Why the absence of women's role in the story?
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Hemmingway wasn't much concerned with the role of women in the world of men. The Old Man and the Sea is a story of fishermen, their livelihood, their problems, their superstitions, and the endurance required to be successful. Women don't figure into this world. They're not out on the ships or mending the nets. They're home taking care of their families, which is a pretty accurate portrayal of the times.
The Old Man and the Sea