Old Man and the Sea – Paper Topics

Now that my students have presented on the Old Man and the Sea, their next objective was to write a paper on the book…but just like with the projects, I wanted the students to have ownership–they were going to pick their own topics!

I started the class with a large-group brainstorming of some of the major themes/important ideas in the book. I made a list on the board based off student suggestions. Then, together, we formulated the topics into essay-guiding questions. The point I was getting at was that the paper, and most importantly the thesis statement, had to be an argument.

Here are the list of topics/questions the students came up with:

  1. Does the religious symbolism in Old Man and the Sea add to or enhance the character development of Santiago, or another character in the novella?
  2. Discuss the parallels between Hemingway’s life and Santiago. How do these parallels add to/enhance to Santiago’s character development?
  3. Discuss Hemingway’s writing style. Does it enhance the novel, give the novel flow? Or does it take away/distract from the story?
  4. Does Hemingway incorporate the theme of luck into Old Man and the Sea? Where? How does this either add or detract from the characters and/or the story?
  5. Discuss the relationships in the novella. Is the father-son relationship between Manolin and Santiago traditional? Or is Manolin more like the father than the child?
  6. Discuss the end of the novella. Has Santiago persevered and won? Or has he fallen short? Give evidence of this and argue.
  7. Man is not made for defeat—he can be destroyed but not defeated…Is this theme true in the novella? How do the events of the novel prove or disprove this statement?
  8. What is the significance of dreams? How does Santiago’s character change as a result of his dreams?

oldmanandtheseasI think the list they created was pretty awesome! They hit on some of the major ideas and topics of the book and they did it independently, which makes it even better, as they are making connections between the book and their own lives and learning!

I gave the students some time to pick a topic. We talked for a while about thesis statements and arguments. Then I assigned a thesis statement for homework. I had the students do this on the Google Classroom site so I could comment directly back to them and give them pointers on how and where to revise.

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