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Free Study Guide-The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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There is an unmistakable autobiographical element in the novel. At the time of its writing, Hemingway was himself an older man, challenged by the struggles of age, much like Santiago. Prior to the publication of The Old Man and the Sea, he had been having difficulty with his writing. Between 1940 and 1950, he published no novels. When he finally published "Across the River and into the Trees" in 1950, Hemingway was criticized severely for falling below his usual standards. It was obvious he was in a "literary drought," much like Santiago’s own round of bad luck in fishing. When he published The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, it was his prize, his giant fish. It was also a fitting reply to his critics, who eagerly tore his writing apart; the critics are obviously symbolized by the sharks in the novel.


Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for The Old Man and the Sea in 1954. In the citation for the prize, a special mention is made about his style. Since Hemingway had been a journalist, the hallmarks of journalistic style are evident in his writing, especially in this short novel. Using a minimum amount of words, he extracts maximum meaning and effect; the result is that his narration is simple, yet immensely powerful, pithy, and direct. He keeps the use of adjectives to the barest minimum and avoids hyperboles, cliches, slang, and flowery phrases. His short sentences, which sometime sound clipped and staccato, speed up the pace of the novel as it rushes towards its climax. The interior monologues that Santiago has with himself cleverly break the exposition of the narrative. Hemingway definitely proves in The Old Man and the Sea that he is a wonderful teller of tales and a deft craftsman of words.


1. Explain the setting of the novel and why it is important to the tale.

2. Describe the physical and mental characteristics of Santiago.

3. Who is Manolin and why is he important to the novel?

4. What does Santiago determine to do on the 85 th day and why?

5. Explain how Hemingway shows that Santiago is in tune with the natural world around him.

6. Explain the basics of what goes on during Santiago’s three- day ordeal.

7. What is grace under pressure and how does Santiago exhibit it?

8. Is Santiago a failure or a hero at the end of the novel? Fully explain your answer.

9. What are the Christian symbols used in the novel?

10. What are the symbols of good and evil in the novel?

11. Explain the importance of DiMaggio and the lions in the novel.

12. Explain how Hemingway structure his novel and unifies the plot.

13. What is the main theme of the novel and how is it developed?


The study of literature is not like the study of math or science, or even history. While those disciplines are based largely upon fact, the study of literature is based upon interpretation and analysis. There are no clear-cut answers in literature, outside of the factual information about an author's life and the basic information about setting and characterization in a piece of literature. The rest is a highly subjective reading of what an author has written; each person brings a different set of values and a different background to the reading. As a result, no two people see the piece of literature in exactly the same light, and few critics agree on everything about a book or an author. In this set of PinkMonkey® Literature Notes for a well-known piece of literature, we at have tried to give an objective literary analysis based upon the information actually found in the novel, book, or play. In the end, however, it is an individual interpretation, but one that we feel can be readily supported by the information that is presented in the guide. In your course of literature study, you or your professor/teacher may come up with a different interpretation of the mood or the theme or the conflict. Your interpretation, if it can be logically supported with information contained within the piece of literature, is just as correct as ours. So is the interpretation of your teacher or professor.

Literature is simply not a black or white situation; instead, there are many gray areas that are open to varying analyses. Your task is to come up with your own analysis that you can logically defend. Hopefully, these PinkMonkey® Literature Notes will help you to accomplish that goal.

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Free Study Guide-The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway


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