“And the best fisherman is you.” “No. I know others better.” “Qué va,” the boy said. “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.” “Thank you. You make me happy. I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong.”
Manolin and Santiago discuss the best baseball players and managers, and Manolin segues the subject to the best fisherman, who he says is Santiago. Santiago at first shows his humility by disagreeing with Manolin’s assessment. Manolin changes his compliment to say that Santiago has his own unique way with fishing, and Santiago cannot disagree. He jokingly uses Manolin’s superlative to characterize a “great” fish that might prove the two of them wrong, foreshadowing his battle with the marlin. Santiago takes pride in his work and skills, and he accords respect to the creatures he hunts.
“What kind of a hand is that,” he said. “Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw. It will do you no good.”
Santiago speaks to his left hand as cramps set in. He speaks to his hand as if the hand is separate from him, as though he could not have something so uncooperative attached to his body, and he even chastises his hand for cramping. He takes great pride in his strength and skill as a fisherman. When his hand cramps, he doesn’t give in to self-pity or fatalism. He won’t accept the dysfunction from his own body and gives himself a pep talk.