The Old Man and the Sea


Story Symbols and Themes


Respect as the basis of friendship and competition:

In Santiago's worldview, it is logical for opponents to double as friends, for respect forms the basis of both competition and friendship.

This can be seen from the beginning of the novel in what is presumably Santiago's only current friend: Manolin. While other characters pity Santiago, his young friend is the only one who respects him as "the best fisherman." Likewise, Santiago also treats Manolin with respect, giving him responsibility, yet not controlling him. In contrast to Santiago's father, who forbids him from fishing with Santiago, Santiago doesn't try to make Manolin fish with him through persuasion or guilt. Instead, Santiago encourages Manolin to obey his father, even though it is more difficult for the old man to fish without help. At the end of the novel, when Manolin changes his mind and wants to fish with Santiago, the old man accepts this new decision, as well. Furthermore, while Manolin isn't allowed to carry any equipment with his current fishing group, Santiago says he has let the boy carry fishing gear since he was five years old, entrusting him with this important task even from a young age.

This same attitude toward friendship and competition is later seen as Santiago recalls his arm wrestling match in Casablanca with "the great negro from Cienfuegos." Because of the fact that he engaged in a grueling 24-hour-long match with "the strongest man on the docks," he remembers his opponent as "a fine man and a great athlete."

Ultimately, Santiago's concept of friendship through respect is fully developed through his relationship with the marlin, who is the primary antagonist of the novel.

"Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother," says Santiago to the marlin. "Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who."

In Santiago's world, either killing the marlin...

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Essays About The Old Man and the Sea