But what a fish to pull like that. He must have his mouth shut tight on the wire. I wish I could see him. I wish I could see him only once to know what I have against me.
On the day Santiago hooks the marlin, he assumes the marlin will tire out eventually, but instead the fish ends up pulling the boat for over four hours. Here, Santiago’s thoughts reveal his patience and amazement at the marlin’s strength. Santiago wishes to meet the fish whose incredible strength and determination to stay alive equal his own.
He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides. He was bright in the sun and his head and back were dark purple and in the sun the stripes on his sides showed wide and a light lavender. His sword was as long as a baseball bat and tapered like a rapier and he rose his full length from the water and then re-entered it, smoothly, like a diver and the old man saw the great scythe-blade of his tail go under and the line commenced to race out.
The narrator describes what Santiago sees after the marlin jumps out of the water for the first time. From this description, readers infer that Santiago greatly admires the majestic-looking marlin. In addition, the comparison of the marlin’s sword to a baseball bat reveals a connection between the marlin and Santiago’s hero, the baseball player Joe DiMaggio. Santiago also views the marlin’s sword as a rapier, indicating that he views the marlin as a soldier ready for battle.
I wonder what started him so suddenly? Could it have been hunger that made him desperate, or was he frightened by something in the night? Maybe he suddenly felt fear. But he was such a calm, strong fish and he seemed so fearless and so confident. It is strange.
When Santiago wakes up in the night to the pull of the line from the marlin jumping, he wonders why the marlin jumped so suddenly. Santiago dismisses the idea that the fish jumped due to hunger or fear because in his eyes, the fish seems unflappable. Since catching the fish, Santiago has also not eaten nor experienced fear, so he assumes that since he and the marlin share these experiences, their reactions to the situation match as well.
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.
As the marlin begins to circle the boat, Santiago struggles to hold the line and ruminates on his fate. Even though the marlin makes him suffer, Santiago considers him a worthy adversary and, in a way, feels honor to be possibly taken down by such an opponent. The fact that Santiago does not care which one of them dies reveals the deep respect he feels for the marlin.
Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty.
Here, the narrator describes the marlin’s final moments. After Santiago stabs the marlin with the harpoon, the marlin rises out of the water and then falls back in. Even as the marlin dies, Santiago views him as a majestic being worthy of admiration.