In a deeply metaphysical passage, alone on the sea under the stars, Santiago contemplates his existential condition. As he lies against the worn wood of his bow, the old fisherman looks upward to "his distant friends" as has many a man who has lived on the sea. Just as the stars have guided and sustained him, so does he hope that the great fish will sustain him. This sustenance that the fish will provide is the reason that Santiago has to kill him, even though he is "his friend." Looking at Rigel, the sixth brightest star in the night sky, part of the eight-star constellation named Orion, Santiago thinks,
"I'm glad we do not have to try to kill the stars. Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. But imagine if each day a man must try to kill the sun? We were born lucky, he thought."
Thus, there are two considerations to Santiago's thought that he is relieved not to be obliged to attempt to kill the stars:
- The task of trying to kill the stars is, of course, insurmountable. At least, the killing of even a great fish is possible for Santiago.
- The stars, which direct him on the sea in the night, as well as providing him a certain delight as he contemplates them as part of the vast universe, are entities that he has grown to love in a consciousness that is not limited to his mind.