Santiago is the old man, the experienced, knowledgeable, physically declining but still mentally alert and caring mentor to Manolin, the would-be apprentice to the master fisherman. Santiago enjoys Manolin's company and conversation, appreciates his assistance with tasks that are becoming too strenuous, and understands the need for Manolin to learn the lessons that will allow him to make a living from the sea. Manolin cares deeply for Santiago, worries about him, attempts to make his life easier when he can.
The boy took the old army blanket off the bed and spread it over the back of the chair and over the old man's shoulders..."Wake up old man," the boy said and put his hand on one of the old man's knees..."Supper," said the boy. "We're going to have supper...Keep the blanket around you," the boy said. "You'll not fish without eating while I'm alive." "Then live a long time and take care of yourself," the old man said.
The relationship is filled with affection, respect, and the deep enjoyment of shared interests and ambitions.