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Points to Ponder

While battling the great marlin deep at sea, Santiago says, "Now that I have him coming so beautifully, God help me endure. I'll say a hundred Our Fathers and a hundred Hail Marys. But I cannot say them now." Is The Old Man and the Sea a religious book? Does it have religious symbolism? Look back at the text and see where Santiago mentions God, and what happens immediately afterwards. If he believes in God, then does God help him? If not, then why does he pray? Do you think Santiago holds God responsible for his bad luck? With regards to religious symbolism, what message do these symbols hold? Santiago spends three days with the great marlin, a significant Christian number. When the great marlin finally dies, the sharks quickly pursue the boat in order to consume the fish's body and blood. Also, consider the final scene when Santiago arrives back on the Cuban shore. Even though he is exhausted, he carries the mast on his shoulders and stumbles under the load, like the biblical Christ carrying the cross. When he arrives back at his home, Santiago lies down with his arms stretched out and the palms of his hands up, with deep wounds in the centers. Does Santiago's ordeal support the symbolic interpretation that he is a Christ analogue? Does the name Santiago, which means St. James in Spanish, have any significance? Or are all these symbols and images just "professor bait?"

Is The Old Man and the Sea a story of triumph or tragedy? What do you think Santiago would say? Does he regret catching the great marlin, voyaging so deep at sea, or spending three days with one fish? Knowing what was going to happen, would he have done it again? Consider how he reacts when he finally drives the harpoon into the great marlin and how he feels when the sharks consume the marlin's flesh. Also, think about what Santiago means when, upon thinking about what had beaten him, he says aloud, "Nothing. I went out too far." Then, consider the significance of this statement, spoken to the boy: "They beat me, Manolin. They truly beat me." Are these two statements contradictory? In many novels, the central character experiences some conflict and emerges changed. With regards to story as triumphant or tragic, do you believe Santiago has changed as a result? What do you think he'll do the next day or the next year? In particular, examine how his relationship with Manolin might alter as a result of the old man's experiences at sea.

What role does age play in The Old Man and the Sea? Is the age of Santiago important enough to appear in the title? First, consider the significance of his dreams about the lions on the beach. At one point while at sea, Santiago asks himself why the lion dreams are all that remain. How would you answer him? Make sure to recall the story of the lion that he tells early in the novel. Also, while resting briefly during the battle with the great fish, at first he dreams about something other than the lions. What images does he see and how are they significant? What is the importance of Manolin's age? While at sea, Santiago says, "I wish I had the boy," numerous times. Is he always referring to Manolin, or is the statement sometimes calling for the boy from his own youth? Is Manolin a reflection of Santiago as a boy? Do you think Manolin will grow up to be like Santiago? Why or why not?

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12


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