"Have faith in the Yankees my son. Think of the great Joe DiMaggio."
Santiago says this to Manolin during their conversation in his shack. They speak of baseball before Manolin goes to fetch the sardines for bait for the next day, and Santiago's admiration for DiMaggio is apparent. DiMaggio becomes a symbol both of manhood and of overcoming strife for Santiago the next day while he is battling the great marlin. He cuts his hand and thinks about how Joe DiMaggio keeps playing despite the handicap of a bone spur; this gives him the strength to catch the fish.
"There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you."
Manolin says this to Santiago before he goes to bed, comparing him to Joe DiMaggio in his unique skill. The old man has said that he knows fishermen who are better than himself, but Manolin points out that Santiago stands alone among fishermen. This is certainly not because of luck - it has been a long time since he has caught any fish - but because of the relationship he has with the sea; one of respect and unity.
"They are good... They play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish."
Santiago says this of the porpoises who come to the side of his boat in the night. He has been feeling lonely and thinking to himself that nobody should be alone in their old age; he lost his wife long ago and now wishes he had Manolin with him on the boat. But the porpoises come as a couple, as a representation of love and to give Santiago strength. He sees them as brothers, like he sees every creature of the sea, including the fish he has hooked.
"Fish... I'll stay with you until I am dead."
Santiago says this to the marlin he has hooked after it makes a lurch forward in the middle of the night. He has a lot of line left, so he is at an advantage against the fish. But he knows it will drain him of his strength to trail the fish until it loses energy and eventually dies, so Santiago says this to express his commitment to that task. Either he will die or the fish will die, or both.
"Fish... I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends."
Santiago says this to the fish before the bird approaches his boat for a chat. He talks to the fish as if it is his equal in battle, and he has great respect for it as a noble creature. He speaks of his commitment to fulfilling his job as a fisherman, because it is more than a job - it is his entire life. All that Santiago is as a man is wrapped up in his task of killing the marlin and bringing it home. Loving and respecting it is not mutually exclusive with killing it.
"He didn't beat you. Not the fish."
Manolin says this to Santiago after Santiago has returned home, having lost the fish and slept through the night. In the morning, Santiago tells Manolin that "They truly beat me." But he is talking about the sharks who ate the fish after he caught it. It wasn't the fish who beat him - the fish and he were brothers in his eyes, and he feels like he has betrayed the fish by letting it be eaten by the scavenging sharks.
"I didn't know sharks had such handsome, beautifully formed tails."
At the end of the story, a female tourist sees the skeleton of the marlin lashed to the side of the skiff on the beach. She asks a Spanish-speaking waiter what happened, and he answers, "Eshark," meaning that a shark had destroyed the fish. But she cannot understand so she thinks he means that the skeleton is that of a shark that itself had been eaten. This confusion demonstrates the distance between the average person and their opinion of the creatures of the sea and Santiago's relationship with it.
"I am a strange old man."
Santiago says this to Manolin after they finish up a day of fishing on separate boats. It is meant as an explanation for how his eyes remain so good after going turtle-ing for so many years (apparently, turtle-ing damages the eyes). But it also identifies Santiago as unique, foreshadowing the uncanny strength of will and body he will demonstrate in the days that follow as he wrestles the marlin. He is also "strange" in that, unlike most other fishermen, he feels like the creatures of the sea are his brothers.
"Anyone can be a fisherman in May."
Santiago says this to Manolin after Manolin reminds him to keep warm, since it is September. It is more difficult to be a fisherman when it is cold outside, but Santiago is up for the challenge. This quotation demonstrates the unique quality that makes a man a fisherman; in the days that follow, Santiago will struggle with his decision to make his living catching and killing fish, but there is nothing else he can do. Even though he is not successful in bringing home the meat of the marlin, he succeeds in his determination.
"If sharks come, God pity him and me."
Santiago says this aloud to himself while he trails the marlin. He is determined to be "worthy of the great DiMaggio," who is able to play baseball even with a bone spur. This quotation foreshadows the coming of the sharks who will eat all the meat of the marlin before Santiago is able to return to shore. It implies that the marlin and Santiago are one, united against the ravaging sharks. This sentiment is contrary to the battle that is staged between man and fish as Santiago tries to outlast the marlin.
The Old Man and the Sea Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Old Man and the Sea is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The Old Man made the choice to go far out to sea and fish alone. The result was the extreme physical taxation on his body and the loss of he marlin he caught but was unable to bring back in its entirety.
Gradesaver has a complete page devoted to themes addressed in The Old Man and the Sea. You can link Gradesaver's study guide for the unit at the top of the page and navigate to the theme page from there.