The Old Man and the Sea

What do you think Santiago means when he calls the fish his “brother”?


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The image of a struggle between two figures alone in the great "beyond" certainly conjures an air of monumental conflict. This heroic angle is played up even more when Santiago ends these reflections by thinking, "Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman....But that was the thing I was born for" (50). Again, this emphasis on fate is typical of heroic stories, especially tragedies.

Santiago's identification with and affection for the marlin increases the longer he is with the fish. In order to convince the fish to be caught and to steel himself for his difficult task, Santiago says, "Fish... I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you before this day ends" (54). Soon after, Santiago tells the bird that has landed on his boat that he cannot help because he is "with a friend" (55). And later, Santiago goes as far as to wish that he could feed the marlin, calling it his brother.