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The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

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Why does Santiago say "Every day is a new day" in The Old Man and the Sea?

Quick answer:

Santiago says "Every day is a new day" to express his belief in the possibility of change and the importance of perseverance. Despite his bad luck, he maintains optimism and humility, knowing that precise preparation will eventually lead to success. His statement reflects his tireless work ethic and the wisdom gained from suffering, emphasizing the need to remain hopeful and diligent.

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On page 11, Hemingway writes:

But, he thought, I keep them [the fishing lines] with precision. Only I have no luck any more. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.

His words are prophetic.  This very day his luck will be repaid threefold.  And then it will turn again.  But, Santiago will remain the same.

But on page 11 in the novella, Santiago has been an unlucky fisherman, not that he is deserving of bad luck.  He is the same tireless fisherman that he has been for decades.  It is just that, in fishing and baseball, the odds are stacked against the individual; a slump is inevitable.  It was so for the Great DiMaggio.  It is now for Santiago.

But, to borrow a sports metaphor: "one must have a short memory" after a bad day, or many bad days.  In other words, "every day is a new day."  Santiago's statement is both full of optimism and humility.  Santiago knows he must be precise and exact with his lines; preparation is a friend to the fisherman.  It is only a matter of time until he hooks his great fish.

Santiago says it is better to be lucky than good.  When Santiago sails out far and hooks the great marlin he will be both.  The key is to maintain a work ethic that honors one's profession, one's fellow fishermen, and the fish itself.  Santiago maintains all three, unlike the others on the island; Manolin senses wisdom in the old man and thus becomes his disciple.  We know that Manolin will be the island's next tireless fisherman.

Ironically, bad luck has made Santiogo wise.  Suffering has taught him to be humble, to cast off hubris.  His suffering will only intensify in the novella, and his years of bad luck will serve him well in the end.  After the sharks have ravaged his great fish, Santiago will continue to put his lines back in the water, with precision and humility.  But, maybe he won't go so far out next time.

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