Illustration of a marlin in the water

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

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Santiago's pride and its role in his journey in The Old Man and the Sea


Santiago's pride plays a crucial role in his journey in The Old Man and the Sea. It drives him to endure the physical and mental challenges of battling the marlin, reflecting his deep sense of personal honor and determination. Despite his hardships, his pride sustains him, illustrating the theme of human dignity and resilience against overwhelming odds.

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Is Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea a prideful man?

Santiago is not a prideful man, but he is a proud man. The word prideful carries a strong negative connotation of having too high an opinion of oneself and feeling superior to others. Pride can also be a negative trait meaning over-valuing one's importance, but as in the case of Santiago, it can also mean having self-respect and an honest understanding and appreciation of one's own talents and strengths.

Santiago knows he has gotten older, and he is aware that he doesn't have the physical strength of his younger days. At the same time, he understands that he is talented as a fisherman and has the pride and confidence of a person who knows he is good at what he does. He says he long ago gave up pride, but he means this in the sense of having given up feeling superior to others.

The genuine pride he has left helps sustain him in the fight with the giant marlin. He doesn't give up, because he knows he has the skill and patience to win. He muses on what this pride means after he has killed the marlin:

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him.

Santiago shows that it is not merely the end result of material gain that drives him to fish. The journey is reward—he loves using his skills as a fisherman and doing his job. He loves his work. He is a compassionate man who realizes he is doing something brutal in killing the marlin, but he also realizes that his respect and care for the marlin, which mirrors his own self-respect, elevates his action.

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Does Santiago's pride lead to his failure in The Old Man and the Sea?

I can only think of one thing which might possibly indicate this.  After Santiago has gone eighty-five days without catching a fish-- his record is eighty-seven--Manolin used to go with him, but he is now on another, mure successful boat.  On the night before Santiago catches his great fish, Manolin does offer to disobey his father's wishes.  "I could go with you again."  They clearly love each other, and they would love to be able to fish together again.  Santiago says no to the suggestion, and though the boy helps him get ready for another day of fishing, the old man is off on his own.

If Santiago had said yes, he would have had some help with his brother, the fish.  Perhaps he says no because he is too proud to ask for help.  I tend to think it's because he loves the boy, wants him to be on a lucky boat, and wants him to obey his father; however, it may have been pride.

In all other ways, Santiago is a man with little pride left--at least with the boy--which makes me disagree with the premise of your question. 

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