Ernest Hemingway's article, "On the Blue Water" published in Esquire in 1936 is generally considered the kernel of his novella The Old Man and the Sea. In this article, Hemingway mentions that when one goes hunting, he knows what he is after, and
after a while the danger of others is the only danger and there is no end to it nor any pleasure in it....,
but in fishing in the ocean, Hemingway reflects, the fisherman never knows what he will catch and how the adventure will end.
A Cuban mate, with whom Hemingway became acquainted on a fishing boat he hired, once caught a huge marlin. As he struggled with it, he exclaimed, "Oh, God, the bread of my children." While the fisherman named Carlos worked the fish, some evem larger fish closed his jaws on it and moved off with the eighty-pound fish in its mouth. Defeated, Carlos moaned, "There it goes, the bread of my children."
Clearly, Hemingway modeled his character Santiago after the Cuban fisherman Carlos, a man who perceived the fish as essential to the survival of his family and him, as well as a measure of his self-perception. For, Hemingway writes, there is great pleasure in being on the sea and capturing one of its mighty denizens.
But there is great pleasure in being on the sea, in the unknown wild suddenness of a great fish; in his life and death which he lives for you in an hour while your strength is harnessed to his; and there is satisfaction in conquering this thing which rules the sea it lives in.
This observation of Hemingway's is just as Santiago feels. Indeed, although he lost the fish to the sharks, Santiago is not defeated, but dreams of the lions when he collapses upon his bed. Like them, he has not been conquered.