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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
THE SECOND NIGHT
The fish is tiring. So is Santiago. He very much needs rest, and although he says aloud that he feels good, its not true. The pain from the cord across his back "had almost passed pain and gone into a dullness that he mistrusted." That's scary.
But he has gained on the fish in one area: he's had something to eat, and the fish hasn't. And the fish needs considerably more food than Santiago's aging body does.
He rests against the bow of the skiff, looking up at the first stars of the night. They're his "distant friends," a quite understandable description for stars in a lonely old fisherman's night. They're there, and they guide him.
"The fish is my friend too." We've heard this before and of course it's going to be linked up with the idea of killing. So Santiago says it. "But I must kill him."
Well, if a man kills one friend, what about other friends? Kill the stars? Santiago is glad that he and men in general do not have to attempt astricide. Or lunacide. His thoughts build to a point of finally being glad that people do not have to think about killing the sun too, along with the moon and the stars.
This section is ready-made for symbolism, of course. What could the potential task of killing celestial bodies stand for? Certainly the idea of impossibility leaps to mind. Is it good, according to Santiago, that we do not have to attempt things that are impossible?
Things like mortality and built-in limitation, then, come across as blessings. Be content with your (relatively) lowly state. Is that it?
Another one for you to decide. Santiago, for his part, admits he does not understand these things and reflects a final time that being free of sun, moon, and star killing is definitely a good thing.
"It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers." It's another picture of a violent world, a world where "things are simply what they are" and among these things that are is the fact that brothers kill each other. Santiago very simply accepts that condition.
He rests some more, perhaps two hours worth, although it's difficult with the late-rising moon to judge time. You probably know why he doesn't take the simple way out and simply attach the line to his skiff. He does have a towing bitt at the bow. But he can't afford to take the chance. One lurch, even a small lurch, could break the line, and the great fish would be lost.
Santiago's rest has helped a little, but it hasn't done the job. He could make himself stay awake, yes. "But it would be too dangerous."
He guts the dolphin, finding two flying fish inside it, fillets the meat, and eats half the dolphin and one of the flying fish. It's miserable, but he does it. He has to. And now he will sleep.
The picture of Santiago preparing for sleep is another passage worth reading slowly and carefully, visualizing each detail. It's not easy trying to sleep safely while holding on to a fish that weighs rather close to a ton.
He dreams first of porpoises mating and then, as usual, of the lions on the beach. It's calm, peaceful, and Santiago is happy in his sleep. He deserves to be. He needs to be. One of the great events of the story is about to happen.
Imagine being awakened by a fist to your jaw and a fire in your hand. That's roughly akin to what's happening now. The fish is making a great movement, preparing to jump, which brings Santiago's right hand slamming up into his face, while the line burns through the hand itself.
This moment is what he's waited for, hoped for, and even prayed for. The fish is jumping again and again now, and Santiago's hands are getting badly cut from the outgoing line. If Manolin were there, he could wet the reserve coils of line which now are being used and reduce the cutting friction. But if's don't count now. It's only Santiago and the fish-and the need to "prove it once more."
Over a dozen times the fish jumps, with Santiago giving line each time and getting cut more each time, while trying to keep the line taut. He has to worry about getting nauseated too, because the jerk brought his face down against the dolphin flesh. If he vomits, he'll lose strength, so he washes his face, holding the fish one-handed for a while, and waits for the next stage to begin-the circling of the fish around the skiff.
When he has a chance, he inspects his hand for damage. What he sees would probably send most of us to an all-night clinic or at least to the medicine cabinet. But his reaction is typically Santiago. "'It is not bad,' he said, 'And pain does not matter to a man.'" He cannot stomach the dolphin, which he doesn't particularly care for raw anyway; his face was in it, remember. So he eats the other flying fish and invites the next crucial stage in his great adventure.
"Let him begin to circle and let the fight come."