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Santiago knows it is a hart life but he can do nothing else. He is married to the sea (I know that's an old one!) and it has ruined his old body but he simply likes it.
Page 27) "He was sorry for the birds, especially the small, delicate dark terns that were always flying and looking and almost never finding, and he thought, the birds have a harder life than we do....."
The Old Man and the Sea