Old Man and the Sea: Novel Summary: Chapter 3

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Just before sunrise on the second day, Santiago begins to pity the great fish towing him. The old man reflects, "He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is" (48). A shared bond between the two is thus established, as Santiago has previously called himself "a strange old man" (14). In addition, the old man begins to call the fish his brother, and reveals that he loves and respects the fish. Throughout the rest of the novel Hemingway details and deepens the parallel between Santiago, who perseveres through the night to stay with his fish, and the fish, who swims resiliently against the inevitability of death. 

Santiago begins to feel the fish slow its speed, and he hopes the fish will jump, so that "he'll fill the sacks along his backbone with air and then he cannot go deep to die" (53). The fish gives a sudden, unexpected pull, which causes the fishing line to slice through Santiago's hand. For a more detailed look at Christian imagery, see the Metaphors section. In spite of his bloodied hand, which quickly begins to cramp, Santiago endures the pain and holds on to his line. Finally, the fish jumps: a marlin, which bulges out of the water "unendingly" (62). For Santiago, the fish that is two feet longer than his skiff is "the biggest fish that he had ever seen and bigger than he had ever heard of" (63). 

To comfort himself in the midst of his challenge, the old man thinks of the three key images repeated throughout the book: The Great DiMaggio, the lions on the African beach, and the boy, Manolin. Santiago continually wishes that the boy were with him, even though he knows that it is an impossibility; yet, just the thought of Manolin seems to give the old man strength and courage to endure. For a more in-depth look at these repeating images, see the Metaphors section. 

After catching a fish and eating it, the old man positions himself to get a few minutes of sleep without losing his hold on the fish, determining that the marlin must "pull until he dies" (78). Santiago knows it is nearly time to kill the fish, and again reassures himself by thinking, "If the boy was here he would wet the coils of line....Yes. If the boy were here. If the boy were here" (83). Santiago's time of triumph quickly nears, yet the old man realizes that even if he catches the marlin his ordeal is not over, as he thinks, "Man is not much beside the great birds and beasts. Still I would rather be that beast down there in the darkness of the sea. Unless sharks come. If sharks come, God pity him and me." (68)

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