The Old Man and the Sea is a favorite novel of mine, and I try to read it every three to five years.
I find myself intrigued when reading about Santiago, the old fisherman, hunting, and catching the great marlin in the Gulf Stream near Cuba. His resolve to not give up the fight, even after the capture, inspires me to never give up by putting life into the proper perspective.
My ten favorite quotes from The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, (2002) are:
Quotes cited from “The Old Man and the Sea” follow this format: (Page Number)
1. 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. (19)
Comment: Let me quote Seneca, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
2. But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated. (66)
Comment: Santiago is a symbolic emblem for heroism. Therefore, his trials and tribulations must be epic and his triumph over adversity monumental. However, Hemingway’s view of heroism seems to require continuous labor for quintessentially ephemeral ends; that of being Sisyphean. In other words, what one achieves or fails at externally is not as important to heroism as is inner nobility; facing adversity with dignity and grace.
The Feminine Sea
3. He always thought of the sea as ‘la mar’ which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as ‘el mar’ which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. 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. (17)
Comment: I fancy Santiago’s version of how he views the sea… capricious as the moods of a woman; giving and withholding favors for her own purposes.
Love and Killing
4. Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends. (33)
Comment: Guy de Maupassant writes, in one of his short stories, “Man kills without ceasing, to nourish himself; but since also he needs to kill for pleasure, he has invented the chase! The child kills the insects he finds the little birds, all the little animals that come in his way. But this does not suffice for the irresistible need of massacre that is in us. It is not enough to kill beasts; we must kill a man too. Long ago this requirement was satisfied by human sacrifice. Now, the necessity of living in society has made murder a crime. We condemn and punish the assassin! But as we cannot live without yielding to this natural and imperious instinct of death, we relieve ourselves from time to time, by wars. Then a whole nation slaughters another nation. It is a feast of blood, a feast that maddens armies and intoxicates the civilians, women, and children, who read, by lamplight at night, the feverish story of massacre.”
5. To hell with luck. I’ll bring the luck with me. (82)
Comment: In Santiago’s village he is labeled “salao, which is the worst form of unlucky,” having gone eighty-four days without catching a fish. Since superstition is part of being a fisherman, this makes Santiago an outsider among his peers and eventually alienates his partner Manolin. Even though luck is a very real part of the story, Santiago knows that perseverance, skill, and determination can bring luck.
6. Most people were heartless about turtles because a turtle’s heart will beat for hours after it has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, I have such a heart too. (22)
Comment: I believe what Hemingway is inferring here is that food is a means to an end; to give strength for the task at hand.
The Struggle of Life
7. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert. (1)
Comment: I love this physical description of Santiago by Hemingway… beautiful!
8. Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? (17)
Comment: This question reminds me of a quote supposedly by Albert Einstein, which is “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.” There are two ways to view the world; one is as though nothing is miraculous and the other is that everything is miraculous… details are beautiful!
9. It was considered a virtue not to talk unnecessarily at sea… (23)
Comment: This is a virtue I am learning to appreciate more fully, particularly with respect to personal relationships.
10. No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. (29)
Comment: I understand what this means because of volunteer work I do for the elderly, and it is this. As human beings, we hunger for companionship and company more than we do for food; especially as we get older and lonelier.
Images – Post image: “Ernest Hemingway House” by -Eric is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Quotes – Hemingway, E. (2002). The Old Man and the Sea. New York, N.Y.: Scribner.