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Free Study Guide-The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA - FREE ONLINE NOTES / GUIDE

SECTION 4 - The Trip Commences

Summary

The old man sleeps and dreams of the sights, sounds, and smells of Africa, where he visited as a young boy. It is a recurring dream for him. He especially remembers the golden-haired lions, which played along the white sandy beaches. He also hears the roaring of the African surf and smells the fertile African land.

When he wakes up, Santiago goes to Mandolin’s house to rouse him up. Together, they have coffee and then carry the old man’s fishing gear to his boat. The boy complains that on his new boat he is not allowed to carry any of the gear, while Santiago allowed him to help when he was a boy of five. Before he departs, Santiago tells the boy he is feeling confident; Manolin wishes him good luck.

As Santiago leaves shore, it is exceptionally quiet, except for the sound of his oars, splashing in the water. He travels quickly out to sea, past the phosphorescence of seaweed in the Gulf Stream and the area that the fisherman call the "great well," whose depth is over seven hundred fathoms. When the old man feels the morning approaching, he welcomes it with all his being. He can now see the flying fish and hear them make a trembling sound, as they skim the surface of the water; he is very fond of them, considering them friends. He also feels a deep empathy for the birds, which, like him, must toil diligently to find a little bit to eat.

On this morning, the sea is gentle, benevolent, and beautiful. It is not always so, for the old man knows it constantly changes. Sometimes the sea is like a woman who is whimsical and moody. At other times, the sea is cruel, like a contestant or an enemy. To Santiago, the sea is usually like a person who grants and withholds favors at will.


Santiago rows steadily and purposefully and goes further than he had hoped to be by that hour. Acknowledging the strength he still possesses, he thinks that perhaps he has been lazy or negligent in the past days. As a result, he resolves to work harder than ever in the area with the schools of bonita and albacore. Ever hopeful, he thinks he may catch a big fish there. Arriving at a choice spot, he lowers his bait to different depths, down to one hundred and twenty-five fathoms. To each line, the old man attaches two forty- fathom coils, which can be unfurled if he catches a big fish. Santiago keeps the lines straight and taut and at their proper depths as he rows slowly and steadily. He knows if he is careless and lets the bait hang loosely, he will be less likely to catch a fish, especially a large one. Although the old man feels that it is good to be lucky, he thinks it is more important to be exact, so that when luck comes, he is ready for it.

When the sun fully rises, the old man is able to see many other fishermen closer to shore. He, however, rows further out to sea until he can finally see only three boats in the distance.

Notes

This section of the novel is filled with Hemingway’s vivid sea images. The reader is made to hear the deep silence of the calm sea, disturbed only by the sound of Santiago’s oars dipping in the water and the cries of birds overhead. Santiago identifies with the birds that work so hard to find a bite to eat. Occasionally, the old man spies a flying fish, his favorite creature of the sea. Santiago notices all the sights, sounds, and smells, and feels at one with this natural water world.

As Santiago rows further and further out to sea, Hemingway carefully develops the thoughts of the old man. In fact, the novel almost becomes stream-of-consciousness, as the lonely, isolated old man has an ongoing interior monologue with himself. He thinks about his past and remembers vivid images of his earlier life. He repeatedly thinks about the lions in Africa playing on the beach; they represent power, bravery, and majesty to him, and the mental image of them often renews his vigor and determination. He thinks about his future and feels certain that his luck is sure to change, maybe later the same day. Most importantly, he is ever aware of his present, working to keep his bait at the proper depth and his lines taut. He wants to be exact and prepared if the big fish should come.

More is learned about Santiago in this section of the book. He is hard on himself, thinking that perhaps he has been negligent or lazy during the last eight-four days. With great determination, he decides he must work harder than ever. He will strive to keep his lines straighter than any other fisherman. He will also venture out further than the others to try his luck.

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Free Study Guide-The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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