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The Old Man and the Sea
Transcript of The Old Man and the Sea
struggle between an old, seasoned fisherman and the
greatest catch of his life. For eighty-four days,
Santiago, an aged Cuban fisherman, has set out to
sea and returned empty-handed. So conspicuously
unlucky is he that the parents of his young, devoted
apprentice and friend, Manolin, have forced the boy
to leave the old man in order to fish in a more
prosperous boat. Nevertheless, the boy continues to
care for the old man upon his return each night. He
helps the old man tote his gear to his ramshackle hut,
secures food for him, and discusses the latest
developments in American baseball, especially the
trials of the old man’s hero, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago is confident that his unproductive streak will soon come to an end, and he resolves to sail out farther than usual the following day.
On the eighty-fifth day of his unlucky streak, Santiago does as promised, sailing his skiff far beyond the island’s shallow coastal waters and venturing into the Gulf Stream. He prepares his lines and drops them. At noon, a big fish, which he knows is a marlin, takes the bait that Santiago has placed one hundred fathoms deep in the waters. The old man expertly hooks the fish, but he cannot pull it in. Instead, the fish begins to pull the boat.
Unable to tie the line fast to the boat for fear the fish would snap a taut line, the old man bears the strain of the line with his shoulders, back, and hands, ready to give slack should the marlin make a run. The fish pulls the boat all through the day, through the night, through another day, and through another night. It swims steadily northwest until at last it tires and swims east with the current. The entire time, Santiago endures constant pain from the fishing line. Whenever the fish lunges, leaps, or makes a dash for freedom, the cord cuts Santiago badly. Although wounded and weary, the old man feels a deep empathy and admiration for the marlin, his brother in suffering, strength, and resolve.
On the third day the fish tires, and Santiago, sleep-deprived, aching, and nearly delirious, manages to pull the marlin in close enough to kill it with a harpoon thrust. Dead beside the skiff, the marlin is the largest Santiago has ever seen. He lashes it to his boat, raises the small mast, and sets sail for home. While Santiago is excited by the price that the marlin will bring at market, he is more concerned that the people who will eat the fish are unworthy of its greatness.
As Santiago sails on with the fish,
the marlin’s blood leaves a trail in
the water and attracts sharks. The
first to attack is a great mako shark,
which Santiago manages to slay
with the harpoon. In the struggle,
the old man loses the harpoon and
lengths of valuable rope, which
leaves him vulnerable to other shark
attacks. The old man fights off the
successive vicious predators as best
he can, stabbing at them with a
crude spear he makes by lashing a
knife to an oar, and even clubbing
them with the boat’s tiller. Although
he kills several sharks, more and
more appear, and by the time night
falls, Santiago’s continued fight
against the scavengers is useless.
They devour the marlin’s precious meat, leaving only skeleton, head, and tail. Santiago chastises himself for going “out too far,” and for sacrificing his great and worthy opponent. He arrives home before daybreak, stumbles back to his shack, and sleeps very deeply. THEMES PLOT SUMMARY The Honor in Struggle, Defeat & Death
From the very first paragraph, Santiago is characterized as someone struggling against defeat. He has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish—he will soon pass his own record of eighty-seven days. Almost as a reminder of Santiago’s struggle, the sail of his skiff resembles “the flag of permanent defeat.” But the old man refuses defeat at every turn: he resolves to sail out beyond the other fishermen to where the biggest fish promise to be. He lands the marlin, tying his record of eighty-seven days after a brutal three-day fight, and he continues to ward off sharks from stealing his prey, even though he knows the battle is useless. Many parallels exist between Santiago and the classic heroes of the ancient world. In addition to exhibiting terrific strength, bravery, and moral certainty, those heroes usually possess a tragic flaw—a quality that, though admirable, leads to their eventual downfall. If pride is Santiago’s fatal flaw, he is keenly aware of it. After sharks have destroyed the marlin, the old man apologizes again and again to his worthy opponent. He has ruined them both, he concedes, by sailing beyond the usual boundaries of fishermen. Indeed, his last word on the subject comes when he asks himself the reason for his undoing and decides, “Nothing ... I went out too far.” Pride as the Source of Greatness & Determination Santiago is considered by many readers to be a tragic hero, in that his greatest strength— - his pride - —leads to his eventual downfall.
Write 200 words describing and discussing the role of pride in Santiago’s plight.