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We know, we know – what in the world is a bone spur? In short, it’s a painful injury DiMaggio had in his heel right around the time The Old Man and the Sea takes place. DiMaggio ended up being completely successful despite his handicap – kind of like the old man. DiMaggio becomes a symbol for withstanding pain, for endurance throughout suffering, to achieve the impossible and lots of other grand notions the old man emulates.
One recurring symbol in the novel is that of DiMaggio, the partially handicapped baseball player, who often figures in the old man’s waking thoughts, as well as in his dreams. DiMaggio inspires him with leadership qualities and the determination to win, in spite of handicaps. When his left hand cramps and he feels drained of his strength, the old man reminds himself of the painful bone spur that handicaps the great DiMaggio. The image of the baseball hero playing in pain gives Santiago renewed vigor and stamina to bear his own pain.
The everyday, common man hero of "The Old Man and the Sea" is the OLD MAN, not Joe DiMaggio. Hemmingway intentionally contrasts the aged, arthitic, subsistence fisherman who lives in and overcomes a world of pain against the prima donna DiMaggio who is paid more per season to play a game providing entertainment than the Old Man will earn in his lifetime of fishing. The Old Man can not take a day off from his work without starving. In the previous paragraph, the flesh of Old Man's hand is cut by the fishing line to the bone: "YOUCH!" Meanwhile, DiMaggio can take most of the baseball season off with pay! The current treatment for a bone spur is taking an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen. Bone spurs are a minor, and often fictitious (see Donald Trump's draft deferments) ailment.
Hemmingway is mocking the culture and society which elevates entertainers to heroic status while ignoring and devaluing the truly heroic amongst us, even to the point that the Old Man devalues himself and looks up to his mythic hero: DiMaggio.