How would you explain the quote “But they were sailing together lashed side by side and the old man thought, let him bring me in if it pleases him. I am only better than him through trickery and...

How would you explain the quote “But they were sailing together lashed side by side and the old man thought, let him bring me in if it pleases him. I am only better than him through trickery and he meant me no harm”?

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dashing-danny-dillinger eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This important quote from Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize winning novella The Old Man and the Sea is a crucial component in the story for a number of reasons. First, this quote comes when Santiago realizes that the fish is so massive that it may very well be towing the boat:

“Then his head started to become a little unclear and he thought, is he bringing me in or am I bringing him in? If I were towing him behind there would be no question. Nor if the fish were in the skiff, with all dignity gone” (99).

This leads Santiago to question who is catching who; is he bringing in the fish, or is the fish towing him along? Santiago is driven to pulling in this massive marlin, but he simultaneously respects it and the awesome power of nature. Indeed, that is why he resigns himself to the fact that he is only better than the catch “through trickery.” He feels kinship with this mighty, determined fish. The fish is not out to ruin Santiago; it is merely existing, living its life much like Santiago. That is why the image of the boat and the marlin “sailing together lashed side by side” is so powerful. Santiago respects this majestic animal and its will to not be captured, but he will not let this interfere with his own iron will. His kinship and respect with the fish makes the quote in your question resonate; he respects it as an equal.

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The Old Man and the Sea

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