have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I
am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.” Imagine if each
day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away.
. . . Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat
and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for
him. . . . There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner
of his behavior and his great dignity. I do not understand these
things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to
kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the
sea and kill our true brothers.
This passage is found at the end of
the third day related by the novella. As Santiago struggles with
the marlin, he reflects upon the nature of the universe and his
place in it. He displays both pity for the fish and an unflagging
determination to kill it, because the marlin’s death helps to reinvigorate
the fisherman’s life. The predatory nature of this exchange is inevitable,
for just as hawks will continue to hunt warblers, men will continue
to kill marlin, and sharks will continue to rob them of their catches.
The cruelty of this natural order is subverted, however, because
of the kinship Santiago feels for his prey. His opponent is worthy—so worthy, in fact, that he later goes on to say that it doesn’t
matter who kills whom. There is, in the old man’s estimation, some
sense to this order. Man can achieve greatness only when placed
in a well-matched contest against his earthly brothers. To find
glory, Santiago does not need to extend himself beyond his animal
nature by looking to the sun or the stars.