The Old Man and the Sea is a classic work of literature by Ernest Hemingway. The book has been an inspiration to adults and teenagers for many years. A thorough reading of the book unveils a number of important themes including friendship, perseverance, and humility.
The Old Man and the Sea was one of my favorite books in high school. I recently re-read it for the first time in decades and loved it just as much as the first time.
After reading the book, I created a few worksheets to help teachers and parents guide their teens to reflect on the book’s connection to living a virtuous life today.
Yes, we want kids to appreciate the beauty of the book for the sake of itself, but reflecting on the story could also lead them to share in living the virtues of the old man and the boy in their everyday lives.
The downloadable resource below includes three worksheets based on three virtues: friendship, perseverance, and humility.
You can read and discuss the following reflection questions or download the worksheets at the bottom of this page.
Friendship and The Old Man and the Sea Reflection Questions
“No one should be alone in their old age, he thought.”The Old Man and the Sea
1. The old man (Santiago) and the boy (Manolin) are good friends. List three examples of the way they act as good friends in the story:
2. Although the old man is alone at sea; he never feels alone. Who or what is there to keep him company?
3. A good friend helps you become a better person. How does the boy help the old man become a better person in the story?
4. Think about your friends at home, school, clubs, or sports teams. Who helps you become a better person and how do they help?
Perseverance and The Old Man and the Sea Reflection Questions
“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated”The Old Man and the Sea
1. Perseverance means never giving up. It is the virtue by which we overcome great difficulty to achieve a goal. How did Santiago show perseverance in the story?
2. How did the big fish show perseverance in the story?
3. How do these words of Santiago express perseverance: “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated”?
4. Pick your favorite sport. Why do the athletes in this sport need perseverance?
5. When will you need perseverance . . .
. . . in school?
. . . at home?
. . . as an adult?
Humility and The Old Man and the Sea Reflection Questions
“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 Man and the Sea
1. False pride leads to bragging. What are some things people your age brag about?
2. False humility leads to fear. What are people your age afraid to do?
3. How does Santiago embrace being a fisherman without false pride or false humility?
4. The boy says, “The best fisherman is you…There are many good fisherman and some great ones. But there is only you.” Later, the old man says, “Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.”
There is only one you. If you could pick one thing, what do you think you were born to become and do?
5. Have you ever bragged about this? If so, what did you say? If not, then why not?
6. Do you ever fear you are not good enough to become this person? Why or why not?
Download The Old Man and the Sea Worksheets on the Virtues
This worksheet collection includes three handouts about The Old Man and the Sea and the virtues of friendship, perseverance, and humility.