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There is a primal relationship between predator and prey. Santiago has fought with this fish; it has become a worthy opponent. The fish has dragged him out to sea and he toils to capture it. In this struggle, Santiago sees not only the tenacity of the fish but his own strength and weaknesses. The fish will provide food for him and is the basis of his living. For all this Santiago respects, even loves his foe. They are, in the end, not unlike each other. This makes the eventual shark attack upon the flesh of the fish; the old man has fastened to his boat, all the more tragic.