CHARACTERS IN THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
SANTIAGO (The Old Man)
Santiago, the old man, is a fisherman by trade, living a simple lonely life in a coastal colony. He is the chief character of the novel. This novel describes Santiago’s adventure with the giant fish marlin and then his fight with the sharks, which throws light on the old man’s personality and various aspects of his character. He has been without a fish for the last eighty four days.
He is old, physically thin and gaunt person. He fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream. Everything about him was old except his eyes, which were full of colour of the sea and were cheerful and undefeated. According to boy Manolin, Santiago is the best fisherman, with a unique ability and skill in his profession. He is an idealist for whom fishing is more than an occupation. It is not merely a way of making money; it is a way of life.
Santiago has lived an ordinary poor man’s. As a small boy he started his fishing career as apprentice on a boat and it was very thrilling and adventurous for him. He had been on African seacoast, where he saw lions running and playing about in jungle. Those pleasant days were still dream and enjoyed by him. In his youth he had been very strong and powerful man. In a hand game contest, he had defeated the Negro and won the title of the champion.
Santiago is a man of determination and resolution. After eighty four days he decides to go far out to catch a big fish. He succeeds in catching a big Marlin, but he loses the battle at the hands of the sharks. But he remains undefeated because he has gone on trying. His victory is a moral victory. His belief in that, “Man can be destroyed but not defeated” established him a man of strong determination. The old man does not become impatient or desperate rather he is determined to stay with the marlin until death. He tells the fish, “I will kill you dead before the day ends”. He has a first hand knowledge of the sea and its creatures that he has acquired through lifetime experiences. He judges the behaviour of the marlin and of the sharks very accurately. Though he wants luck, but he believes in the techniques and skills. He says, “It is better to be lucky. But it should rather be exact”.
Santiago is not an ordinary fisherman. He loves all the creatures and forces of universe. He calls the baited fish his brother. Not only fish, but also birds, wind and sea are regarded as friends by him. He thinks that man is never alone on the sea. He thinks that killing the fish was perhaps a sin. But he argues that everyone was killing someone else and survival of the fittest was the law nature.
Santiago has a sportsman spirit and takes very keen interest in the baseball. He reads sports column in the newspapers and talks about it with great zeal. During his fishing adventure he wishes to have a radio to listen news about the matches. When weak and exhausted during his struggle with sharks he remembers how Di Maggio, a great baseball hero could continue playing in spite of pain in the spur bone.
He attaches great value to valour and courage than resulting victory. He appreciates the noble struggle of the marlin. But he challenges the huge marlin with the remarks, “I will tell him what a man can do and what he can endure.” He knows that the marlin is superior to him in all aspects except intelligence. The marlin does not know that there is a single handed, weak old man with whom he has to fight. During his fight and struggle with the sharks he knows that he cannot fight and kill all the sharks and the loss of the marlin is inevitable. He wishes not to have killed the marlin. He condemns himself again and again for going beyond the ordinary fishing boundary yet he does not give up the struggle and determines of fight with them until death.
There are men and men but every stone is not a gem. In fact, he is the epitome of noble human characteristics. The brave manner of facing danger and fighting till death is the moral lesson he wants to convey to the readers. The greatness of man should not be measured by the mere achievement of his result but by the strength of his spiritual.