The Old Man and the Sea Important Quotations
by Ernest Hemingway

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Important Quotations

(Novels for Students)

1) “Anyone can be a fisherman in May.” Page 18
Santiago is a fisherman. He is poor, but doesn’t complain about it. He is stoic about his position, but is hard working and has pride. This pride will later contribute to his battle with the fish, but this early quote illustrates a lot about Santiago, as well as about Hemingway’s Code Hero. Although he is poor, Santiago will not borrow, for it leads to begging, yet he accepts food the boy Manolin brings him, and says he will thank the bar owner who supplied the food. At this point, Santiago has not caught anything in 84 days, and Manolin’s parents have made him find work on another boat. Santiago believes 85 to be a lucky number, and asks Manolin to find a lottery ticket with 85 on it.

In other words, Santiago is complex, believing in hard work as well as luck. When he states, “Anyone can be a fisherman in May,” he is showing his appreciation of both hard work and the reward and majesty of fishing. Although fish are easier to catch in temperate weather, in September, when fishing is less pleasant, the fish themselves are of higher quality and must be fought for. Here, Santiago is showing disdain for the easy way as well as describing why he continues on, despite his string of bad luck and poverty. Like the traditional code hero, he keeps to his principles, even in times of hardship.

2) “I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing.” Page 22
Joe DiMaggio is one of the most famous American baseball players ever. He played for the Yankees, and is idolized by Santiago. Santiago and Manolin talk at length about American baseball, and because of DiMaggio’s bone spurs, Santiago relates to him and feels DiMaggio “makes the difference.” He also states that DiMaggio’s father was a fisherman, and maybe the baseball player “would understand.” In other words, DiMaggio would understand not only the way of life, but the meaning and principles behind it.

DiMaggio also represents the code hero. He was injured, yet kept striving to win while maintaining his courage, and overcomes adversity to win. Santiago holds himself up to DiMaggio’s standards, at first simply wanting to go fishing with him because he feels DiMaggio is a kindred soul. But later, during Santiago’s ordeal with the marlin, he uses DiMaggio as motivation to keep going, to “be worthy of the great DiMaggio.”

3) “He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy.” Page 25
This passage occurs before Santiago leaves to catch fish. Santiago sleeps and dreams of Africa when he was a boy, and of the lions playing on the beaches “so white they hurt your eyes.” The dream is interesting not only in the content, but also by what Hemingway says he doesn’t dream about anymore: storms, his wife, fish, and Manolin. These are all more “realistic,” the important parts and worries of his life. Santiago’s wife is gone, and her picture makes him sad, so his dreams are not of past happiness or greatness. So what do playful lions mean?

There are many interpretations of Santiago’s lions. Obviously, lions are associated with courage, and just as Santiago relates to the great Joe DiMaggio, he relates to the strength and courage of the lions. However, these lions are playing like young cats, so the image is not only from his boyhood, but it encompasses the freedom of youth, when he was still wide-eyed and amazed at life’s challenges. The lions and the blindingly white beach represent how the reality of violence can be tamed and become playful, but only in the ideal of Santiago’s dreams.

4) “Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.” Page 54
Santiago fights hard for the massive fish he has caught. Since he had not caught a...

(The entire section is 1,122 words.)