Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | MonkeyNotes
THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
You might be reminded of an older person in your life to whom you owe a lot and whom you genuinely love. And you might also think of some times when this same person needed you. Or you might anticipate a time when this person will depend on you for some things-even a time when, in some ways, he or she will be helpless.
That's the situation we now encounter when Santiago and Manolin move from the beach to the Terrace, a restaurant or cafe. The old man has no money to buy a refreshment after his unsuccessful day's work or even fresh bait for tomorrow's work.
The boy buys both-a beer and two sardines. We see the depth of his attachment to Santiago when the boy says that if necessary he would have stolen the sardines.
Note the old man's response: "Thank you." Nothing more. Just, "Thank you." This is not so much Hemingway's simplicity of style as it is his way of telling us a great deal about the old man. Someone else-a different old man-might have delivered a semi-apologetic speech with things like "I'll make it up to you somehow," "It won't always be like this," and "I can't get over what you're doing for me."
Santiago simply says, "Thank you." Hemingway explains why. Santiago has "attained humility." He knows that accepting help when needed is "not disgraceful" and carries "no loss of true pride."
This small scene makes a great springboard for thinking about ideas like independence and self-reliance and whether they can be carried too far. Santiago obviously hasn't spent his life sponging off other people. In fact, we'll find that in many ways he's fiercely independent. Yet he can accept aid quietly, naturally, and without feeling bad about himself.
NOTE: FALSE PRIDE VS. TRUE PRIDE
Are there times when we refuse help even though we need it? More importantly, if we do refuse, why? Loss of pride, no doubt. But Hemingway's Santiago accepts help from a boy because he feels there's no loss of true pride, and that brings up a very good question: what's the difference between false and true pride?
At the end of their conversation at the Terrace, the old man gives us the first hint that tomorrow will be different. He is not going to work the usual fishing waters. He is going far out. And he says something that will come back almost as a challenge later in the story: "I am a strange old man."