old man of the novella’s title, Santiago is a Cuban fisherman who
has had an extended run of bad luck. Despite his expertise, he has
been unable to catch a fish for eighty-four days. He is humble,
yet exhibits a justified pride in his abilities. His knowledge of
the sea and its creatures, and of his craft, is unparalleled and helps
him preserve a sense of hope regardless of circumstance. Throughout
his life, Santiago has been presented with contests to test his
strength and endurance. The marlin with which he struggles for three
days represents his greatest challenge. Paradoxically, although
Santiago ultimately loses the fish, the marlin is also his greatest
in-depth analysis of Santiago.
Santiago hooks the marlin, which we learn at the end of the novella
measures eighteen feet, on the first afternoon of his fishing expedition.
Because of the marlin’s great size, Santiago is unable to pull the
fish in, and the two become engaged in a kind of tug-of-war that
often seems more like an alliance than a struggle. The fishing line
serves as a symbol of the fraternal connection Santiago feels with
the fish. When the captured marlin is later destroyed by sharks,
Santiago feels destroyed as well. Like Santiago, the marlin is implicitly
compared to Christ.
A boy presumably in his adolescence, Manolin is Santiago’s apprentice
and devoted attendant. The old man first took him out on a boat
when he was merely five years old. Due to Santiago’s recent bad
luck, Manolin’s parents have forced the boy to go out on a different
fishing boat. Manolin, however, still cares deeply for the old man,
to whom he continues to look as a mentor. His love for Santiago
is unmistakable as the two discuss baseball and as the young boy
recruits help from villagers to improve the old man’s impoverished
in-depth analysis of Manolin.
Although DiMaggio never appears in the novel, he plays a significant
role nonetheless. Santiago worships him as a model of strength and
commitment, and his thoughts turn toward DiMaggio whenever he needs
to reassure himself of his own strength. Despite a painful bone
spur that might have crippled another player, DiMaggio went on to
secure a triumphant career. He was a center fielder for the New
York Yankees from 1936 to 1951
and is often considered the best all-around player ever at that
the reader assumes, owns the bodega in Santiago’s village. He never
appears in the novel, but he serves an important role in the fisherman’s
life by providing him with newspapers that report the baseball scores.
This act establishes him as a kind man who helps the aging Santiago.
Perico, Martin, a café owner in Santiago’s village, does not appear
in the story. The reader learns of him through Manolin, who often
goes to Martin for Santiago’s supper. As the old man says, Martin
is a man of frequent kindness who deserves to be repaid.