Illustration of a marlin in the water

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

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Day 3 Summary

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As the sun rises, Santiago wishes the fish would surface, but he is still moving and strong. Perhaps he should put some pressure on the line so the fish will jump and fill his air sacks so he cannot go deep to die. Though he loves the fish as his brother, he vows to kill him. A small bird comes to visit. Then the fish jerks the old man to the bottom of the boat again; only because he is braced does the old man keep from losing the line. He is tired and sore, but he is still strong. Both man and fish are feeling the strain, and the rope has cut Santiago’s hand. It is only a surface wound, but he trails his hand in the water to stay the flow of blood. The fish has slowed his pace. Santiago stands to stretch and brace himself once again.

The old man knows he must eat the tuna to maintain his strength, though he does not like raw fish. He maneuvers to cut the fish into strips, though his left hand is cramped. He tells himself he must eat, and it is not as bad as he had feared. He knows he must eat it all to keep his strength, though his hand is still cramped. He hopes the sun and the tuna will give it the strength to uncurl on its own; if it does not, he will make it work to kill the great fish. He wishes again that the boy were here.

There is a slight change in the angle of the line, and the old man knows the fish is coming to the surface. If he does that, he knows he can kill it:

He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides. He was bright in the sun and his head and back were dark purple and in the sun the stripes on his side showed wide and a light lavender. His sword was as long as a baseball bat and tapered like a rapier and he rose full length from the water.

Santiago sees that the fish is two feet longer than his boat is, and he reminds himself he must not let the fish know he has the greater strength and power. The fish is a worthy opponent but he must never know it. Although he has seen other large fish and has caught two over a thousand pounds, this is the biggest he has ever seen or heard of—and he had never brought in a large one by himself. His hand is still cramped, but he is able to bring in some line, and now he waits and wishes the boy were here. Santiago promises to say Hail Marys and make a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Cobre if he catches the fish. Then he prays.

This is going to be a long ordeal, and Santiago knows he must catch another fish for sustenance. He hopes for another tuna because dolphin is not pleasant to eat raw. In the heat of the day the fish has slowed but is still moving steadily north and east. Santiago’s hand is no longer cramped, and he plans to show the boy he can still catch a great fish. He thinks of the great DiMaggio, playing even with a bone spur, and he is inspired. He hopes the sharks will not come.

As the sun goes down, Santiago recalls his great arm-wrestling match with the strongest man on the docks. It took from Sunday morning to Monday morning, and the advantage changed from one to the other through the ordeal. Santiago finally finished the match and was known as the Champion. His right hand was strong, though his left hand has always been a traitor to him.

The dolphin that took the small bait now jumps and thrashes, and Santiago gathers the rope until the fish is at the side of the boat. Santiago drags him in and rebaits the hook with another sardine. He lashes the oars as a drag behind the boat as he prepares for another night with the great marlin. Several hours later, the old man wishes he could lash the rope to the boat but knows he cannot afford to let the fish break the line. He tells himself he must sleep to keep his strength. First, he eats the unpleasant dolphin. In the dolphin are two flying fish, firm and edible. The weather is good, but only his right hand is strong. He curls himself into the bottom of the boat with his right hand on the line. He sleeps and again dreams of the lions.

He wakes as the fish jumps and the rope rushes through his hands. Santiago plans to make the fish pay for the line he is taking and the cuts on his hands. The fish should tire more quickly with more line to pull. Santiago wishes the boy were here to wet the coils of rope. The fish jumps again and again; then he begins to circle, and the hard work begins. The man eats one of the flying fish to maintain his strength. He is as ready as he can be for sunrise and what is ahead of him.

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