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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

THE SECOND DAY

Incredibly, the fish at early morning of the second day is not tiring. It's been hooked and has been towing the skiff for approximately eighteen hours. And they're still headed north. Although the force of the Gulf Stream current will carry them somewhat to the east as well, the fish is not yielding to the current.

There seems to be one good thing going. The fish is swimming at a lesser depth. Santiago can tell by the slant of the line going out from the boat into the water.

It brings up the possibility that the fish might be ready to make a jump. Santiago badly wants this to happen. He even calls for divine assistance ("God let him jump."), although it seems to be said rather mechanically.

It's important that the fish jump, even though handling the event will bring a greater challenge. But if the fish never jumps and never fills the sacs along its backbone with air, it could finally die deep down in the ocean, and there's no way Santiago could lift that monstrous body-quite literally a dead weight-up from the bottom.

No, the fish must be brought to the surface, close to the skiff, and harpooned. It's the only way. For that to happen, Santiago has to make it jump.

The way to do that is to increase tension on the line. But when Santiago tries, he finds it's impossible. "He felt the harshness as he leaned back to pull...." In other words, there's no more "give" left in the line. It's already stretched to the breaking point. He reminds himself to be careful never to jerk the line, either. Not only would that risk breaking the line with the suddenly increased tension, but it would also open the cut in the fish, making it easier for the hook to come loose.


Now we get a real mixture in Santiago's next little speech addressed to the fish. It demonstrates how complex his relationship to the fish really is, beneath the surface simplicity of two opponents in a contest.

He says he respects the fish "very much." That we already know. He also says he loves it. And he says he's going to kill it before the day is over.

Admiration for the awesome size and strength of the fish, yes. That's understandable. And previously he's felt pity for the great fish. That's understandable too. But love, combined with a determined vow to kill the loved one? That's strange. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn't.

This can't be the classic "love-hate" relationship, where intense dislike of certain things about a person can exist side by side with love. And it's not an alternation between love and hate. Santiago isn't even angry with the fish!

Perhaps we have an unanswerable question here, but it certainly invites speculation. Since neither Hemingway nor Santiago uses words lightly, how does Santiago mean the word "love" here?

Because he has talked aloud to himself, to the fish, and to no one in particular, it strikes us as perfectly normal when Santiago engages in (for him) a rather wordy monologue to a small, tired bird which lights on the stern of his skiff, then moves to the line. It starts with small talk, the kind people sometimes use with animals. Santiago wants to know how old the bird is and whether it's been this way before. The bird, of course, doesn't answer, but it looks at Santiago and he can tell the bird is extremely tired.

The old man assures it that the line is safe for birds to perch on. In fact, it's "too steady," meaning that there is, if anything, too much tension on the line.

Next he nearly scolds the bird for being so tired, since the previous night out on the sea hadn't been windy and thus difficult to fly in. "What are birds coming to?" he asks.

He asks the question in one sense (birds aren't as tough as they used to be), but then he mentally answers it in a different sense, a very literal one. What are birds such as this one coming to?

To the hawks, that's what. To other creatures that will prey upon them. But that's part of Santiago's world view of things simply being what they are, and so one does "what a man must do." Or what a bird or a fish must do-a bird or a fish worthy of the name. Santiago tells the bird to rest and then take its chances "like any man or bird or fish."

There's a rich yet simple attitude toward life in Santiago's little pep talk to the small bird. A creature has to take its chances. But chances against what? Well, for birds, there are almost always bigger birds. For fish, there are almost always bigger fish... or fishermen.

Against what does a man take chances? Santiago doesn't give us an answer, but you might try to formulate one that fits with what you know of him. And you might try to answer the question for yourself.

Reverting to his original person-to-animal small talk, Santiago invites the bird to stay at his house if he reaches the shore and apologizes for not being able to take the bird there himself. "But I am with a friend."

As in previous instances, Santiago goes from light to heavy. In this case, it's from small talk with a bird to articulating this semi-mystical relationship with a huge fish. The fish is a friend, a respected, loved friend whom Santiago has vowed to defeat and kill. Maybe you've had a wound or injury that gave you steady pain which you accustomed yourself to, until suddenly it throbbed and sent out a jolt of fresh pain, making you jerk or flinch. This is what happens to the fish now. The sudden lurch of the fish throws Santiago down onto the bow of the boat, cutting his right hand, and lets him know that the fish is becoming more desperate, feeling more pain.

The old man slices meat from the tuna he caught and, as he begins to eat, realizes that his left hand has become tightly cramped. It seems strange that he didn't realize it until now, since obviously it didn't just happen in an instant. But the constant, unending demand to keep the muscles tensed, the locked position of the hand on the line, and the continuing dull pain have made the cramp come imperceptibly. Suddenly he realizes it's there.

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