The Old Man and the Sea

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Themes and Colors
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Youth and Age Theme Icon
Man and Nature Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Old Man and the Sea, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Pride Theme Icon

Pride is often depicted as negative attribute that causes people to reach for too much and, as a result, suffer a terrible fall. After he kills the first shark, Santiago, who knows he killed the marlin "for pride," wonders if the sin of pride was responsible for the shark attack because pride caused him to go out into the ocean beyond the usual boundaries that fishermen observe. Santiago immediately dismisses the idea, however, and the events of The Old Man and the Sea support his conviction that pride is not the cause of his difficulties.

In fact, Santiago's pride is portrayed as the single motivating force that spurs him to greatness. It is his pride that pushes him to survive three grueling days at sea, battling the marlin and then the sharks. Yet it is important to recognize that Santiago's pride is of a particular, limited sort. Pride never pushes him to try to be more than he is. For instance, when Manolin tells him, "The best fisherman is you," early in the story, Santiago humbly disagrees. Rather, Santiago takes pride in being exactly what he is, a man and a fisherman, and his struggle can be seen as an effort to be the best man and fisherman that he can be. As he thinks in the middle of his struggle with the marlin, he must kill the marlin to show Manolin "what a man can do and what a man endures." Santiago achieves the crucial balance between pride and humility—that "[humility] was not disgraceful and it carried no true loss of pride."

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Pride ThemeTracker

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Pride Quotes in The Old Man and the Sea

Below you will find the important quotes in The Old Man and the Sea related to the theme of Pride.
Day One Quotes
Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.
Related Characters: Santiago
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

In this characteristically blunt introduction of Santiago, Hemingway sets him up as the novella's titular "old man."

Throughout this tale, Santiago's advanced age plays an important role in his fishing abilities and his interactions with the other fishermen. His body is breaking down, and his unlikely victory against the giant marlin seems like it might be his last big fishing expedition. His body is well-worn, and there seems to be a sort of honor in all the pain Santiago has been able to bear over the years.

But, as Hemingway describes them, Santiago's eyes still have a lot of youth in them. They are "cheerful and undefeated," reflecting Santiago's unwillingness to let up as he struggles to catch the marlin. With eyes the same color as the sea, Santiago is one with it. The sea is Santiago's livelihood, his joy, and his true home.


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"There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you."
Related Characters: Manolin (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Manolin's adoration for Santiago is clear throughout the story, and we know Manolin only stopped fishing with the old man because his parents thought Santiago cursed to never catch another fish.

We learn that Santiago taught Manolin everything the boy knows about fishing, and here Manolin's pride at being an apprentice to the old master shows. It's also a reassurance to Santiago, who is made fun of by many of the younger and more successful fishermen. Despite the fact that these other men seem to catch fish almost every day, while Santiago hasn't caught anything in eighty-four days, Manolin's commitment to Santiago is unbreakable.

As we learn throughout the story, Manolin is the closest thing Santiago has to a friend. And, because Santiago's wife has died, Manolin is also the closest thing the old man has to family.

Hemingway writes in many of his novels and stories about "good" and "great" men, and there's a characteristic bravado to Manolin's statement. It never becomes clear whether or not Santiago is really the best fisherman, but in Manolin's eyes he's a singular talent.

He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy.
Related Characters: Santiago, Manolin
Related Symbols: Lions
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

By using all these terms of negation (like "no longer" and "nor") to list things Santiago used to dream about, Hemingway creates a strong sense of all the experiences Santiago has had in his long life. Though the list evokes some nostalgia, it seems like Santiago's feelings resolve toward the end of this passage to a contentment with what he has lost and what he currently has.

The bravado of Hemingway's male characters emerges again, as we notice the things that Santiago once dreamed of: storms, women, great occurrences, great fish, fights, contests of strength, and his wife. In the world of these fishermen, and probably in Hemingway's mind too, these are the things that allow a man to assert his manliness. This mention of "contests of strength" points to the passage where Santiago arm-wrestles another man for an entire day.

It's important not only that Santiago is a man, but also that he's an old man. The other fishermen see Santiago as an old man, but he wants them to see him as a man just like them-- or better than them. If Santiago can wrestle in the big marlin, he'll prove to all the other fishermen he's still on top of their hierarchy.

And yet Santiago no longer dreams of these things. Maybe he just doesn't care too much what the others think of him now. His dreams of lions seem to emerge from memories of working on ships off the coast of Africa, far back in his past, and something about this choice of memories makes it seem like part of Santiago wants to retire from the difficulty and competitiveness of fishing and escape far away. Hemingway loves to write about lions, and they're an important element of many of his most well-known short stories.

Day Three Quotes
"Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends."
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

The dichotomy within Santiago-- that he must kill and sell this marlin in order to live, but also loves, admires, and identifies with the fish-- keeps coming up. Santiago realizes that he needs to make a living and that he may be able to kill the fish even though he loves it, but he never quite seems to fully resolve his worries.

Both Santiago and the marlin are unwilling to give up. They are both extremely determined to win the battle, but Santiago wants to exhaust the fish and kill him by sunset. Even in his old age, Santiago will not give up; even in his toughest fishing expedition ever he'll find a victory of some sort.

But I must have the confidence and I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel.
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Santiago and Manolin love baseball, which they hear about over the radio back on shore. Joe DiMaggio, one of the all-time best players for the New York Yankees, was a big star around the time when this novella seems to take place, and baseball seems to already have been massively popular in Cuba during the Yankees era.Santiago's assumption that DiMaggio "does all things perfectly" captures the way we tend to idolize our sports figures.

