The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
1. What did you think of the novella? Did you like it? Love it? Hate it? What made you lean that way?
2. Have you read this novella before? If so, how was this experience different?
3. What did you expect before picking up this novella? How were your expectations met or missed?
4. What role does the sea play in The Old Man and the Sea? Do you consider the sea a character unto herself? Do you think of the sea as masculine or feminine?
5. Both the man and the boy’s names, Santiago and Manolin, are rarely mentioned in the text. Why? What does this do to your reading experience?
6. What role does Santiago’s pride take in his plight? What role does Santiago’s strength take in his plight? Are these a blessing or a curse?
7. Like other Hemmingway characters, Santiago is very much alone, “beyond all people in the world” (pg. 50) yet he says, “No man was ever alone on the sea.” (pg. 61) Why?
8. Describe the relationship between Santiago and the Marlin. How does this relationship define Santiago’s character to the reader?
9. What was your favorite aspect of this novella? What was your least favorite aspect of this novella?
10. There is quite a bit of symbolism as it relates to man’s struggle with the world. Did you notice the symbolism throughout? If so, how did you interpret it? If not, do you think that matters?
11. Hemmingway is on record saying in response to the symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea that “There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are sharks, no better, no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond then you know.” Why do you believe he said this?
12. Hemmingway’s literature has two very prevalent themes: “the undefeated man” and “winner take nothing”. Do you see these themes in this novella? Where do you see contrary ideas?
13. The Old Man and the Sea is often described as the story of man. Do you agree? Why or why not?
14. The Old Man and the Sea won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize in Literature. In 1954, Hemmingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature for “his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on the contemporary style”. Do you believe these awards to be presented appropriately?
15. Have you read other works of Hemmingway’s? How do you think The Old Man and the Sea compares to these? What work of his is your favorite? Least favorite?