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THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA - FREE NOTES / STUDY GUIDE
SECTION 8 - The Old Man’s Reveries
By noon of the second day, the old man’s hand has stopped cramping, and he passes on the news to the fish. He now feels more encouraged than ever that he will master his adversary and intends to say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys, in order to be helped in his mission. When he is successful, he promises to make a pilgrimage to the Virgin de Cobre.
Although the fish has not showed signs of tiring, Santiago knows that he is fatigued. It is proof to him that in many ways man is inferior to animals, who are more noble and strong. In his tiredness, Santiago’s mind begins to wander. He says his prayers mechanically and thinks of baseball. He tells himself that if DiMaggio can play with a painful bone spur in his heel, he can surely go on fishing in spite of his pains. He tries to imagine DiMaggio in his place and wonders if the baseball player could have done as well. Magnanimously, he declares that since DiMaggio is young and strong and is a fisherman’s son, he would have done even better. Santiago then has an uneasy thought that is a foreshadowing. It is all very well to be a magnificent fish until the sharks come. Then only God can show mercy.
As the sun starts to set, Santiago remembers an arm wrestling match he had in a tavern at Casablanca with a Negro from Cienfuegos; he was considered the strongest man on the docks. People had placed heavy bets on them, and both were determined to win. The contest went on for more than twenty-four hours, and blood started oozing from both his and the Negro’s fingernails. When onlookers asked for a draw, Santiago had refused. He finally won the match, by drawing upon his hidden reserve of physical strength and mental will power. As a result of the victory, he was nicknamed El Campeon, the Champion, and he remained undefeated in several subsequent matches. Santiago finally gave up the game because he realized that it was bad for his right hand and consequently for fishing.
Flashbacks are very important to this section of the book. It is as if Santiago’s memories sustain and strengthen the old man in his fight against the fish. When he thinks about Manolin, he actually sees his own image as a younger and stronger man. The recollection of the Negro episode serves to inspire Santiago further, remembering that he has been called a champion, like DiMaggio, who always is a source of inspiration to him. He also often recalls the lions on the African beach; they inspire him as symbols of majestic strength.
This section of the novel is also very important because it contains the actual theme of the novel put in succinct words. Talking of the fish, Santiago thinks that "I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures." Perseverance in action, determination, the nobility of human effort, patience, and endurance are the cornerstones of Hemingway’s philosophy of grace under pressure.