The Old Man and The Sea English Summary

Key Facts:

Writer: Ernest Hemingway(1899-1961) American Novelist

Written Time: 1951

Published date: 1952

Genre: Allegorical Novel, Nautical fiction, Novella

Themes: Perseverance, Suffering, Pride, Friendship, Respect

Setting: Time Setting: 1950s

Place Setting: The Sea and Cuban fishing village / Gulf of Mexico


Santiago: 85 years old fisherman. The Protagonist

Manolin: A boy who takes care of the old man.

The Marlin: 18 feet long fish which was hooked by Santiago.

The Sharks: Attacked the Marlin and ate up.

Joe DiMaggio– The greatest baseball player. He is a divinely inspirational religious figure for Santiago.

Moral Lesson: A man is not made for defeat.


We can easily understand this summary in just four stages.

1. The misfortune of the fisherman Santiago 

2. Marlin fishing and struggling hard

3. Trying to save Merlin from the sharks

4. Returning to the beach with the skeleton of Merlin

So let’s have a point-to-point summary discussion.

1. The misfortune of the fisherman Santiago 

  85-year-old Santiago is a fisherman in the coastal area of Havana. His wife is not alive. He lives alone. He could not catch a single fish for the last 84 days. He has a student, her name is Manolin. He learns how to catch fish from Santiago. Manolin’s parents told him to work for some other lucky fisherman since Santiago hasn’t been able to catch any fish for a long time. They think Santiago’s luck has actually run out. But Manolin himself likes Santiago very much. Santiago loves Manolin and teaches him fishing. Manolin does not want to leave Santiago. Every day they go fishing together. Manolin helps Santiago pull the boat to shore and encourages Santiago to catch fish again the next day. Manolin did not lack Santiago’s service. Manolin is also providing him with food and clothes. 

In return, he hears the story of the legendary baseball player Joe DiMaggio from Santiago. The expeditions to Africa during Santiago’s youth can be known because Santiago went on several expeditions to Africa when he was young. Every night Santiago dreams of lions walking on the African seashore. Manolin wakes him up. Manolin lowered the boat into the water and Santiago went out alone as usual into the sea. Although he could not catch a fish for 84 days, he goes fishing patiently every day and thinks every day that there must be a fish for him today, and he will be able to catch it. At dawn on the 85th day, Manolin helps Santiago float the boat out to sea. Santiago went a little further from where Santiago usually fished, as he had come to this place last week hoping to catch a big fish–but he didn’t. Today he moves forward thinking that his fate will be good. In the afternoon he managed to catch a 10-pound tuna.

2. Marlin fishing and struggling hard

Before he could breathe a sigh of relief that his day’s work had paid off, he realized that the lines he had cast had been caught and that the fish was pulling. And a really big Marlin fish pierced his hook. The fish is so big that Santiago is unable to pick it up. Merlin slowly moved his boat deeper and deeper from the shore. That is, Santiago is not able to bring the fish under his control in any way, but the fish was so strong that his boat was being dragged further out to sea. The sun went down slowly. Until now, the fight between Santiago and the fish continues and no one gives up. Though Santiago is not strong enough, he has fished many times in the past in his youth. That is why he is very good at fishing. He knows fishing techniques very well.

That’s why even though the strength is low, he still has the fish under his control. Santiago seems to have developed a friendly relationship with the fish by now, as they are the perfect match for each other. The fish is strong and clever. On the other hand, Santiago is patient and skilled. He feels pity for the fish – even sympathy. But he feels that he must catch the fish anyway and that he hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days. He has to come out of such an unfortunate situation.

Because he has already endured many insults from many. His only goal now is to catch this Marlin fish. So he cut the other lines he had baited for fishing and gave his full attention to hunting Marlin. That’s how the night ended but the fish was still fighting equally with Santiago. The next morning the sun rose. The fish suddenly jerked violently as it was calm till now but now it started twitching. Santiago’s hand was cut off by a sudden tug on the line he was holding.

While he was busy tending to his cut hand, he saw that the fish had risen above the sea just like the dolphins. At a glance, he saw that the fish was very large. He had never caught such a fish and had never seen such a big Marlin. He refocused his full attention and kept the line full because there was no way the fish would be missed. Santiago continued to pray that he would succeed in killing this fish. Because the fish is strong, it itself is gaining a kind of psychic power, the likes of which no one has ever seen before. He wondered what he would have done if the hero Joe-DiMaggio had been in his place. Here, Joe DiMaggio is a baseball player who has led his team to win many championships.

