Why are there so many references to numbers in the first part of The Old Man and the Sea?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The novel is set in Cuba, where numbers were considered important for cultural and superstitious reasons. To this day, around the world, people have "lucky numbers" which seem to recur on or around auspicious times in their lives. Santiago and Manolin discuss various numbers, from baseball records to numbers of fish caught, and it is clear that they both look to numbers as symbols or signs of future events.

"Do you think we should buy a terminal of the lottery with an eighty-five? Tomorrow is the eighty-fifth day."

"We can do that," the boy said. "But what about the eighty-seven of your great record?"

"It could not happen twice. Do you think you can find an eighty-five?"
(Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, Google Books)

This refers to buying lottery tickets with specific numbers on them, in essence attempting to change the fortune of a specific number from bad to good. Santiago once went 87 days without catching a fish, and then had three weeks of good fishing. Now, since he believes that luck will not simply follow him, he makes an effort to change the luck by making his current 85-day streak into a winning lottery number, thus changing the fortune.

brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question has been previously asked and answered. Please see the links below, and thank you for using eNotes!

brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question has been previously asked and answered. Please see the links below, and thank you for using eNotes!

brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question has been previously asked and answered. Please see the links below, and thank you for using eNotes!

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The Old Man and the Sea

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