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Free Study Guide-The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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SECTION 13 - Santiago Reaches Home


When he finally reaches the harbor of his village, Santiago notices that the lights of The Terrace Restaurant are out and that everyone is in bed. He is still totally alone, with no one to help him pull the boat in or carry the equipment. After tying the boat, spreading the mast, and furling the sail, he starts to climb towards home, carrying the mast; he suddenly realizes that he is tired beyond belief. He looks back at the huge skeleton of the fish, trying to see if his experiences are real; he spies the white, naked line of the backbone of the giant marlin and the dark mass of its head. The last three days are not just a nightmare.

With the mast across his shoulders, Santiago falls down in exhaustion. It is again an image of Christ, weighed down by his cross and almost too tired from the woes of the world to move forward. As Santiago sits looking at the road, a cat passes by, oblivious to what the old man is feeling. Inspired by the creature, the old man again picks up the mast and starts walking. He has to sit down five times before he reaches his shack. Once inside, he leans the mast against a wall, drinks a little water from a bottle, and lies down on the bed, with arms straight out and palms straight up. It is another image of Christ, this time on the cross.

The next morning, Manolin looks in the door, as he has done for the last three days. This time he finds Santiago, who is still asleep even though the wind is blowing very loud and hard. The storm that the old man has predicted is drawing near, and the fishermen do not dare to venture out into the rough sea. The boy makes sure that the old man is breathing; he then sees Santiagoís battered hands and starts crying for his pain. Quietly, he goes out to bring coffee, and all the way up and down the road, Manolin cries for his friend.

By this time, many fishermen have gathered around the skiff and gape at the huge skeleton of the fish. One man is in water; his trousers rolled up, measuring the skeleton with a length of line. One fisherman asks the boy how the old man is. They notice that he is crying when he replies that Santiago is sleeping and should not be disturbed. When they inform him that the fish measures eighteen feet from nose to tail, the boy replies with confidence that he is not surprised.

Manolin brings coffee with plenty of milk and sugar in it. Since the old man is still sleeping, the boy goes across the road to borrow some wood so he can later heat the coffee. Finally, the old man wakes up, and the boy gives him hot coffee. Santiago tells Manolin that the sharks have beaten him and should have just eaten him like the giant fish. He tells the boy he wants him to have the spear of the fish skeleton. He gives the head away to be chopped and used in fish traps.

As the old man starts talking to the boy, he realizes that it is pleasant to have a human being to speak with again. He asks Manolin if there was a search for him when he went missing for nearly three days. The boy replies in the affirmative, saying the Coast Guard searched with boats and planes. When Santiago says that he is not lucky anymore, Manolin, with boyish confidence, assures him that he will bring luck to him. Besides, he must fish with Santiago in order to learn all the tricks of their trade. He tells the old man to take care of himself and get stronger quickly so they can go out together again. The boy promises to arrange the needed minor repairs for the boat and to replace the old manís knife. The boy also offers to bring Santiago a clean shirt and something to eat. The old man only requests that he brings newspapers from the time he was at sea; Santiago obviously wants to catch up on the Yankees.

Manolin is finally brave enough to ask the old man how much he suffered. Santiago says "plenty." Tears again come to the boyís eyes. He must leave to gain control. He tells the old man that he will come back soon, bringing food, newspapers, and medicine for his hands.

That afternoon, tourists come to The Terrace and look down into the water. When they spot the skeleton of the fish, they cannot understand what it is. The waiter tries to explain that it is a huge fish, attacked by sharks. They misunderstand and think the skeleton belonged to a shark; they comment that they did not know that sharks had such handsome, beautifully formed tails. Up the road, the old man is still sleeping, and the boy is sitting by his side, watching him. The old man dreams about the lions.


Hemingway ends the novel on a note of tremendous sadness. Santiago has suffered beyond human endurance for three painful days, and the tourists who see the skeleton of the fish he has mastered do not even know what it is; furthermore, they do not listen to the waiterís explanation of what has happened to the fish and think that he has called it a shark. Their callousness emphasizes the fact that Santiago has suffered and will continue to suffer his pain alone. Even Manolin is afraid to ask how much the old man has endured. When the boy finally has the courage to ask the question, Santiago can only answer that he has suffered plenty. Not even Manolin will ever understand the full extent of the pain.

