The Old Man and the Sea is the most classic and concernful novel of Hemmingway's. Its compendious expression and exciting fighting narrative attracts numerous readers. The author repeatedly emphasized his customary key thoughts in the story: despairing courage, struggling on both physically and psychologically, and the hero's brave, glory and noble character.
One of the pivotal sentences, "a man can be destroyed but not defeated" draws our attention. This sentence is gorgeous in surface but a little doubtful in a certain angle. In the end of the story the old man told to the boy that he was a loser who beaten by the sharks. With his bloody hands and the skeleton of the fish, it was really difficult to judge that he was defeated or not. However, he was undoubtedly destroyed in the fighting at the hopeless sea. Therefore, the difference between "destroy" and "defeated" was just something untraceable. We are not expected to tell one word form another, but to feel the antinomy and contact of them.
This sentence from the old man was also a reflection of the author himself. Sometimes we may treat a novel as some individual and emotional words. The old man and the sea were the symbols of the author and his life and destiny. As we know, Hemingway suffered a lot from his broken life during two ruthless world wars. In his late years, he was a successful litterateur but also a disable old man. He ended up his life with suicide. It's too arbitrary to say he was defeated from his fate, and also too shallow to use the word "destroy" in his experiences.
In my opinion, the most splendid thing in Hemmingway and his the Old Man and the Sea is not the VICTORY OF DEFEAT, but the relationship between the two words "defeat" and "destroy" as well as the novel and the author.