Hope in The Old Man and the Sea

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine the theme of hope from Ernest Hemingway's ''The Old Man and the Sea''. In this short story, an elderly fisherman maintains hope through an unlucky period of time.

Definition and Background

'You may say I'm a dreamer - But I'm not the only one - I hope someday you'll join us - And the world will be as oneā€¦,' sings John Lennon. Hope is an optimistic view of future outcomes. Lennon offers hope that at some point there will be world peace. Hope is a theme, or main subject, of Ernest Hemingway's short story, The Old Man and the Sea. Even after a long streak of bad luck, the fisherman, Santiago, never loses hope. Let's look at some examples from this story.

Instilling Hope in Others

After 84 straight days of not catching any fish, everyone has lost faith in Santiago except for Manolin, the boy who used to fish with him, but Santiago never loses hope. Manolin offers to buy him four sardines to use as bait the next day. While Santiago's pride prevents him from accepting more than half of them, the sentiment revives him. The narrator writes, 'His hope and his confidence had never gone. But now they were freshening as when the breeze rises.' Having at least one other person that also believes in him revives Santiago's hope.

Manolin learned to fish from Santiago and thinks he is the best fisherman. His admiration flatters Santiago, who says, 'I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong.' Santiago believes he has great skill, but is aware that he is aging and that could affect his ability to bring in a great fish.

Hope to Bring in a Great Fish

Santiago does end up hooking a marlin that weighs more than a thousand pounds that proves to be challenging to him. After spending an entire night trying to reel it in, Santiago vows he will kill it before the end of the day. 'Let us hope so,' he thought. Santiago's wish comes true and he is able to kill the marlin, but then the sharks attack.

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