“I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing,” the old man said. “They say his father was a fisherman. Maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand.”
Santiago and Manolin discuss professional baseball after they eat dinner on the first day, and Santiago expresses his admiration for Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio represents skill and similar family background in that his father was a fisherman and he probably grew up poor. In Santiago’s mind, these factors contribute to strength of character as well.
But I must have confidence and I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel.
On Santiago’s second day at sea, he thinks about how he doesn’t know the result of the baseball games occurring while he fishes but feels confident that DiMaggio played well. Several times throughout his time at sea, Santiago looks to DiMaggio to motivate himself. DiMaggio plays professional baseball well despite a painful condition of bone spurs, which Santiago admires. Even though Santiago experiences pain and suffering, he reminds himself that DiMaggio, his hero, does as well but persists through his pain.
Do you believe the great DiMaggio would stay with a fish as long as I will stay with this one? he thought. I am sure he would and more since he is young and strong.
Santiago compares himself to his role model as he wonders how long he can hold the line. Even though Santiago feels proud of and confident in his abilities as a fisherman, his respect for DiMaggio runs so deep that he believes DiMaggio, although not a fisherman, possesses more skill than he. DiMaggio represents the ultimate hero—young, skilled, strong, and resilient.