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Free Study Guide-The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA - LESSON / BOOK NOTES

SECTION 7 - The Next Day

Summary

Early in the morning of the second day, something tugs at Santiago’s other line, and he cuts it off without a second thought. He knows that he must concentrate with all his being on the gigantic fish. Again he wishes that the boy were with him to help. When the fish makes a lurch, the line cuts him; at the same time, his back aches miserably from holding the line taut. But Santiago’s spirits do not flag. No matter how great the fish is, it cannot pull the boat forever. The old man tells his adversary that he will stay with it until it is dead. To himself, he wishes that the fish would turn into the current, giving an indication it is tiring; but so far, the fish has not significantly slowed down or changed course, and Santiago knows the battle may last a while longer. To make his own job easier, Santiago clears away everything that could create trouble in the boat. He then promises himself that he will kill the fish before the day is over.

As the day progresses, Santiago notices that the fish is swimming at a lesser depth, and he hopes that it will soon surface so he can get a clear view of it. He tries to increase the tension on the already taut line, forcing the fish up, but with no luck. If he tightens the line further, the old man is afraid that it will snap or that the fish will jump and throw the hook. When a small warbler, looking tired, comes and sits on the skiff, Santiago talks to the bird, asking its age and its frequency of travel. He admonishes the bird for appearing tired, especially since there is little wind for it to fly against. He tells the bird to rest and regain its strength to fight for itself. He apologizes that he cannot be a good host to the bird, explaining he is too busy with the giant fish.

The fish lurches again, pulling the old man and cutting his right hand; if he were not so alert, he would have been pulled overboard. He yields the fish a little line, suspecting that something in the deep is attacking or hurting the fish. Santiago shows his true compassion for the fish when he explains to it that he is also feeling great pain and strain. Santiago takes care of his bleeding right hand that the line has gashed. Holding the line with his left hand, he washes the other one in the seawater. Then his left hand begins to cramp, upsetting the old man. He is disgusted and wonders what kind of a hand it is, to desert an old man when he needs it the most. He then prays to God to take the cramp away.

When things are again calm, Santiago eats some more raw tuna, knowing he must keep up his strength; he wishes he had some salt or lemon to make the tuna taste better and chastises himself for not bringing either with him. He then worries about the giant fish being hungry and wishes that he could feed it. Although he is still determined to kill the fish, he respects it like a brother. Then for the fifth time, Santiago wishes for the boy; he could rub his left hand, easing its pain and restoring its usefulness. Santiago has always said that his two hands are like brothers, and he needs both of them desperately if he is to master the fish.


Suddenly, the slant of line changes, rising steadily; the fish then rises out of the water in front of the old man, seeming to pause for awhile before diving under again. Santiago gets a good look at his adversary and wonders if the fish has jumped only to show what the old man is up against. The fisherman sees it is truly a gigantic fish, deep purple in color, with lavender sides. Its sword is as long as a baseball bat and pointed. The old man estimates that it is two feet longer than the boat. Having seen the fish, Santiago grows more determined than ever. Although he has caught very large fish in the past, some weighing more than a thousand pounds, he has never caught a giant fish by himself.

Santiago believes that fish are more noble and able than human beings, he thanks God, however, that they are not as intelligent. As a result, man can master and kill a fish, even a giant one. Still feeling a bond with the fish, the old man wishes he could show the fish what type of human has caught him; he also wishes for a moment that he were the fish, pitted against an intelligent and determined old man.

Notes

To drive away the monotony of being alone on the sea, Santiago continues to talk aloud, wishing for the boy, praying to God, and talking to the fish and birds.

The bond that Santiago feels with the giant fish continues, as he moves from pitying the fish to loving it like a brother. He identifies with the isolation and determination of the fish. He also believes it sets an admirable example for him to emulate in the way it remains calm while enduring pain. Respecting the giant creature and hoping to master it, Santiago brings out his own reserve of skill, courage, cunning, and intelligence. He knows that the giant fish has more strength, nobility, and ability than he does, but the old man still has the upper hand due to his intelligence.

The big fish fully challenges Santiago, not allowing him to relax for a moment. He must keep a constant tension on the line even though his hands cramp and his body aches. Although the pain is intense, Santiago never considers cutting the line and releasing the fish. In fact, he feels invigorated by the fish that is a fighter like himself. When the big fish finally surfaces and shows off his size, the old man thinks it is trying to show him what a great adversary the fish will be.

Traditionally, the fish has been recognized as a symbol for Christ, and the old man who identifies with the giant fish becomes Christ- like. He embodies the Christian virtues of patience, love, compassion, and endurance. He brings out the best in the fish, just like the fish brings out the best in him; they are inspirations to one another. Additionally, like Christ, Santiago suffers terribly, and his bleeding hands and aching shoulders that carry the load of the line are images that are reflective of Jesus at the Crucifixion.

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