– Summary Essay, Research Paper
The Old Man and the Sea – Summary
The Old Man and the Sea is the story of an epic struggle between an old man and a big fish. Santiago is the aged Cuban fisherman whose luck has left him. For eighty-four days he’s been unable to make a catch. He is so conspicuously unlucky that the parents of his devoted apprentice and friend, Manolin, force the boy to leave the old man and go out in a different boat. Still, Santiago is confident that the streak will end.
Although he is no longer fishing with the old man, Manolin continues to bring him food and baitfish. This day, Santiago takes his skiff out much farther than usual, leaving behind the island’s shallow coastal waters and venturing far into to Gulf Stream. He prepares his lines and drops them. At noon, a big fish (which he knows to be a marlin) takes the bait at 100 fathoms. The old man expertly hooks the fish, but cannot pull it in. Instead, the fish begins to pull the boat.
Unable to simply tie the line fast to the boat (for fear the fish will 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 the second day, and through the second night. It swims steadily northwest until at last it tires and swims east with the current. Santiago endures constant pain from the fishing line. Whenever the fish lunges, leaps, or makes a dash for freedom, the cord cuts him badly. As he struggles, the old man feels a deep empathy and admiration for the marlin, his brother in both suffering and resolve.
On the third day the fish tires and Santiago–sleep-deprived, aching, and weary manages to pull it in close enough for the mortal harpoon thrust. Dead beside the skiff, the marlin is larger than any he has ever seen. He lashes it to the craft, raises the small mast, and man and fish sail for home together. The marlin’s blood leaves a trail in the water, however; sharks inevitably appear. The old man fights them off as best he can, killing several. This merely attracts reinforcements. Night falls. Santiago continues to fight the scavengers in the dark, but it is useless. The sharks devour the marlin’s meat, leaving only skeleton, head, and tail. Santiago meditates to himself that he “went out too far.” He arrives home before daybreak, stumbles back to his shack, and sleeps the sleep of the dead.
The next morning, a crowd of amazed fisherman gathers around the skeletal carcass of the fish, still lashed to the boat. Manolin, who has been worried sick at the old man’s absence, is moved to tears to find Santiago safe in his bed. The boy watches over the old man’s sleep. When the old man wakes, he the two agree to fish together again. The old man falls asleep once more. That afternoon, tourists observe the remains of the giant marlin and mistake it for a shark.