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Free Study Guide-The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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Santiago is an aged Cuban man, a skilled fisherman by profession. His neck is wrinkled from the sun, and his hands bear the scars of many fishing battles; only his blue eyes remain bright and cheerful. By personality, Santiago is brave, confident, cheerful, determined, and optimistic, not letting anything in life rattle him. Even when he does not catch a single fish for eighty-four days, he refuses to be discouraged. He has had streaks of bad luck in the past, and he is hopeful that the next day will bring him better luck. In fact, he makes up his mind to go far out to sea and try his luck, optimistic that he may catch a really large fish.

Santiago is alone in the world; his wife has passed away, and he refuses to have a photograph of her in his hut, for it makes him feel lonely. His constant companion has been Manolin, a young boy that he has tutored in the ways of fishing and the sea since he was a small lad of five. The boy is devoted to the old man, bringing him coffee and making sure that he has something to eat; he also helps him with his fishing gear. Unfortunately, Manolinís parents have forbidden the boy to go out on the boat with Santiago any longer. After not catching fish for forty-four days, they have decided the old man is bad, and they do not want it to rub off on their son. Santiago misses Manolinís company, for he thinks of the boy as a son.

Santiago is an expert fisherman, skilled and meticulous. He makes careful preparations for each outing on his boat and is always prepared when he makes a catch. He is in tune with the natural environment, watching the weather, the currents, birds, and fish to help him know the best spot for fishing. He wisely drops his bait at different depths, hoping to land a catch with variety. During his career, Santiago has caught many trophy fish, some of them weighing over one thousand pounds. Before the giant marlin, however, he has always had someone on the boat to help him with his catch. When he is battling the marlin and the sharks, he thinks of Manolin several times and wishes the boy were on the boat with him to help.

Physically, Santiago is a tough man. When he was younger, he would arm wrestle for sport and always win. One time, a match lasted for more than twenty-four hours, and even though his hands were bleeding, he refused to give up. He finally won the match and was called the champion. This basic sense of determination is what makes him continue to fight the giant fish for three long and grueling days. Even though his hands ache, cramp, and bleed and his shoulders burn with pain, he will not slacken the line or let the fish defeat him. In fact, he is the perfect representative of Hemingwayís Code Hero, a man who fights to the end no matter the odds and who displays great grace and courage during the battle.

Despite his great strength and abilities, Santiago is a humble man. He lives in poverty, owning a small shack with no running water; yet he never complains. When things do not go his way, he does not blame outside sources, but looks for the cause within himself. He even says that he has probably not caught a fish in eighty-four days because he has not gone out far enough on to the sea. When his giant fish is eaten by the sharks, he blames himself for not fighting harder and not bringing better weapons with him on the journey. He even worries that perhaps he has killed the giant marlin out of pride and apologizes to it.

Although Santiago is not an extremely religious man, he is a Christian. A picture of Jesus and the Virgin hang in his hut. He also prays to God for help several times during his three-day ordeal and promises to say his Our Fathers and Hail Marys in appreciation for any assistance that he receives. More importantly, Santiago is Christ-like, constantly displaying the Christian virtues of love, kindness, patience, and humility. Throughout the novel, Hemingway depicts the old man as a Christ figure. At the end of his journey, he feels shame and humiliation, much like Christ before his crucifixion. When he arrives home, he carries his mast across his shoulders, much like Christ carried his cross. When he finally lays down to sleep, his arms are stretched out straight, his palms are turned up, and his hands are bleeding, much like the image of Christ on the cross. Of course, Jesusí followers were largely fishermen, just like Santiago, and Christ bade them to become fishers of men. In the novel, Santiago is not just a fisherman, but an example of Christian caring to Manolin and a symbol of grace under pressure to all who read about him.


Manolin is a young teenage boy who serves as the son Santiago has never had. He looks up to Santiago as a teacher, a father figure, and a hero; he believes in the old manís fishing abilities and enjoys his company. He is also Santiagoís friend and protector. At the young age of five, Manolin began fishing with Santiago, helping him with the gear and learning everything the fisherman could teach him. He learned a lot and is now a successful fisherman by his own rights. Because of the old manís bad luck, Manolin is no longer allowed to fish on Santiagoís boat, but he still attends to the old manís needs on a daily basis. He brings him coffee, provides him food, and helps him with his fishing gear. Manolin feels this is the least he can do for his comrade and the man who has taught him most of what he knows.

When Santiago does not return from his fishing expedition for three days, Manolin is very worried. He goes to the hut each morning to see if the old man is back, and he is probably the one responsible for the Coast Guard search. When he finally finds Santiago sleeping in his hut, he cares for him like a father would a child. He brings him hot coffee to drink and food to eat. He promises to take care of the boat repairs and buy the old man a new knife. He also tells Santiago that they will fish together again, as soon as the old man recovers from his ordeal; Manolin no longer cares what his own parents say, for he views Santiago as his "real" parent and teacher. Because of the bond between them, Santiago gives Manolin the only thing worth saving from the skeleton of the giant fish - the sword. It is a treasure to Manolin, proof of the strength, ability, and dignity of his good friend.


Though this character does not physically appear in the novel, he repeatedly serves as an inspiration to Santiago. The old man loves baseball and the Yankees in particular. He can hardly wait to see the newspaper each day and see how the Yankees have fared. Santiago believes that the hero of the Yankee team is Joe DiMaggio, an inspiration to his teammates and to the old man. DiMaggio suffers from a painful bone spur in his foot, but he does not let it bother him or stand in the way of his being a marvelous baseball player. Throughout Santiagoís arduous journey, he thinks about Joe DiMaggio and feels that if his hero can play baseball with great pain, he can certainly endure the pain of his battle with the giant marlin. When Santiago finally masters and kills the fish, he feels certain that DiMaggio would be proud of him.

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Free Study Guide-The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway


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