When Santiago says that the ocean is feminine, how does that characterize Santiago and the ocean?

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caledon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favors, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought."

There are a few insights we can make from this, although it helps to contextualize them with the rest of Santiago's behaviors, such as his careful and patient fishing techniques.

There are many interpretations of Hemingway's characterization of this relationship, but they might generally be categorized as follows:

  • Santiago believes the ocean, like women, is unpredictable and dangerous and incapable of controlling itself.
  • Santiago believes the ocean, like women, is governed by powers that he cannot understand or match.

Both of these interpretations can be considered evidence that Santiago recognizes and adapts to the differences between men and women, or that he's a misogynist and thinks women are capricious and dangerous and more like children than adults. I think the reader is free to interpret this aspect of the relationship as they choose.

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The Old Man and the Sea

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