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The Old Man and the Sea
SUBJECTS — Literature/U.S.;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Friendship;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Caring.
Age: 12+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 1958; 86 minutes; Color.
In this movie, the story of Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman who has gone 84 days without catching a fish, is told in a voiceover that reads directly from Ernest Hemingway's classic novella. Manolin, the old man's young apprentice, is no longer allowed to fish with Santiago but tends to him with affection and respect. Each day the old man hauls his gear to his skiff and heads out alone to try a new day's luck. On day 85, the old man hooks a huge marlin and struggles for two days and nights to bring in the fish. Eventually, despite pain and exhaustion, the old man returns to the village with the marlin, which has been reduced to a skeleton by the relentless attack of sharks.
The film closely follows the written story retaining not only its language in the voiceover, but also its tone and structure. Spencer Tracy, in the leading role, captures Hemingway's characterization of an old man who refuses to give up in the face of apparent failure. The film shows the affection between the old man and Manolin, the young boy who tends to him.
The beneficial use of the film is to allow students who have already read the novella to see the work in a cinematic format. This allows them to compare words with cinema (picture-sound-motion) in terms of artistic and thematic effect. It also provides repetition and confirmation of lessons learned while analyzing the written work.
This Learning Guide provides tips on teaching the novella, The Old Man and the Sea, as well as ideas for using the film in class after the book has been read.
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Ernest Hemingway selected the screenwriter and kept overal artistic control of the movie version of The Old Man and the Sea.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To provide a sense of how Learning Guides can be used by teachers to assist in developing lesson plans, set out below is an example discussion question suggested by the Learning Guide to The Old Man and the Sea.
5. The story as framed by Hemingway deals only with men and what it means to be a man. Society has come a long way since 1952 when this book was published. Does The Old Man and the Sea have anything to say to girls or to women? Suggested Response: There are at least two important points to make in responding to this question but note that both of them are subject to challenge. One point is that although the story is about a man and his effort to retain his role as a man, it is also about all human beings. Life presents challenges to everyone, regardless of gender. Very often perseverance and resourcefulness will be required in traditional female roles as well as in traditional male roles. While success is not guaranteed in any endeavor in life, it is the willingness to meet the challenge and the way that the challenge is met that is the only thing that the individual can completely control and the only true measure of a life. The second point is that since the time the book was written, more women have moved into the workforce. Their professional concerns are similar to those of men. Thus, whether or not the story had meaning to women when it was written, it has a lot to say to women today.
The Learning Guide to the film version of The Old Man and the Sea contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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