The Old Man and the Sea is a tale beyond an ordinary fight between a man and a big sea fish. The novella rather underlines the value of perseverance and the will to fight all odds during the adverse time.
Santiago, the protagonist of the book, is a Cuban old man. He lives by the sea and is a veteran fisherman. He believes in bad luck but is of the opinion that a man cannot be defeated but destructed. So, in a sense, he never feels defeated in his life. Once at the game of 'hand', during his youth days, he defeated a black muscular man after holding his hand for twelve hours. After that, many people called him Champion. His instincts are of champions and he is a kind of man who would like to use the last brick of his mettle before accepting defeat; but defeat is not meant for him. Thus, he can only be destructed.
It has been 84 days without a fish, he goes and returns empty handed every time. Because of this bad luck, people have begun doubting on his abilities and a boy called Manolin, who goes with him for fishing and other sea lessons, has been forced by his parents to join somewhere else, some other fishing boat. The futility of old man's efforts looks so glaring to others.
On the 85th day, at the dawn, the old man sets for fishing. In a rage to break the jinx of bad luck that have been lasting for over 80 days, he crosses the usual limit and drifts towards Florida - where gulf streams house quality school of fish. When the bait goes down, he tries to pull the thing up with all his might, but he fails. Surely a big fish has been trapped, and he needs to bring it up - over the surface. The fish pulls down the rope and the old man uses all his power and experience to hold it back, sooner he realizes that his boat is being towed by the fish. In the tussle, he is losing energy and his hands are being badly bruised, but he refuses to accept defeat.
After a day and night, the fish surfaces and begins revolving around his boat. It is a big fish - Marlin. Only very skilled fishermen are able to hunt this species, indeed it is rare to fish Marlin. Seeing the fish's dignity and will to survive, the old man calls it brother and decides that only dignified people should have access to its meat. When the fish nears the boat, he kills it with the harpoon. Soon he ties the fish with the boat. But soon following the trail of the blood, sharks begin hunting the fish. The old man gives a tough fight to sharks and in the process loses his harpoon, and then soon he makes an improvised harpoon using an oar. But the damage has been done. Sharks eat away the full body of the fish only the head and the tail remain. The old man regrets for coming too far from the usual fishing waters and feels extremely sorry for a brave fish that is now eaten away by the vile sharks.