In the beginning of The Old Man and the Sea, the most negative quality of Santiago is the fact that he is an unlucky fisherman. He was lucky once, but he's now so unlucky that Manolin (the boy) is no longer allowed to fish with him. We see Santiago as being poor--beyond poor, really--and dependent on the boy even for his food and bait. He seems frail and unable to fend for himself. Your question is how those negative things at the beginning of the novella are emphasized, and I'd have to say Hemingway does it by giving us so many of these kinds of details. The picture he paints is of a poor old man desperate for a fish, setting us up for both the external and internal struggles to come.