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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
ANSWERS - TEST 1
11. Good and evil are portrayed in this book through symbols and symbolic actions rather than through outright, direct actions and objects. Remember that there is the possibility of both good and evil in Santiago himself. Think of some of the good qualities that he displays: his basic honesty, for example, and his obvious love not only for Manolin and his town but even for most of the creatures of the sea. Yet he accuses himself of treachery, this strange matter of going out "too far." Is that a symbolic sin? The sharks are certainly likely candidates to represent the forces of evil in general. In that case, has evil attracted more evil-and thus brought its own punishment?
12. Santiago, you'll recall, is a curious mixture of dependence on other people combined with the ability to act alone with great courage. His past life hasn't been easy, so he's been toughened, accustomed to hardship and able to accept it easily. His life has also been very simple; his personality is the same. But simple doesn't mean superficial or shallow. Santiago certainly is none of these. On the contrary, his questions and concerns about life are often profound. Even though he uses simple words, the philosopher in Santiago surfaces every few pages. These musings are not hard to find by skimming, and these sections give numerous clues to his simple yet complex character. Small actions, such as his putting his wife's picture on the shelf under his clean shirt and his arm around Manolin's shoulders, give further clues-as do his "great" actions in landing the marlin.
13. "Minor" does not mean "unimportant" in this and many other stories. In analyzing the role of minor characters in any piece of fiction, it's often good to keep two questions in mind: (1) How do they advance the plot of the story? (A character who appears in only a scene or two may be crucial to making something in the plot work out.) (2) What light do they help shed on the main character(s)?
The second of these questions has more bearing on The Old Man and the Sea. Notice how Manolin talks to Santiago and what he does for the old man. Then ask, "Why?" What does that tell you about Santiago himself?
14. You might divide Santiago's actions into two broad categories: those motivated by necessity and those motivated by some other, more freely chosen reason. Obviously he fishes out of necessity. Does he accept this necessity? What other things does he do because "it is what a man must do"?
But he doesn't have to go out as far as he does. Why does he? Pure financial gain (a huge catch to make up for his eighty-four fishless days) is one possibility. There may be others, however. Is he trying to prove something? To himself, or to others?
15. It's helpful here to note areas in which Santiago and Manolin need each other and areas in which they choose each other. The need is not difficult to define. Manolin will be a fisherman; he needs someone to teach him the trade, a trade which is not nearly so simple as it may seem. Santiago's need for the boy is well documented in the opening pages, where Manolin literary supplies food the old man needs. But it's overwhelmingly obvious that this is not a mere business arrangement.
There's also a teacher-student relationship, but it's far more than that too. The boy loves Santiago. But only because the old man had taught him to fish? There's only one reference to the boy's actual father. It's certainly feasible to conclude that the father is as absent from Manolin as he virtually is from the story. Santiago seems to be a greater paternal force.