The Old Man and the Sea Quotes

Essential Quotes

Essential Quotes by Character: Santiago

Essential Passage 1

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.

Summary

Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman, has gone for almost three months without catching a single big fish. Manolin, a young boy once apprenticed to Santiago, is moved against his will by his parents to another fisherman with better luck. At the end of forty days, Manolin’s parents have decided that Santiago's luck is so bad he might be under some type of curse. Manolin, however, is devoted to the old man, always coming back at the end of the day to help Santiago stow his gear. Santiago’s skiff (a small boat powered by either oars or sails) is old and sea-ravaged as well. The sail, much patched with whatever material Santiago can find, is symbolic of defeat, but Santiago refuses to concede.

Essential Passage 2

Now is no time to think of baseball, he thought. Now is the time to think of only one thing. That which I was born for. There might be a big one around that school, he thought. I picked up only a straggler from the albacore that were feeding. But they are working far out and fast. Everything that shows on the surface today travels very fast and to the north-east. Can that be the time of day? Or is it some sign of weather that I do not know?

Summary

It is early in the morning on the first day of Santiago’s quest for a big fish. He has spotted a bird flying over a school of tuna. Santiago hopes that this is a sign that a bigger catch is near, one that would follow the school of small fish to feed. His mind wanders, wondering about the outcome of his favorite pastime, baseball, that he follows in the newspapers and on the radio. He wishes that he had brought a small radio with him, but he decides that it would prove to be a distraction. His primary mission is to catch a big fish, the first after eighty-four days. This is his destiny, to...

(The entire section is 1111 words.)

Essential Quotes by Theme: Man Versus Nature

Essential Passage 1

He always thought of the sea as la mer which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as el mar which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.

Summary

Santiago leaves in the dark hours of the morning, bidding good-bye and good luck to his fellow fishermen. His hopes are high for a catch that day, but that depends on the sea. Santiago reflects on how people personify the sea. His younger colleagues think of it in terms of a man, one who must be fought for a prize, or something that must be overcome. For Santiago, however, the sea is always a woman, one who gives her “favours” (a sexual metaphor) or withholds them depending on her mood. She is uncontrollable.

Essential Passage 2

He is a great fish and I must convince him, he thought. I must never let him learn his strength nor what he could do if he made his run. If I were him I would put in everything now and go until something broke. But, thank God, they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able.

Summary

It is the second of Santiago’s struggles against the great marlin. After hours of fighting against an unseen enemy, the fish has at last risen from deep underwater to display itself, vividly colored in purple and lavender. The marlin’s great sword is as long as a baseball bat (echoing Santiago’s obsession with the sport of baseball). Santiago estimates that the fish is two feet longer than his entire boat. Pulling the line swiftly and steadily, the marlin requires the old man to keep both hands on the line so that it does not break. Santiago for his part must keep pressure on the line in order to tire out the fish. Santiago marvels at the great strength of the marlin, but he knows that he must never let...

(The entire section is 1021 words.)

Lori Steinbach, Michael Foster, Ed. Scott Locklear