Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea"

THis paper presents a critical review of Hemingway’s novel, focusing on elements of the relationship between the sea and the protagonist.

Everyone has an arch enemy. Batman had the Joker, Superman had Lex Luthor. But without their enemies, they would be unimportant, just like anyone else. One could say that they needed their enemies, that their enemies were almost friends. Similarly, The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, is a love story about the relationship developed over the years between a man and his lifelong friend and foe, the sea.

Within the following paragraphs, it will be proven that the man needed the sea, that the two respected each other, and were very close. The old man respected the sea, unlike some of the younger, richer fishermen. They referred to the sea as a man. “…spoke of her as el mar which is masculine.” (p.30) This was considered improper to the older fishermen, as it was spoken of like a place or a contestant.

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The old man always referred to the sea as a female, like a mother. “He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her.” (p.29) He saw the sea as a woman, a woman that gave or withheld favors. She was unpredictable beacuse “The moon affects her as it does a woman.” (p.30) The sea was like a second home for the man, who fished every day. La mar provided the man with food, a living, an enemy, and a friend.

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When he was out on the sea fishing, he was at home. The sea, la mar, was like his mother. The fish in the ocean were like his brothers and sisters. When he heard the dolphins playing in the night he thought, “They are good…they are our brothers like the flying fish.” (p.48) He had almost reeled the giant marlin in when he realized what he was doing. “You are killing me, fish. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful…thing than you, brother.” (p.92) Even as he ate the fish that he would catch, or as he killed scavengers trying to get the marlin, he was apologizing or talking to his “family”. The old man saw the sea as a person, as a woman, and the fish were people, also. Thinking that way, he kept an open dialogue with his surroundings. Throughout the several days in which he tried to catch the marlin, he constantly spoke to it. He had just eaten a fish to get his strength back when he said, “How do you feel, fish? I feel good and my left hand is better and I have food for a night and a day” (p.74) Seeing a bladder of a Portuguese man-of-war floating near him, he said, “Agua mala, you whore” (p.35) The bladder was keeping the fish away from the boat. As well as talking to the fish and the sea, he spoke to his body parts. His left hand had cramped up and he tried to convince it to stop. “…Cramp then if you want…It will do you no good.” (p.58) In addition to that, he spoke to a bird that happened upon him in the middle of the sea. “Stay at my house if you like, bird. I am sorry that I cannot…take you in with me…But I am with a friend.” (p.55) And of course, he spoke to the only thing that could understand the words, himself. After several days with little sleep, he was puling the fish up, and told himself, “Be calm and strong, old man” (p.91) At sea, he was at home, and he felt free to speak to everything, although nothing answered his questions, or reacted to his taunts. The Old Man and the Sea is a book about the love story between an old, lonely man and his friend for life, the sea, along with the fish. This idea can be summarized with one more quote from the story. “Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you before this day ends.”(p.54)

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Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea". (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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