Santiago (sahn-tee-AH-goh), an old Cuban fisherman, the protagonist. He is a simple man who loves and respects the sea and all the life within it. On his search for the great marlin, his young friend Manolin fishes with him for forty days, but then Santiago fishes alone among the elements. After eighty-four days of fishing without a catch, the old man’s patience is rewarded. He hooks a huge marlin but then must engage in an exhausting three-day struggle with it. In his battle with the marlin, Santiago begins to identify with the fish, feeling a brotherhood with it and almost a sense of guilt about the idea of killing it. This feeling of solidarity and interdependence between the old man and the marlin pervades the action of the story. The old man’s heroic individualism and his love for his fellow creatures is evident throughout. After finally harpooning it, he attaches the marlin to the bow and stern of his boat, but sharks begin to devour his catch. Santiago’s next battle, with the sharks, proves impossible to win, and Santiago reaches shore with only a skeleton, worthless except as a symbol of his victory. In his struggle with the giant marlin, Santiago pushes himself to the limits of his physical and mental endurance. A man with native intelligence and a strong will to survive, Santiago bears tragedy with great humility and dignity.
Manolin (mahn-oh-LEEN), a young Cuban boy whom Santiago teaches to fish. He becomes Santiago’s fishing partner and fishes with the old man until the young man’s father forbids it. He becomes Santiago’s closest and most devoted friend, and Santiago becomes the boy’s substitute father. Manolin is so devoted to the old man that he begs and steals so that the old man does not go hungry; he also finds fresh bait for Santiago. In the time they spend together, Santiago and the boy talk at length about fishing, hunting, American baseball, and one of the old man’s heroes, Joe DiMaggio, the great Yankee outfielder. In his discussion of DiMaggio, Santiago wishes to teach Manolin about physical and psychological endurance, about being a “team player,” and about being a champion.
The marlin, an eighteen-foot fish weighing more than a thousand pounds, the largest ever caught in the Gulf Stream. Santiago views the marlin as a mixture of incredible beauty and deadly violence. He and the marlin are equal partners in the battle of human against nature. They both emerge as heroes.
Martin (mahr-TEEN), the owner of the Terrace. He gives food to Manolin to give to Santiago.
Pedrico (peh-DREE-koh), a fisherman to whom Santiago gives the marlin’s head, for use in his fish traps.
Rogelio (rroh-HEH-lee-oh), a young boy who once helped Santiago with his fish nets.