In The Old Man and the Sea, on page 23, who does the old man thank? 

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This section of the novel comes before the old man makes his fishing voyage and catches...

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You are only allowed to ask one question. Your original question contained more than one question, so I had to edit it down according to enotes regulations to just focus on your first question.

This section of the novel comes before the old man makes his fishing voyage and catches the epic fish. He is discussing with Santiago who is the best fisherman, and Santiago insists that this old man is the best fisherman in their village. However, the old man then makes a very interesting comment that foreshadows the rest of the novel:

"Thank you. You make me happy. I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong."

Of course, the irony of this statement is that the rest of the novel concerns the old man's struggle with precisely just a fish. The fact that he "fails" to land the fish in completely before it is consumed by sharks forces us to return to this statement and ask whether it supports or disproves Santiago's firm belief in the old man's greatness as a fisherman. What do you think?

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