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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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1 The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Reading Guide Questions

2 Section I How long has Santiago fished alone? Why has he done so?
What is “old” about Santiago? What about him isn’t? At the Terrace, how do some of the younger fishermen treat Santiago? How do the older ones treat him? What is his reaction? As they drink their beers, what does Manolin offer to do for Santiago? Why does he offer this? Describe Santiago’s attitude toward humility.

3 List the two things Manolin and Santiago pretend to have.
What does Santiago tell Manolin about the Yankees? Why does Manolin label himself as thoughtless? What wish does Santiago express about the “great DiMaggio”? What does Santiago tell Manolin he still has even if some of his strength is gone?

4 Section 2 What does Santiago no longer dream of? What are the two things he does dream of? Describe how Santiago tells Manolin he feels on this day. Describe how Santiago feels about, respectively, the flying fish, the birds, and the sea. What is Santiago’s attitude about being lucky?

5 Where does Santiago believe his “big fish” is?
How does Santiago’s attitude toward turtles differ from “that of other people”? Why does it differ? Explain how the man-of-war bird helps Santiago. Explain how Santiago justifies his habit of talking out loud.

6 Section 3 Explain why Santiago decides against drifting and sleeping for awhile with a line around his toe to wake him up. When Santiago feels a pull on one of his lines, what does he know “exactly”? Explain why, when the fish starts to tow the skiff, Santiago doesn’t secure the line instead of holding it himself. Why does Santiago wish he could see “him” (the marlin)? Why does Santiago wish Manolin were with him?

7 6. Explain why Santiago begins to pity the great fish.
What choices had both the fish and Santiago made? What was the result of their choices? Santiago says he was born for something. What was he born for? Describe what happens just before daylight. What does Santiago do? Why? Explain why Santiago feels that he has “all a man can ask.”

8 Section 4 As he waits for daylight, what thoughts pass through Santiago’s mind about the fish and himself? What do these thoughts reveal about Santiago’s character? Explain why Santiago hopes the fish will jump. What does Santiago say to the fish? What about the statement is contradictory? When the fish lurches, what happens to Santiago’s right hand? What is the condition of his left hand? Why does Santiago wish he could give the tuna to the fish rather than eat it himself? How does he then justify eating the tuna?

9 What does Santiago feel about getting a cramp in his hand?
Describe the marlin’s “sword” and the full length of his body. What does Santiago give thanks to God for? What does Santiago promise to do if he catches the fish? Even though he admits the situation is unjust, what does the old man intend to show the fish?

10 Section 5 Explain how the thought of DiMaggio helps Santiago in his resolve. What situation does Santiago fear might occur that causes him to say both he and the fish would need God’s pity? What does Santiago remember about his past to give himself more confidence? What had he once been called? Why did he cease the activity that had won him this name? In what way has Santiago “gained” on the fish in this section?

11 Why does Santiago continue to bear the weight of the line with his body?
Why does Santiago tell himself he must sleep? What three things does Santiago dream of when he finally does sleep?

12 Section 6 Explain why Santiago is glad the fish has jumped more than a dozen times. What does Santiago say about pain? What has Santiago felt that worries him? After Santiago tells himself the fish has a right to be “killing him,” what are his thoughts about the fish? What does Santiago then tell himself he must do? What does Santiago realize he will have to do with the fish to bring it back?

13 Section 7 1. How much does Santiago estimate the fish weighs?
How long does Santiago’s feeling of victory last? What puts an end to it? After he hits the fish, what does Santiago feel? Describe what Santiago does to arm himself after losing the harpoon.

14 What does Santiago admit about his motives for having killed the fish?
What does Santiago admit to himself about the boy? What is the outcome of the encounter between Santiago and the next two sharks?

15 Section 8 What apology does Santiago make to the fish? Why?
What happens to Santiago’s knife when the next shark attacks? What “weapons” does Santiago have remaining? What is Santiago’s answer to his own question about what he will do it “they” [more sharks] come in the night? Why does Santiago think he won’t have the luck even to bring the forwad half of the fish in? Describe Santiago’s physical condition after his last fight with sharks. How does Santiago feel about being “beaten”? What beat him?

16 How many times does Santiago have to sit down before reaching his shack? In what position does Santiago finally go to sleep? What is Manolin’s response to Santiago’s statement that “they” beat him? What does Manolin then tell Santiago he plans to do? Describe the injuries Santiago sustained from his encounter. What do the women tourist and her male companion think the marlin was? Why do they think this? What does Santiago dream of as he sleeps?

17 The Novel as a Whole Describe the relationship between Sanitago and Manolin. Discuss the marlin as Santiago’s antagonist, and the final outcome of their conflict. Then discuss the marlin as Santiago’s partner against other antagonists—forces of nature, fate, and chance—and the final outcome of those conflicts. Discuss the function of martin, proprietor of the Terrace, in the novel. Explain the possible function of the female tourist and her male companion at the end of the novel. Analyze the setting of the novel with regard to its creation of atmosphere and its effect on the development of the plot. Evaluate the author’s choice of the third person omniscient point of view with regard to the development of the plot. Analyze and evaluate the major themes presented in the novel. Examine various examples of symbolism employed by Hemingway in this novel, and explain how the use of symbolism contributes to both plot and characterization.

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