Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is clearly a story of "human victory." It's true that Santiago was not able to bring home anything he could sell; however, he caught a magnificent fish despite all the elements which came against him.
Santiago was an old man who hadnothing in his life but the love and devotion of Manolin. As his teacher, Santiago had instilled in the young boy a love and passion for fishing--something not every man who fishes had, as evidenced by Manolin's new captain. While he had caught fish in the past, Santiago was having an unlucky spell. Because of his eighty-four days of catching nothing, Santiago lost the help of "the boy" and was now going out alone. His fishing this day was one man against not only one fish but all the accompanying elements--the sharks, the currents, the weather, and even his own body. He was actually quite outmatched in every way, as the fish was in his natural setting and outweighed Santiago by, well, a lot.
So this was a test of wills and wit, and the winner was Santiago. Once the fish was caught and lashed to the boat (costing the old man nearly everything he had left in him), the sharks presented a new battle--a battle he did not win, of course. However, catching the fish, snapped the streak of bad luck and demonstrated that Santiago is still capable and productive. This was a life-and-death struggle, and Santiago persevered and survived--and he will fish again. This was a story of human triumph in nearly every way.