I recently re-read Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. I think the following line is interesting but am unable to determine what kind of language feature it is:

"But man is not made for defeat," he said. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated."

It is a very profound quote and I would appreciate it if anyone is able to determine what kind of language technique is applied to it or how I could describe it in an essay.

  • Questions about existing literary works are off-topic, unless they relate to a writing project. Placing on hold, but if this is about using the technique in your own writing, let us know and we can edit this and reopen. Jul 12, 2015 at 23:27

1 Answer 1


This is Santiago's self reflection after a number of days battle with the Marlin and the sharks that then came to eat it. It is describing how while he could have been killed (destroyed) he wouldn't give up.

The book as a whole is very strongly about metaphor, I would say this line is simply an extension of the book's idea of continuing to fight against the odds

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