I am going to take what will perhaps be the road less traveled by and talk about the social issues the setting brings up. Wish me luck. I think one of them is how the old man says younger fishermen do not love the ocean. Another might be how poor the old man is.
The old man says that the younger fishermen use the masculine form of the word for ocean instead of the feminine form (Hemingway 20). The technically correct form is the masculine, but because the old fishermen love the sea like a woman they use a feminine form. Their love for the sea extends to the creatures in it as well. The old man refers to porpoises as his brothers because of this (Hemingway 27). When you love something, you take care of it. The young fishermen do not love the sea like the old men do, so why should they take care of it? Now that the old man's generation is gone, there is overfishing on many different types of fish. The sea is no longer loved and respected as it was back then, and so we see the results. Hemingway's short remark points to the reason why.
The story takes place in a town with many fishermen. I am fairly sure that fishing was not very profitable until recently, now that technology has made it possible to catch lots of fish. I think that may have something to do with how poor the old man is. I can not really imagine having coffee for breakfast, and having no idea where my next meal would come from. The old man must have a lot of faith and courage to keep fishing with no luck for eighty-four days (Hemingway 12).
I think respect for nature and poverty and important social issues that the story points out. When this book was written, the first was only the beginning of a problem, and the other a problem that has existed forever and will exist forever. Important stuff.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Scribner, 2003. Print.