Illustration of a marlin in the water

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway
Start Free Trial

How do the tourists in The Old Man and the Sea respond to Santiago’s catch? Does their opinion matter? Why or why not?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the final pages of The Old Man and the Sea , after Santiago, the aged fisherman, has returned from his epic battle to catch a giant marlin—which was then nearly devoured by sharks—and left the remains of carcass strapped to his boat. A woman tourist, sitting at a...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In the final pages of The Old Man and the Sea, after Santiago, the aged fisherman, has returned from his epic battle to catch a giant marlin—which was then nearly devoured by sharks—and left the remains of carcass strapped to his boat. A woman tourist, sitting at a nearby cafe, catches sight of the immense spine and tail of the marlin, and asks a waiter what kind of fish it might be. "Tiburon," a shark, he answers, but before he can explain what happened, she says, "I didn't know sharks had such handsome, beautifully formed tails." Her companion agrees.

It's not surprising that the woman might believe this to be some exotic type of shark. The marlin in the novel is estimated to be eighteen feet long, three times the size of a typical marlin. Their opinion matters in two senses. For the reason just cited, it provides a perspective on how extraordinary the dimensions of this marlin truly are. And, in another sense, the tourist likening the marlin to a shark, the creature that demolished that monster, along with the fisherman's dream, is more than a touch ironic. As dangerous as generalizations can sometimes be, it's fair to describe Hemingway as a writer for whom every word matters.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team