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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway Study Guide

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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Study Guide

Website needed to read the story and listen to it online:

I. Overview

Author: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

  • born in Oak Park, IL

  • loved hunting and fishing

  • was an ambulance driver in Italy during WWI

  • renowned for novels: The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea

  • 1953--won the Pulitzer for The Old Man and the Sea.

  • 1954--won the Nobel Prize.

  • committed suicide on July 2, 1961, in Ketchum, Idaho.

Hemingway and Cuba

  • 1930s--WWII

  • lived in Cuba

  • involved in attempting to hunt down German shipping taking on a vigilante style role in the waters of the Caribbean.

  • Fascination--a neighbor of the US living in third world conditions of what was principally but not entirely a subsistence economy.

  • cultural context--grinding poverty and subsistence, yet one in which the most apparently ordinary of people can achieve heroic status and retain an inner dignity, integrity and self control despite what seems to be, in worldly eyes, failure.


  • Una pequeña aldea de pesca cerca de Habana, Cuba; las aguas en el golfo de México en los años cuarenta.


  • Santiago

      • el hombre viejo

  • Manolin

  • El mar

      • otro personaje importante

Los conflictos

    • el hombre viejo vs. el mar

    • edad vs. juventud

    • el hombre viejo vs. tiburones

    • el hombre viejo vs. su mismo (su mente y su mano)

    • el muchacho vs. sus padres

Los símbolos

      • También se usa Joe DiMaggio

      • Es pescador pobre

      • Es pobre

      • Sufre por 3 días

      • El imagen de la cruz al final

II. Vocabulary

In the story, the following Spanish words come up, find them in the reading and write down the sentence it is used in, the English meaning of the word and the page and line you found it on.

  1. Salao

  2. guano

  3. bodega

  4. brisa

  5. calambre

  6. fuegos

  7. un espuela de hueso

  8. El Campeón

  9. dorado

  10. galanos

  11. San Pedro

  12. tiburón

  13. Que va

  14. agua mala

In the story, the following places/people come up, find them in the reading and write down the sentence it is used in, a description of it and the page and line you found it on.

  1. Havana

  2. Mosquito Coast

  3. Virgin de Cobre

  4. Joe DiMaggio

  5. Dick Sisler

  6. John J. McGraw

  7. Leo Durocher

  8. Canary Islands

  9. Catalan

  10. Cienfuegos

  11. Rigel

In the story, the following words come up, find them in the reading and write down the sentence it is used in, its definition and the page and line you found it on.

  1. Skiff

  2. Gaff

  3. Benevolent

  4. Phosphorescence

  5. Albacore

  6. Fathom

  7. Ineffectually

  8. Iridescent

  9. Myriad

  10. Bitt

  11. Sounds (nautical term)

  12. Gunwale

  13. Undulation

  14. Ptomaine

  15. Bone spur

  16. Cross trees

  17. Mast head

  18. Sustenance

  19. Norther

  20. Interminable

III. Comprehension Questions

Using the book, answer the following questions in your own words and include a line from the book that supports you’re answer when possible.

Part 1 pages 1-25

  1. Who is Santiago? Describe his physical appearance and personality.

  2. Who is Manolin (the young boy)?

  3. Describe Santiago’s relationship with the young boy.

  4. Describe Santiago’s home. What does it say about him as a man?

  5. Why do the other fishermen make fun of or pity Santiago?

  6. Who does Santiago admire and why?

Part 2 pages 25-54

  1. Why can the reader consider Santiago a superior fisherman? Give examples.

  2. How does Santiago describe the sea? How is this different from other fishermen?

  3. How does Santiago compare himself to a turtle on page 37?

  4. How are women portrayed in this novella?

  5. How does Santiago feel about the marlin? What does it symbolize to him?

  6. Santiago contemplates his choice on page 50. What was this choice?

  7. Does Santiago possess any flaws?

Part 3 pages 54-76

  1. How is Santiago similar to the warbler?

  2. Describe the developing bond between Santiago and the marlin.

  3. Is Santiago afraid of death? Explain.

  4. Describe the marlin. (pages 62-63)

  5. What part if his body does Santiago not trust? Why?

  6. Why does Santiago worship baseball and Joe DiMaggio?

  7. How does Hemingway develop Santiago as a Christ-like figure?

  8. What is man’s place in nature? In the life cycle?

Part 4 pages 76-122

  1. What does it mean to be a man or “to suffer like a man”? (page 92)

  2. Why does Santiago “not care who kills who”? (page 92)

  3. How does the marlin transcend his death? (page 94)

  4. How is the Mako Shark similar to the marlin? How is it different from the shovel-nosed sharks?

  5. How does Santiago feel about hope? (page 104)

  6. Why can Santiago not look at the mutilated marlin?

  7. How does Hemingway continue to develop Santiago as a Christ-like figure?

  8. How does Santiago justify what he has done to the marlin? Do you feel he is justified? Why or

why not?

  1. Do you feel that the marlin has died in vain? Why?

  2. Explain the significance of: “The boy keeps me alive.” (page 106)

Part 5 pages 122-128

  1. Explain: “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” (page 103) Was Santiago defeated by the

shovel-nosed sharks?

  1. Although Santiago will probably never have the chance to catch another big fish, how does he

transcend “the death” of his fishing career?

  1. Why is it significant that the novella ends with Santiago dreaming of the lions?

  2. How does Hemingway develop the theme that there is honor and beauty in defeat?

  3. How is pride seen as a virtue?

  4. How is the idea that life comes from death illustrated in the novella?

  5. What does the marlin come to symbolize for Santiago and his life as a fisherman?

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