Love and Dedication in The Old Man and the Sea

There are two unique relationships that are touched upon in the novella The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.  The first relationship is the friendship and love that occurs between the old man, Santiago and his young companion, Manolin.  They have bonded over the years in a unique father-son relationship.  The other significant relationship that the story emphasizes is the one between Santiago and the fish.  It is apparent the strong love that Santiago feels for his adversary. Through these two relationships, Santiago displays his love and dedication.

The endurance of love is displayed through the relationship of Santiago and his friend, Manolin.  Their relationship has seen both ups and downs, but through it all, Manolin has stood by the old fisherman.  In the beginning of the novella, we learn that Manolin’s family has forced him to work on a different fishing boat to gain more profit.  Despite this, he still visits his old employer and helps him take care of himself and his boat.  By bringing him food and water, he is displaying his genuine feelings for Santiago.  The reader sees in the final scenes, how deep this love and affection runs.  Manolin weeps for his friend as if he has suffered the loss of the marlin as well.

These feelings that Manolin has built up has been the result of the companionship that they have shared through the years.  Santiago was the one who taught Manolin how to fish and has been his friend for many years.  Santiago has become a father figure for Manolin since he did not have that type of relationship with his own father.  Santiago has been able to give the boy friendship along with feelings of self-worth.  The boy feels that Santiago is the greatest fisherman: “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only one you” (Hemingway 23).  This strong bond enables Manolin to empathize when Santiago loses his great prize.

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He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy. (Hemingway 25)

The reader is revealed Santiago’s strong affection for his companion when he is alone on the boat.  When the struggle between Santiago and the marlin ensues, he wishes that Manolin was there with him.  As he’s towed by the fish, the old man says: “I wish I had the boy” (Hemingway 45).   Santiago is very appreciative of Manolin and enjoys sharing stories with him.

They talk of baseball and he relays tales of the time that he spent in Africa.  The way that the boy looks up to the old man makes him feel significant.  He feels as though he has something to teach the boy and the boy respects the skills of the man. The boy is the one bright spot in Santiago’s return from his battle with the fish.  He is content with the fact that he has defeated such a creature and is able to return to see his friend again before he joins his great fish for eternity.

Santiago has a strong dedication to fishing.  In the beginning of the tale, we learn that the man has gone eighty-four days without catching a single fish.  However, he does not give up hope that his luck will change and that he will begin catching fish again.  He has dedicated his life to fishing and will not stop because he has had a run of bad luck.  Hemingway remarks “Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated” (Hemingway 10).  He does not wish to rely on luck, but would rather have faith in his skill as a fisherman.

He has dedicated his life to fishing and has it down to an exact science.  He focuses all his energies on fishing: “Now is the time to think of only one thing. That which I was born for” (Hemingway 40).  This is why he makes such a formidable opponent for the marlin.  He knows the signs of a large fish and looks for them when he sets out on the water.  Furthermore, once he defeats the fish, he has the skill and ability to lash the great fish to the side of his skiff and set out for home.

Despite the battle between the marlin and the old man, it is obvious that the man feels a great amount of love and respect for the creature.  He is impressed by its greatness and realizes that regardless of his determination, it is very likely that the fish will win the battle between them.

You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who. (Hemingway 92)

The way that Santiago regards the fish displays the great love that he feels for nature and the creatures on this earth.  Even as the battle continues on and he is weakened, he still does not feel any hatred for the fish.  As he says, “Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends” (Hemingway 54).  Even after he has defeated the fish, he does not let go of the love he feels for such a magnificent animal.  When sharks attack and take most of his prize, he feels as though he has sinned by taking such a wondrous creature’s life.  He experiences a profound sense of regret and sorrow.

“They must have taken a quarter of him, and of the best meat. I wish it were a dream and that I had never hooked him. I am sorry about it, fish” (Hemingway 103).  This love provokes him to vow to fight the sharks and protect the fish as best as he could, even if it means his own death.

Santiago’s love and dedication to both Manolin and the fish is an integral part of The Old Man and the Sea.  These relationships turn an otherwise tragic novel, into a tale of hope.  The boy and the old man are dedicated to each other and the reader has faith that through this love, Santiago will be able to overcome the devastating loss of his prize.  Manolin vows to never leave him again and dismisses the expectations placed upon him by his family.  The ending can be considered triumphant because through Santiago’s dedication, he was able to defeat the fish and still be able to return home to his beloved friend.

WORKS CITED

Hemingway, Ernest.  The Old Man and the Sea.  New York: Scribner, 1995.

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