Illustration of a marlin in the water

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway
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In the relationship between and the old man and the boy in The Old Man and the Sea, what does each give to the other, why does each value the relationship above all sets?

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The Old Man and the Sea presents the relationship between Santiago and his apprentice, Manolin, as similar to that between grandfather and grandson, because Santiago is so much older than the boy. Manolin represents innocence and, to some extent, ignorance of the evils of the world. The fact that Santiago has not caught any fish in almost three months is not an issue for Manolin; it is his parents who insist that he stop accompanying the elderly man. The depth of affection that Manolin feels for his former patron is so strong that the boy wants to do everything he can to help him through this tough time. Fishing is Santiago’s profession and calling, and he has no other way to survive. Manolin takes it upon himself to provide food, even at a risk to himself in obtaining it.

For his part, Santiago is unsentimental in his treatment of the boy, but he occasionally allows his affection to show. Even to accept the gifts the boy has brought is a way of showing that he feels a bond with him. One manifestation of their closeness is their shared passion for American baseball, especially the famous Yankee Joe DiMaggio. Santiago tries to impress upon the boy what heroism and integrity consist of, and in the end, the author demonstrates that he has done so. Some interpreters of the story see Santiago as a Christ figure; in this analysis, Manolin is identified as his disciple.

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