The Old Man and the Sea – Novel Notes


  1. Santiago (The old man)
  2. Manolin (The boy)
  3. The Sea
  4. Marlin (A big fish)


Santiago is the main character of the novel. We can say that he is the hero of the novel. He is very old. He is a weak and thin fellow. He has deep wrinkles at the back of his neck. There are brown patches of skin cancer on his cheeks. There are many cuts of fishing lines on both of his hands. Every thing about him is old except his eyes. They are blue like the water of the sea. They are cheerful and undefeated.

He lives in Havana, the capital of Cuba. He is a very poor person. He lives in a small hut. He has a bed, a chair, a table and some cooking pots. He lives alone in the hut. His wife died long ago. He has no child by his wife. He is a fisher man.


No doubt, the old man is a very skillful fisherman. He is an expert due to many reasons. He fully knows the art of catching fishes. He knows the swimming depth of different fishes. He knows all the fishes by their family name. He calls each fish by that. He recognizes a fish even at its first glimpse. He is quite familiar with the weather and sea. He has passed most of his time in Mexican Gulf. He can tell about the direction of the fish or the boat with help of the sun. When he has nothing to eat, he can eat raw fish. He can handle the fish even with cramped hand. He sails almost without fear all alone for three days and three nights. He kills the fish and the sharks show how skilful he is. He knows how to heal the wounds with the saltish water.

He knows about all the sea creatures including sharks. He fully knows about their behaviour and reactions.


The old man and the sea is a thrilling and exciting story. The old man loses the battle against his foe and stands defeated. We can say that his victory is not physical but moral and spiritual. He loses the fruit and rewards of his struggle. He looks quite tragic and pitiable. Although, he has lost the battle once again. This is not important to him. It is his courage and hope which is more important.

Santiago is a determined and resolute person. He does not catch fish for eighty four days. He is made fun of by other fishermen. They call him “Salao” which is the worst form of being unlucky. The boy’s (Menolin) parents advise him to leave the old man as he is unlucky. The old man does not believe in it and remains optimistic. As he thinks that “Eighty five” is a lucky number for him.

He decided to try his luck again on the eighty fifth day that he hooks a Marlin. The fish fights with for the whole day. He takes forty eighty hours to kill the Marlin. Marlin pulls his boat to north ward and eastward. At last on third day he succeeds in bringing the Marlin to the surface and kills it with his harpoon. It is a very large fish. It cannot be placed in the boat. He lashes it along side his skiff (boat). Then he suffers a lot while taking the Marlin to the shore. On his onward journey. The sharks attack the Marlin and he fights single handedly with them. He has great difficulty in saving from small fishes. He wishes to show the Marlin and sharks, what sort of man he is. He kills the sharks with his harpoon and later on with his knife. At one stage, he has to fight his battle against the sharks with his club. In his battle, sharks damage the best part of the big fish. The old man is helpless now. The fish is reduced his skeleton. At this point of his professional carrier, he says, “A man can be destroyed but cannot be defeated”.

All through his fight with the sharks, he says “I will fight them until I die”. He shows great resolution and self confidence. We can say that he is a man of courage, will and determination.




During the struggle with the big fish Marlin, the old man needs some encouragement and confidence. So, firstly he compares himself with his hero DiMaggio. Then he remembers his hand game with the Negro.

At that time old man was brave and powerful Youngman. He was given the title of “The Champion” after his victory in a hand competition. The memorable match was played at an inn at Casablanca.

The Negro was the strongest man on the docks. They started the game and the game continued for one day and one night. Each one was trying hard. There was much betting. People were leaving and entering the room. After the first eight hours the referees were changed. Blood came out from the fingernails of both of them. The bettors were sitting on high chairs. The old man defeated the Negro after a nerve breaking struggle.

For a long time after that, every one had called him a champion. The old man took part in many other hand game competitions and won those competitions.


The sea is a character in the novel old man and the sea. It has its own relations with other characters of the novel. The ocean plays its role as a living being. It has its own tastes, voices, atmosphere and colour etc. It influences Santiago, the boy named Menolin, the Marlin and the sharks. Its dominant role is that of a kind being. But, it does not treat the man kindly. It puts various hardships on his way. It makes his life difficult. Although, the sea has a gentle mood but does not remain gentle all the time. It would prove horrible when in storm. During storm, the old man curses it.

But we cannot ignore its gentle role as well it provides the livelihood to the old man and other fishermen. Actually, it gives to every fisherman that share of fish, which has been determined by God Almighty. A large number of fishermen living in Havana depend on the sea for their livelihood.

The sea is a good teacher. It teaches the sailors and fishermen how to lead their lives. It teaches them many moral and spiritual lessons. Santiago’s whole life spends on the sea. The sea has done a lot for him. It has assumed a role of moral teacher for him. It has taught him to face the hardships of life with patience. It has taught to ask for help from God at the hard times of life. And the old man learns his religious lessons well at the hands of the sea.

The sea has its own rules and regulations. It has all the characteristics (qualities) of fishes, turtle (tortoise), gulls and clouds. It is and indifferent universe, where the big creatures eat-up small creatures. Still man rules supreme there. It is obvious that the old man is defeated by the ocean but his own fault that he went to far out in the sea. The sea proves a good friend to every man.