Although he had gotten injured many times during that time, he never gave up and always fought for his team. Thinking of him, old Santiago regained his mental strength. On the second day, the sun was about to set, meaning the second day was over. He dropped another short line. Now he caught a dolphin. Because he did not bring food for so many days. He thought he would go back in the evening, but he couldn’t because of the Marlin, and he didn’t have to starve for now because he was hunting dolphins.

He will spend the night eating dolphins. Meanwhile, the fish is still with the line, struggling little by little. When it calmed down a bit, Santiago rested for a few hours. His sleep was broken again, as the merlin leaped. The fish is struggling to free itself from the hook and this time again its hand was cut in several places by the pull of the Marlin fish. But Santiago persisted like a slave. This time the Marlin fish is very close. The fish kept circling his boat. Meanwhile, Santiago was sleepy and tired from fighting the fish for several days. Generally, fishing in shallow rivers or seas involves holding the line with the fish for a long time and waiting for the fish to tire. That’s exactly what old Santiago did.

But this time when the fish came close to the boat (he was then equipped with something that could be thrown like a monsoon called a harpoon) he prepared to use his harpoon and he killed the fish. That is, when the fish came up, he threw the harpoon and caught the fish. When he brought the fish close after killing it, the fish was too big to be lifted into the boat. So Santiago tied the big heavy fish to one side of the boat so that the fish was still in the water. But this time he was able to tie the fish to the boat.

3. Trying to save Merlin from the sharks

He then set sail for Cuba to return home. After smelling the blood of the dead fish, 2 very big sharks came and surrounded the boat. Santiago killed a shark with great difficulty with his harpoon. Then the other shark went away but Santiago was an experienced sailor, so he understood the danger. He realized that many more sharks were approaching. Meanwhile, the fishing harpoon, unfortunately, fell from his hand.

After that many sharks came after smelling Marlin’s blood. They tore apart the body of the dead Marlin and began to eat it. Santiago tried desperately to stop them. He had several more harpoons, with which he began to kill the sharks, and several died and some escaped. But it was found that there was nothing left of the fish except the skeleton and part of the tail.

4. Returning to the beach with the skeleton of Merlin

when Santiago reached the beach after fighting all night, everyone was sleeping. He somehow went home with the mast of his boat. Here the mast of the boat he is carrying looks like a cross. As Jesus Christ died on the cross. With that, he started to return home. Santiago is being led to the cross just as Jesus Christ suffered and died. His suffering is compared to that of Jesus Christ. The skeleton of the Marlin was still lying in the harbor tied to the boat. The next morning Manolin went to Santiago’s house. Many people gathered outside his house. Everyone was amazed to see that big Marlin fish. They had never seen such a big Marlin in their lives. They gather to congratulate Santiago on his success. Manolin made coffee for Santiago.

She is overjoyed to see old Santiago return home, and Manolin weeps for a long time when he sees Santiago’s condition due to his amputated arm. When Santiago wakes up, Manolin tells him that no matter what his parents say, he will go fishing with Santiago from now on. Meanwhile, a group of tourists saw the skeleton of a Marlin and mistook it for a shark skeleton. The old fisher then falls asleep again and sees the lions again in his dream. We know that when he was thinking about the times of his youth before he went fishing, he kept thinking of the lions of his expedition. Right now he is dreaming of lions again, which reminds him of his youth. Maybe he was strong like that, and he managed to catch a strong fish. Although there is nothing left of the remains of the fish. But, he is actually proud of hunting this fish. His long time of not fishing ended and this is how this novella ends.


  1. Symbols of the Characters:

Santiago: Symbolizes optimism.

Manolin: Symbolizes hope and obedience.

Joe Di Maggio: Symbolizes strong desire. 

2. Harpoon: Symbolizes skill.

3. Bird: symbolizes help.

4. sharks: Symbolizes destroyer.

5. Marlin: Symbolizes struggle.

6. lions: Symbolizes youth, strength, and virility.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

Articles: 230

Leave a Reply

error: Sorry !!