Why does Santiago idolize Joe DiMaggio?The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Old Man and the Sea, was first published in 1952, a time when baseball was America's favorite pasttime.  At that time, the premier baseball team was the New York Yankees, and the premier player was none other than "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio, also known as "The Yankee Clipper."  Here are some facts about Joe DiMaggio:

At the time of his retirement, he had the fifth-most career home runs (361) and sixth-highest slugging percentage (.579) in history. He is perhaps best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941), a record that still stands.]A 1969 poll conducted to coincide with the centennial of professional baseball voted him the sport's greatest living player.

In the setting of the narrative, Joe DiMaggio was a baseball icon that many fans, especially Yankee fans, adored because he led the team to nine titles in thirteen years. His popularity was so great that he was often referred to in literature, film, television, and art.  Interestingly, Joe's father, Giuseppe DiMaggio, Joe's father, was a fisherman, so perhaps this fact influences Santiago.  After all, the Cuban fisherman declares, “I would like to fish with the great DiMaggio. They say his father was a fisherman.” Indeed, DiMaggio is the perfect baseball hero for Santiago.  

DiMaggio's biographer, Richard Ben Cramer, wrote about both DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, whom he married, 

And inside those personages . . . these two . . . were only small and struggling, fearful to be seen. And alone—always. . . . In their loneliness, they might have been brother and sister.”

This alienation and loneliness is also something with which Santiago is intimately familiar, as well.  Clearly, then, Santiago can relate to Joe DiMaggio.

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