Throughout the novel, Hemingway emphasizes the fact that man must meet his destiny alone. Though Santiago lives in a harmonious, friendly, and helpful community, at the hour of reckoning, he is isolated from humanity and can only draw upon his own resources. Through his lonely efforts, the old man becomes a Hemingway "Code Hero;" he embodies all the positive virtues of true manhood in the face of unbelievable odds. In fighting both the giant fish and the sharks, the old man proves he is intelligent, patient, determined, dignified, optimistic, and fearless. He refuses to give up under any circumstance, declaring his determination to fight until death if necessary. Santiago is truly the picture of grace under pressure.

A hero is normally supposed to beat his adversary and take home the prize. In Santiagoís case, he fights like a hero and emerges a winner, despite losing his prize. His victory is a personal, moral one; the old man has fought by the code, never giving up, and is proud of the battle; he does, however, feel defeated by the sharks, which have stolen his physical reward. It is important to notice that the only part of the fish skeleton worth saving, the spear is given to Manolin; it is as if Santiago is passing on the code to his pupil.

In the final few pages of the novel, Santiago is back in the midst of his community, reinforcing the belief that no man can live as an island. One of his first questions to Manolin is whether or not there has been a search for him. He obviously wants to be valued by the community; in fact, part of the reason that he has fought the sharks so diligently is that the wants to take his trophy back to shore for everyone to see. After all, most of the younger fishermen have laughed at him, saying Santiago is too old to fish any longer.

Back in the community, Santiagoís closest bond is with the boy. He has checked at the hut everyday during the old manís absence to see if he has returned. When he finds him on the fourth morning sleeping soundly in his bed, the boy feels greatly relieved. He is very pained, however, to see his bloodied hands. He is now more determined than ever to fish with his master once again, no matter what he family says. There is still much that Manolin can learn from the old man, whom the boy views as a hero.

Even before Santiago wakes from his deep sleep, Manolin begins to care for him. He goes and brings back coffee. Finding the old man still sleeping when he returns, he borrows wood so that he can make a fire and keep the coffee warm. When he wakes, he asks Santiago what he needs; the old manís wish is only for the newspapers he has missed during his journey, he wants to catch up on the Yankees. Manolin promises to bring him newspapers, as well as food for his stomach and medicine for his hands. He also promises to arrange for the repairs on Santiagoís boat and to buy him a new knife. Sensing the old manís discouragement, the boy also promises to bring him luck.

The weary walk that Santiago takes from the harbor to his shack is very important to the novel, further establishing him as a Christ figure. The mast that he carries across his shoulders is his cross, which he must bear alone, much like Christ had to bear the wooden cross on the way to his crucifixion. As he begins his journey up the hill, Santiago looks back at the skeleton of the fish, a stark naked symbol of his unfulfilled victory, which fills him with despair; amazingly, there is, however, no bitterness. He has accepted his loss as a simple law of nature; the strongest has survived. Along the way, Santiago is too weary of the world to continue; he stops several times to gather enough strength to go on. A cat, symbolic of an uncaring world, passes him by without stopping. When he finally reaches his hut, he goes to bed, stretching his arms out straight with palms up, in much the same position that Christ was hung on the cross.

It is important to realize the marvelous way in which Hemingway has structured his novel. It is built around a series of pairings and stages: Santiagoís journey outward to the sea to find and master the giant fish is coupled with his inward journey to find and master himself. The outward journey related to the battle with the big fish is distinctly divided into three stages; the homeward journey related to the battle with the sharks is also divided into three similar stages. The first half of the novel is the old manís fight to kill the giant fish; ironically, the last half of the novel is his fight to save the dead fish. The youthful Manolin is a reflection of Santiago in his own youth, and it is appropriate that Santiago has taken on for him the role of teacher to pupil; ironically, the role that Manolin has taken on is really parent to child, with the boy acting as a parent and supplying the old manís wants and needs. Most importantly, Santiagoís defeat at the efforts of the sharks is really his victory, for in battling them to the end, he becomes the perfect Hemingway Code Hero, exhibiting perfect grace under pressure.

At the end of the novel, Santiago is temporarily out of order, but he is clearly not defeated. He responds to the boyís faith in him and promises to get well quickly. Even as he sleeps, the old manís battered ego starts regenerating; he dreams of the lions on the African beach, always an inspiring symbol of majestic power to the old man. There is little doubt that the old man will return to the sea.

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


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