This novella tells the story of Santiago, an old fisherman who struggles to reel in a giant marlin far off the coast of Cuba.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
“The Lost Generation” describes the political and social climate of a period of American history in which numerous highly celebrated authors and artists from the United States grew disillusioned with and disavowed their home country.
Introduce this text before students begin reading the novel, in order to provide background information on Ernest Hemingway and other “Lost Generation” authors. As students read The Old Man and the Sea, ask them to use Kubic’s article to keep track of what themes and characteristics of “Lost Generation” writing they identify within the novel.
According to Dale Archer, our culture puts a high premium on youth. Why are we so obsessed with looking young? Has it gone too far?
A major theme in The Old Man and the Sea revolves around youth and age, as the protagonist of the novel, Santiago, is an elderly fisherman who requires the help of a boy to live a normal life. After reading the scene where the boy helps Santiago to prepare for his fishing trip (pg. 28), analyze the way youth and age are portrayed in the story. Are they portrayed in the same way that American society views them according to the article — youth is good, and age is bad?
In this short story by American writer Samuel Scoville, Jr., a young Caribbean boy accompanied by his grandfather goes sponge diving in the reef where a tiger shark killed his father—and where he faces dangers of his own.
Introduce The Reef after students have read up to page 105 in The Old Man and the Sea, when Santiago wonders if the shark attacks were a form of retribution for his earlier pride and greed. Have students analyze the different ways pride and greed motivate the protagonists in the two stories. How are the protagonists in both the text and the novel overconfident and prideful about the tasks before them?
William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) was an English poet, critic, and editor. His best known poem is “Invictus,” published in 1875, which he wrote just following the amputation of his foot due to tuberculosis.
In The Old Man and the Sea, the protagonist struggles to reel in an enormous fish and then loses much of that fish to sharks and other predators on the way back to the dock. After reading the section when the sharks finish eating the fish (pg. 119), have students compare and contrast Santiago’s attitude towards the adversity he faced at sea with the attitude of the narrator of the poem. Is Santiago, as the speaker in the poem suggests, “the captain of [his] fate”?
Winston Churchill’s speech “Never Give In,” discusses the recent successes of the United Kingdom in World War II.
The protagonist of The Old Man and the Sea experiences great difficulty while at sea through multiple days of struggling to reel in an enormous fish and then protecting the fish that he caught from sharks. Introduce this text after students have finished reading The Old Man and the Sea, in order to generate a discussion around overcoming adversity — one of the central themes within the novel. Churchill lectures on the lessons that can be learned from difficult circumstances. Have students read Churchill’s speech and discuss whether or not they believe that Santiago learned the lessons that Churchill argues can be learned from adversity.
In Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat," several men are stranded at sea in a small dinghy. Crane uses vivid imagery to weave a story about survival, brotherhood, death, and the futility of trying to defeat nature's powerful forces.
Introduce this text after students have completed the novel in order to analyze themes around the relationship between humanity and nature through a cross-text analysis. Pair The Old Man and the Sea with "The Open Boat" and ask students to analyze how Santiago’s struggle to reel in a great fish and the subsequent shark attacks represent a struggle between humanity and nature. Analyze the theme of humanity’s relation to nature in the two stories. How does Santiago’s journey at sea compare and contrast to the men on the boat in "The Open Boat"?