Why does Manolin cry at the end of The Old Man and the Sea?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Manolin's love and respect for Santiago is seen in his interactions at the beginning of the story. When Santiago remains out at sea for three days, Manolin understandably worries and when Santiago finally returns, Manolin is overcome with emotion. He is happy to see Santiago alive, joyous to see the size of the marlin's skeleton, sad to see Santiago injured, and terrified that Santiago might die. All of these conflicting emotions come out in the form of tears:

The boy saw that the old man was breathing and then he saw the old man's hands and he started to cry.
[...]
Many fishermen were around the skiff looking... He did not care that they saw him crying.
[...]
"Don't forget to tell Pedrico the head is his."

"No. I will remember."

As the boy went out the door and down the worn coral rock road he was crying again.
(Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, Google Books)

Manolin, and the reader, do not know if Santiago will live out the night. His exertions may have been too much for his old body to handle. However, Santiago has won against criticism and brought in the huge fish, and Manolin loves him all the more for his determination. If Santiago lives, Manolin will learn the art of fishing as Santiago learned it, and more importantly, he will learn the art of willpower.

Read the study guide:
The Old Man and the Sea

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