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La Mère

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Pearl Buck

After 84 days without catching a fish, the aging fisherman Santiago has become an object of pity and mockery in his fishing village. The parents of his young assistant, Manolin, have made him fish with a more successful boat, calling Santiago "the worst form of unlucky." His loyal assistant still loves him, helps him carry his fishing gear, and finds food for him.

Before sunrise on the 85th day, Santiago sets out in hopes of capturing a big fish. Out at sea, a giant marlin takes his bait, but Santiago can't reel him in, and the huge fish spends three days towing his small boat. After a painful battle that leaves Santiago's back and hands raw, he finally kills the marlin, piercing him with a harpoon.

Santiago attaches the fish to his boat and starts heading back to shore. After an hour, a mako shark tears away 40 pounds of the marlin's flesh. With difficulty, Santiago kills the mako shark, but loses his harpoon in the process.

After the battle, the marlin's body leaves a trail of blood in the ocean, drawing in shovel-nosed sharks. Santiago fights the shovel-nosed sharks as much as he is able to with the materials on his boat, but they devour the marlin's corpse.

Santiago reaches the shore and stumbles back to his shack with the mast of his skiff on his shoulders. He collapses into bed with his palms up and falls asleep.

In the morning, Manolin sees Santiago in his shack and cries at the sight of his mutilated hands. While bringing Santiago coffee, he hears a fisherman standing by the marlin's skeleton say it is 18 feet long, bigger than any other fish they have seen before. After drinking some coffee, Santiago tells Manolin he was beaten. Manolin disagrees and tells Santiago that he will fish with the old man again regardless of what his family says.

During the afternoon, tourists see the giant skeleton and, misunderstanding the explanation that a waiter tries to give them, mistake it for a shark.

Santiago ends the novel asleep in his shack, with Manolin watching him. He is dreaming his recurring dream of lions playing on the beach in Africa, a scene he witnessed in his youth.

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