It's true that DiMaggio had bone spurs, projections at the end of bones that make it painful to move on them. Santiago tries to push through his pain by telling himself to be more like his baseball hero. Baseball gives Santiago a common ground for discussion with Manolin, and also provides him material for self-encouragement when things get tougher.

Day Four Quotes
"God help me endure. I'll say a hundred Our Fathers and a hundred Hail Marys. But I cannot say them now."
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

Having already said a few prayers earlier in his journey, the more desperate Santiago now claims he'll say each of the most common Catholic prayers a hundred times if God will only help him catch the fish.

It's never very clear where Santiago stands on religion, and these prayers seem more based on superstition than faith. The fact that Santiago knows the prayers means he has some familiarity with the church, but his other thoughts so far indicate that he's not particularly committed to the idea of a God.

Rather, Santiago seems to worship nature. He hopes that saying the prayers might help him win this duel with the fish, and it feels like the moment earlier in the book when Santiago discusses the lottery with Manolin. As further evidence that he's not particularly religious, Santiago says "I cannot say them now." He plans to say them later on to hold up his side of the bargain with whatever god might be listening.

Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all of the skiff.
Related Characters: Santiago
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

The fish is so rarely out of the water in the first three days of Santiago's expedition that any jump comes as a sort of climax after all the waiting. Because fishing can be a slow and tedious process, part of Hemingway's achievement with this book is simply that he is able to make fishing an interesting and even suspenseful subject. We, as readers, are forced in a way to sit along with Santiago while we wait for the fish to slow down and get tired or break free and leave Santiago stranded. Finally, here, all the waiting pays off—the marlin not only jumps, but Santiago has also finally pierced it with a harpoon. The battle is almost over.

We read that the fish comes "alive, with his death in him." This is an odd phrase, meaning that the fish is making his last stand for life, even with Santiago's harpoon in his heart. It also recalls notions of sacrifice and resurrection, and some of the Christian imagery of the book. The rest of the passage emphasizes how huge and how majestic the fish really is. The marlin is significantly bigger than the boat Santiago rides in, and powerful enough to splash water all over the boat. Even in its death it is described as something powerful and beautiful, even sublime.

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?
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

With the worst of his trials behind him, Santiago begins to question himself and his motives in killing the fish. Throughout the four days of pursuing and trying to wear down the fish, Santiago develops a real connection to it. Now that he has won the battle and killed the marlin, Santiago has second thoughts. He knows fishermen take pride in the size of their catches, and wonders if it might be wrong to do so.

Santiago tells himself it isn't wrong to kill the fish as long as he loves it. This might be a bit of inherited wisdom, something he has learned along the way. He quickly questions this too: might it be even worse to kill a creature when you love it? Given his near-absolute certainty as a fisherman and a navigator, it is a bit unnerving to see Santiago so unsure of himself. This journey has taken so much out of him that his mind goes places it wouldn't normally go. Or maybe Santiago is no longer interested in this kind of prideful fishing, and we are looking on as he finishes his final fishing trip.

"A man can be destroyed but not defeated."
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

This phrase, one of the better known quotations from the novella, is typical of Hemingway's writing. It is an aphorism-- it uses simple words to make a huge and general claim about the way the world works.

Santiago says this aloud while sailing back to shore with the giant marlin and trying to fight off the many sharks who come to eat parts of it. Because Santiago hasn't eaten or slept much in a few days, it can be unclear how seriously we are meant to take these statements.

But if we do decide to take it seriously, rather than as the byproduct of Santiago's near-fatal exhaustion, we have to figure out the difference between beingdestroyed and being defeated. And why is the statement limited to a man? Defeat might imply acceptance that one has lost a battle, whereas destruction simply means the end to the existence of something.

To be destroyed without being defeated, then, is something like that old saying, "going down with the ship." In Santiago's (and perhaps Hemingway's) opinion, a man is someone who goes to the very limit of their capabilities and then either succeeds or fails. But, when a man fails, he does so completely and not out of a lack of effort.

He stopped for a moment and looked back and saw in the reflection from the street light the great tail of the fish standing up well behind the skiff's stern. He saw the white naked line of his backbone and the dark mass of the head…
Related Characters: Santiago
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

It seems odd, after all this time at sea with Santiago, to encounter something like a street light. We are quickly back on land and back with (relatively) modern technology, out of the barren and completely natural environment of the ocean. Santiago is looking back at his prize fish, ruined by the sharks who tore it to bits, and it is hard to know what he might be feeling at this moment. The streetlight is symbolic of the town as a whole, and much of the remainder of the novella will focus on the reactions of other people to the fish skeleton left on the beach by Santiago.

Once again, the fish's immense size is emphasized by its "great tail," stretching "well behind the skiff's stern." It's a grotesque image, this giant fish skeleton waiting on the beach for people to wake up and see it in the morning. But Santiago is too exhausted to do anything with it, and the dead fish-- stripped of all its value-- may have stripped Santiago of all his pride and desire to continue fishing too.

He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder.
Related Characters: Santiago
Related Symbols: The Mast
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

This phrase is almost an exact transplant from the Bible's descriptions of Jesus Christ carrying the cross before his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. The exhausted Jesus, forced to carry his own heavy cross on his back, falls and gets back up again. In the Bible, these passages suggest the extreme endurance of Jesus and his willingness to suffer pain for a greater cause.

Here, Santiago tries to carry his (cross-shaped) mast away from his skiff to his home. He cannot bear the weigh after his exhausting journey. But he rises again, like Jesus, making the final push toward his house and refusing defeat after days at sea.

Throughout this novella, which plays with religious ideas like sin and prayer, Santiago has a kind of Christlike presence. He is a pariah figure, acts humbly and honestly, and ultimately spends three full days and nights at sea like the three days between Jesus' death and resurrection according to the Christian Bible.