What is the relationship between the old man and the sea?    

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Santiago loves the sea, but he also recognizes its unpredictability.

While other fishermen consider the sea masculine and perceive it as a contestant or a rival, Santiago has always thought of the sea as feminine because "she" withholds her favors, and if she does "strange and wild things," it is because she cannot control herself. Also, like a woman, the moon affects her, and she acts differently and sometimes very oddly.

She is kind and beautiful. But she can be so cruel, and it comes so suddenly, and such birds that fly, dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices that are made too delicately for the sea. (Day 1, p. 29)

It is, perhaps, because the sea is so unpredictable that Santiago perceives "her" as la mar.  Each day that he goes out in his boat, he is uncertain how the sea will be, for even if she is calm, changes could come in a short time, and there could be huge waves to deal with. Each day is a challenge, and Santiago does not know what he will catch, but he comes to the...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 591 words.)

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