The Old Man and the Sea

Resistance to Defeat Theme Analysis

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.
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon

As a fisherman who has caught nothing for the last 84 days, Santiago is a man fighting against defeat. Yet Santiago never gives in to defeat: he sails further into the ocean than he ever has before in hopes of landing a fish, struggles with the marlin for three days and nights despite immense physical pain and exhaustion, and, after catching the marlin, fights off the sharks even when it's clear that the battle against them is hopeless. Whenever the situation gets particularly difficult and despair threatens to overwhelm Santiago, he turns to a number of tactics to fuel his resistance to defeat: he recalls memories of his youthful strength; he relies on his pride by demanding that he prove himself a worthy role model for Manolin or by comparing himself to his hero Joe DiMaggio; and he prays to God, even though his prayers do nothing to ease his physical suffering.

Ultimately, Santiago represents every man's struggle to survive. And just as Santiago's effort to bring the marlin back to land intact is doomed, no man can ever escape death. Yet through Santiago's struggle, Hemingway makes the case that escape from death is not the issue. As Santiago observes near the end of his struggle with the marlin, "a man can be destroyed but not defeated." In other words, victory over the inevitable is not what defines a man. Rather, it a man's struggle against the inevitable, even when he knows it is inevitable, that defines him. And the more difficult the struggle, the more worthy the opponent, the more powerfully a man can prove himself.

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Resistance to Defeat ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Resistance to Defeat appears in each chapter of The Old Man and the Sea. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Resistance to Defeat 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 Resistance to Defeat.
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:

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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:

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Day Two Quotes
He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought. Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely... He cannot know that it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man.
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 48-49
Explanation and Analysis:

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Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either of us.
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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Day Five Quotes
"How much did you suffer?"
"Plenty," the old man said.
Related Characters: Manolin (speaker)
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

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"What's that" she asked a waiter and pointed to the long backbone of the great fish that was now just garbage waiting to go out with the tide.
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

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