According to The Old Man and the Sea, who are Santiago's "distant friends"?

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In The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago's voyage and struggle with the marlin leaves him lonely.  On one of the nights, he calls the stars his "distant friends." He celebrates all other two levels of the environment (the sky and the sea) now that he is departed from land.

He says the ocean (La Mar) is a woman he loves, and he calls the marlin his "brother."  He talks to his left hand and even to the boy, Manolin.  All of these apostrophes (direct address to someone or something not present) might seem like Santiago is lonely, but he is not.  He is communing with nature, and he seems at peace alone among the stars, drifting on the ocean.  A lesser fisherman would certainly panic and give up hope, but Santiago knows he is surrounded by friends.

 

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