Themes in The old Man and the Sea

Themes in The old Man and the Sea: The novel has great themes. Some of those we shall discuss here like perseverance , weakness, strength, belief, optimism, virility etc.

Themes in The Old Man and the Sea abound in many ways. Let us see how.

Primary Themes in The Old Man and Sea:

In “The Old Man and the Sea“, Hemingway wishes to prove that “man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated”. He is successful in convincing us that “pain does not matter to a man” when he has “resolution” and the “unconquerable will”. It also proves that man is invincible despite his humble disposition. Santiago, an experienced fisherman, has been without a single fish for eighty four days. His fellow fishermen make fun of him. Often, Santiago has to go hungry. People call him “salao”. But he does not give in despite his old age and weakness.

He goes for fishing every day with the same faith believing “every day is a new day” and “it is silly not to hope”. The consistent efforts of our dear Santiago help him catching a big marlin on eighty fifth day. We are amazed his wonderful 48 hours struggle with the marlin, his spearing and clubbing of the sharks prove his bravery and courage. Despite hostile Nature and bad luck, Santiago gives his best to prove that it is the will which matters and not the might. Therefore, Santiago shows us: “what a man can do and what a man endures”

He loses the marlin to the sharks but not his courage and will. Indeed, Santiago does suffer wounds, pain, hunger, thirst and misery of loneliness but remains constant in his efforts to prove what a man is worth. Though Santiago remains unlucky and cannot save the fish yet he has moral victory.

Discussing the themes in The Old Man and the Sea Topic Wise:

Theme of Perseverance in Old Man and the sea:

One of the major themes of the novel is perseverance and sticking to one’s goals. Santiago does not give in despite the worst circumstances that are wielding an influence no less than havoc on the life of Santiago. It is this perseverance which helps him beat the mighty fish.

Theme of Weakness in Old Man and the Sea:

Though “man is not made for defeat” yet he is vulnerable and the might of nature is free to uproot all the claims of success that man may go boasting about. The novel, though optimistic, carries a deep ray of pessimism about the strength of nature which possesses man and his being so entirely that it can crush man and his success instantly.

The Importance of ‘Will’ and determination in The Old Man and the Sea

Above all, it is the will of man which matters and not the physical might. Santiago is weak and mild before the unchain-able forces of nature which are always thwarting whatever man may strive to build on. But Santiago remains successful in proving that despite making certain mistakes like going into the deep sea and sticking to a big marlin in the wilderness of wild sea, he still remains successful in hooking it. It is sheer example of his will rather than physical might.

Optimism and virility in the Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway wishes to hint that man’s situation, though unstable and subject to the mood of hostile nature around, is still full of hope and felicity as long as man is determined to endure and show positive attitude. We may refer to Santiago’s words: “And pain does not matter to a man.” The theme of enduring pain is the direct outcome of courage, bravery and virility.

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Further Reading & References:

  1. Original Text of The Old Man and The Sea
  2. The Movie The Old Man and the Sea