In the Old Man and the Sea, is the conflict between Santiago and the sea resolved?The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes and no.  While the old fisherman Santiago after eighty-five days of failure proves his mettle on the sea by catching the huge Marlin, craftily and skillfully maintaining his hold on it for days by resisting the pain of the line cutting through his hand and by preventing the fish from taking the line from him until he finally succeeds in bringing it in and securing it to his skiff, he loses his battle against the ravages of the sharks. 

So, when he returns, having survived on the sea and having captured a huge fish, Santiago does receive the recognition of his victory over the fish as a man. However, with his failure to win the conflict with Nature, Santiago has failed as a fisherman.  Consequently, he does not regain the respect of the other fishermen.  For, when Manolin comes to bring Santiago a hot can of coffee, the old man tells the boy, "They beat me, Manolin."  Manolin replies, "He didn't beat you.  Not the fish."

Because he feels defeated as a fisherman, Santiago tells Manolin that Pedrico can chop up the skiff and use it in fish traps and the boy can have the spear.  Then, he tells the boy that he spat up something strange, and when he did spit while out to sea, Santiago has said to the last shark,

"Eat that, galanos, and make a dream you've killed man."

Santiago also tells the boy that he has felt something break in his chest.   His words indicate that as a fisherman Santiago is finished; in fact, as a man he is also defeated and will probably die.

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The Old Man and the Sea

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