The Old Man and the Sea Essential Quotes
by Ernest Hemingway

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Essential Quotes by Character: Santiago

Essential Passage 1

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.


Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman, has gone for almost three months without catching a single big fish. Manolin, a young boy once apprenticed to Santiago, is moved against his will by his parents to another fisherman with better luck. At the end of forty days, Manolin’s parents have decided that Santiago's luck is so bad he might be under some type of curse. Manolin, however, is devoted to the old man, always coming back at the end of the day to help Santiago stow his gear. Santiago’s skiff (a small boat powered by either oars or sails) is old and sea-ravaged as well. The sail, much patched with whatever material Santiago can find, is symbolic of defeat, but Santiago refuses to concede.

Essential Passage 2

Now is no time to think of baseball, he thought. Now is the time to think of only one thing. That which I was born for. There might be a big one around that school, he thought. I picked up only a straggler from the albacore that were feeding. But they are working far out and fast. Everything that shows on the surface today travels very fast and to the north-east. Can that be the time of day? Or is it some sign of weather that I do not know?


It is early in the morning on the first day of Santiago’s quest for a big fish. He has spotted a bird flying over a school of tuna. Santiago hopes that this is a sign that a bigger catch is near, one that would follow the school of small fish to feed. His mind wanders, wondering about the outcome of his favorite pastime, baseball, that he follows in the newspapers and on the radio. He wishes that he had brought a small radio with him, but he decides that it would prove to be a distraction. His primary mission is to catch a big fish, the first after eighty-four days. This is his destiny, to catch a fish big enough to help him regain his pride and his standing among the fishing community of Cuba. He sees the birds; he sees the smaller fish. They are traveling swiftly toward the northeast, away from the islands. Santiago wonders if this is their daily cycle or a sign of impending bad weather. He can no longer see the shoreline of Cuba. His quest is taking him far from home and safety.

Essential Passage 3

He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder. He tried to get up. But it was too difficult and he sat there with the mast on his shoulder and looked at the road. A cat passed on the far side going about its business and the old man watched it. Then he just watched the road.


After three days, Santiago returns home with nothing left but the skeleton of the giant marlin, the largest fish he has ever caught. Beset by one shark after another, Santiago’s prize was slowly devoured, despite his best efforts to drive off the predators. Sailing into the harbour in the darkness of night, he takes down his mast and sail, ties them up, and places them across his shoulders to carry home. As he looks back at his boat in the light from the street lamps, all he sees is the tail, the spine, and the dark mass of the marlin's head with its long spear. Climbing the hill to his hut, he carries his mast, falling at the top. He rests, then picks it up again to continue on. Only a cat sees...

(The entire section is 2,132 words.)