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The Old Man and the Sea Unit Plan

Instructor: Adrienne Nicholson
A unit plan for Ernest Hemingway's 'The Old Man and the Sea'. Each section can be taught as a separate lesson, covering various components of the novel. This is a resource you as a teacher can use to present the novel to students over a course of several lessons, if desired.

Lesson One - The author

Ernest Hemingway

  • Hemingway's last major novel, written in 1951 and published in 1952.
  • He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954.
  • He was cited for his Nobel Prize in literature.
  • Until this novel, Hemingway had not published a successful book since his 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, and one book that was panned by critics, Across the River and Into the Trees.
  • When Hemingway sent the manuscript to his editor, Wallace Meyer, he said it was the best work he has written and he hoped that it would put an end to the critics who claimed he was through as a writer.

Lesson Two - Introduce the story

The story follows Santiago, an aging fisherman, having gone 84 days without a catch and deemed unlucky by the townspeople. His protégé, a young boy named Manolin, has been told by his parents he is no longer allowed to go out with Santiago on his fishing trips. Manolin, distressed by this news, continues his friendship with the old man and visits him to ensure he is taking care of himself.

He sails to a part of the bay away from the other fishing vessels and after some time lands a huge marlin on his reel. The marlin drags him out to open water and Santiago and the marlin enter into what will be a three day struggle to survive. Santiago spends the days talking to the marlin and ruminating on his life. He feels connected to the fish and honored by the battle they've been waging, but he knows it's either him or the marlin who will survive. Eventually, the fish gives in and Santiago is able to spear him, ending the 3 day struggle.

This is only the beginning for Santiago though, as he now needs to navigate his way back to the town, pulling the enormous marlin with him. He must rely on all his navigational skills to find his way back across the sea to his home. It doesn't take long for his catch to become the target of the first of many sharks. His journey home is plagued by one attack after another, as Santiago is helpless watching his great marlin being eaten away by sharks in front of him. He does manage to reach the town, but by the time he arrives, his marlin is nothing more than bone and tail.

Santiago is defeated. He pulls his boat to shore and leaves the ravaged marlin behind as he goes home to rest his weary body and lament what could have been. The townspeople find the carcass on the beach and remark how it was easily the largest marlin ever seen. Manolin, concerned for the old man, goes to his house and finds him sleeping. Manolin is overcome with grief for his mentor and friend and what he could have had.

Lesson Three - Characters

  • Santiago, the aging fisherman: Once a great and skilled fisherman who has fallen into an unlucky streak of no fish in 84 days.
  • The Marlin: Santiago assigns many human qualities to the Marlin, referring it as his brother and to its great dignity, and silently conversing with the fish on his need to kill the fish in order to regain his pride.
  • The boy: Santiago's prodigy, Manolin. The boy has been forbidden from fishing with Santiago because of extreme unluckiness that has plagued him for 84 days.

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