The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10

Available at: Amazon

Related: The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms


The story of an old man and his long battle against a fish.

I particularly enjoy this story because it is short and my own connection to the ocean.

The phrasing is quintessential Hemingway, and this story is a good introduction to his work.


  • He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Streram and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
  • He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.
  • "I may not be as strong as I think," the old man said. "But I know many tricks and I have resolution."
  • Why did they make birds so delicate and find as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly, dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices are made too delicately for the sea.
  • But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.
  • Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.
  • No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. But it is unavoidable.
  • The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.
  • He decided that he could beat anyone if he wanted to badly enough.
  • Maybe he suddenly felt fear. But he was such a calm, strong fish and he seemed so fearless and so confident. It is strange.
  • “I’ll just steer south and west,” he said. “A man is never lost at sea and it is a long island.”
  • I am not good for many more turns. Yes you are, he told himself. You’re good for ever.
  • You are killing me fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.
  • The dark water of the true gulf is the greatest healer that there is.
  • He hit it without hope but with resolution and complete malignancy.
  • You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

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