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What Is the Setting of "The Old Man & the Sea"?


"The Old Man and the Sea" is a fictional novel written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1952. The story is about 84-year-old Santiago's adventures at sea and his efforts to capture an 18-foot marlin. Even though sharks eat the marlin during his journey home, the skeleton remains as proof of Santiago's valiant efforts. The setting changes as the story unfolds.

Start and End Setting

The beginning and conclusion of the story take place in a small fishing village just outside Havana. "Hemingway's love for fishing is legendary, and both his fiction and journalism are filled with tales about his favorite sport," says Nick Lyons at Publishers Weekly. Santiago lives alone in a tiny, unglamorous fishing hut. He develops a deep friendship with his young apprentice, Manolin. The small town setting imparts a sense of community and helps readers' understanding of the critical nature of fishing to the story's characters. The setting also supports the melancholy tone of the work.

At Sea in the Gulf of Mexico

The primary story arc and the action sequences take place out at sea in the Gulf of Mexico. The setting supports the moody tone and the feeling of isolation. Santiago spends several days in his one-person fishing boat searching for a good catch and reeling in the marlin. The mood becomes more suspenseful when Santiago is injured and fears for his life as sharks continually approach the boat to feed off the dead, captured marlin. The simple setting of the fishing boat contrasts with the vastness of the ocean and the power of the attacks. The setting creates sympathy for Santiago's plight as well as his efforts to conquer nature and prove that he's still a valuable contributor to his community.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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