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I love the end of the novel because it signifies hope. Manolin is there when Santiago is at his lowest.... he boosts him up, gives him something to look forward to, and most importantly.... he affords the old man companionship. Santiago accomplished a great feat, even if it came to a tragic end.
If you're referring to the last scene, however, the female tourist represents the feminine incapacity to appreciate Santiago's masculine quest. For her, the marlin skeleton, a phallic symbol, is just "garbage waiting to go out with the tide" (127). She does not speak the waiter and Santiago's language, and so is ignorant of the old man's great deeds. Her misunderstanding is simple enough, but the fact that she is the only actual female character in the novel and that this episode appears on the last page gives it added significance.