pages, Grade: 2,7


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Hemingway’s life

3. Summary

4. The central characters
4.1 Santiago
4.2 Manolin

5. Hemingway’s style of writing

6. Santiago’s dreams and ideals

7. The image of nature

8. Hemingway’s intention

9. Conclusion

10. List of references

1. Introduction

“The Old Man and the Sea” is the most popular narrative of Ernest Hemingway.

Although Hemingway’s style of writing and the plot are very simple, there is no point where the reader gets bored. On the contrary: I was fascinated by Hemingway’s plain language and his story about Santiago, the old Cuban fisherman.

The first part of my term paper gives a brief overview of Hemingway’s life.

In addition to that there will be a summary of “The Old Man and the Sea” to give an overview of the content.

Afterwards I will have a closer look at the narrative itself.

After characterizing Santiago and Manolin I will analyze Hemingway’s language and pay particular attention to the meaning of Santiago’s dreams and ideals.

Nature plays an important role and is described in great detail in this story about the old man. Therefore the ensuing part of this seminar paper deals with the image of nature and how Santiago feels about it.

Finally there will be some considerations about what Hemingway wanted to say by his masterpiece, and a brief conclusion.

2. Hemingway’s life

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park/Illinois on 21 July 1899.

After leaving the Oak Park High School with eighteen years (1917) he becomes a reporter at “Kansas City Star” (cf. Poppe, 2005: 11).

One year later he participates in World War I and gets injured heavily.

After this experience he begins writing and marries Hadley Richardson. In addition to that he becomes European correspondent in Paris (cf. Poppe, 2005: 11) and his son John is born (1923).

Until 1927 he lives in Paris and “hits the big time” as an author. He publishes poems and stories and with “The Sun also Rises” (1926) he gains world fame. Richardson and Hemingway get divorced in 1927 and one year later he marries again. His second son Patrick is born in 1928 and Hemingway moves back to America where he writes about Spanish bullfights.

Then his third son Gregory is born (1932) and he participates in a hunting expedition in Africa and writes “Green Hills of Africa”.

During the Spanish civil war Hemingway is war correspondent for the “North American Newspaper Alliance” (cf. Poppe, 2005: 12).

In 1939 he moves to Cuba and one year later he gets divorced again and marries another time. During World War II he is in the Far East and again earns his money as war correspondent. Three years later he becomes a member of the American navy. Again he gets divorced and marries another time. In the following years he travels a lot and spends some time in Venice, Paris and Africa always trying to find something fascinating to write about.

One of his most popular narratives is written during this time: “The Old Man and the Sea” (1952). With his story about Santiago, the Cuban fisherman, he wins several Prizes.

In 1960, Hemingway is taken ill heavily. He “vegetates” and life, in his opinion, does not make sense any longer. The great author commits suicide on 2 July 1961. With a shot he puts an end to his life, a life that was affected by various wars, restlessness and fickleness.

3. Summary

The Old Man and the Sea“, is a sad narrative about Santiago, a Cuban fisherman who has not caught any fish for eighty-four days.

For forty-three days he put to sea alone because Manolin, a boy from his village who accompanied him before, is not allowed to go fishing with this luckless man anymore. His parents forbid it.

At sea Santiago is completely left to his own resources when suddenly a big fish is on his fishing rod. On the basis of its weight, the old man can suspect how big the fish must be but he cannot see it. For two days and nights the fish pulls the boat and then appears on the surface of the Gulf Stream.

The old man builds up a close relationship to the fish. He calls him brother and talks with him. Santiago is overpowered by the beauty of the marlin but knows that it is time now to kill this great fish. The old man bags his catch, fastens it to the boat and begins his journey home. On his way the bleeding and dead marlin attracts the sharks. Although the old man does everything to defend his catch, he does not have any chance against the attackers.

When arriving there is only the skeleton of the fish left and the old man, disappointed and exhausted goes home.

I will now analyze Santiago and Manolin.

4. The central characters

4.1 Santiago

Santiago is the protagonist of Hemingway’s narrative „The Old Man and the Sea“. He is an old and poor Cuban fisherman whose job is not just an occupation for him, “it is a way of life” (Notes, 1968: 17).

Santiago is described as being “thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck” (Hemingway, 1952: 5) and with eyes blue like the sea.

Those eyes are the only features which are not ancient and they are “cheerful and undefeated” (Hemingway, 1952: 6).

His age and his job have left traces on face and hands. Santiago is a widower and lives in a badly equipped and little shack. He cares nothing for ordinary comfort. His poverty can be seen at various passages of the narrative. He sleeps on “old newspapers that cover the springs of the bed” (Hemingway, 1952: 21) and his “sail was patched with flour sacks and […] looked like the flag of permanent defeat” (Hemingway, 1952: 5) .

“Though poor in material things, Santiago has richness and beauty of character; he has simplicity, which is the basis of good taste; he is generous and hospitable in his impulses; sensitive and affectionate and loyal in his interior thoughts; dignified in his loneliness and his humanity” (Notes, 1968: 24).

The old man has not caught any fish for eighty-four days but he does not think of giving up hope. He is very optimistic to catch a big fish because he has faith in the future and in himself . In addition to that he believes, “that tomorrow is going to be a good day” (Notes, 1968: 20) for fishing.

Many of the other fishermen make fun of the old man whereas the older ones “look […] at him and [are] sad” (Hemingway, 1952: 7). Santiago does not care about the other fishermen and what they say or think about him and he does not get angry.

The first forty days Santiago has been accompanied by Manolin, a boy who has learnt fishing from the old man. It is said that he loves the boy (cf. Hemingway, 1952: 22). Now he has to go alone because the boy’s parents do not want their son to ship with a luckless man.


Excerpt out of 17 pages


The Old Man and the Sea - Language, nature and dreams
University of Cologne
Literary Modernism
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
494 KB
Language, Hemingway
Quote paper
Sanya Ehms (Author), 2010, The Old Man and the Sea - Language, nature and dreams, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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