The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Summary

An old Cuban fisherman enters an agonizing battle to catch a giant Marlin. This short story teaches us about resilience, presence, courage, and finding meaning in defeat.

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Key Takeaways

Values

“He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.”

The old fisherman lived a simple, humble life. He didn’t consciously strive for humility or recognize his attainment of this coveted quality. Rather, he knew that he had it and that it wasn’t a bad thing.

Age and aloneness

“No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. But it is unavoidable.”

As you grow older, you lose friends, family, and other loved ones. And while you wouldn’t hope to be completely alone, sometimes it happens.

The need to keep proving things

“The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.”

No matter how many times you have proved something, perhaps your wit or ability to accomplish things, you come back to this desire. It’s as if your old accomplishments are washed away. You’re starting all over again, ready to prove your worth to the world.

Resilience

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

As the old man goes into a multi-day battle with a fish far too big for him to catch, he must endure tiredness, pain, and hunger. But despite these physical challenges, he keeps his conviction and will. He understands that destruction does not equal defeat.

Resilience

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”

As the battle with the fish continues, the old man reflects on the many things that would make the task easier or less painful. But he catches this unhelpful thought pattern and reels himself back into the present where he must work with what he has.

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