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THE THIRD DAY (continued)

Objectively, he's right, by the traditional standards of Judeo-Christian theology. Not to hope is to lack trust in the Almighty. But only if the doubt concerns salvation itself, or the power of the Almighty to love and forgive. Santiago isn't doubting that, is he? He's only doubting the possibility of bringing the marlin to shore. Or in this story are they one and the same?

Don't think about sin, he tells himself. It's a silly undertaking because you're not equipped to think about it and you have enough to do without trying to sort out sin.

Yet he thinks about it anyway, particularly that it might have been sinful to kill the fish. Remember his earlier outlook that being a fisherman and therefore killing the marlin was simply what he was born to do. (Things just are what they are.) In that case, does he have no choice but to sin-since he is what he is and what he does is sinful? Does that make some kind of sense with his next thought, "But then everything is a sin"?

He reminds himself again not to think about sin and keeps doing so anyway. Now he questions his motives for killing the fish. Perhaps the taint of sin is there, and he reflects that his motive wasn't just survival-get a fish to get money to get food.

"You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman." Now there's an outside chance that a particularly strict view of holiness might cite the former as sinful; pride has often been cited as the root of all sin. But being a fisherman? In other words, being what you are-that made it sinful?

There's not much hope for sainthood in this view, is there? Analyze it; compare it with your views. Is the aging Santiago basically in the same class as the young hoodlum with "born to raise hell" tattooed on his shoulder?

Perhaps there's a way out of this sinfulness: he loved the fish, both before and after killing it. Love for the victim might erase the sinfulness of killing it. Or make it worse, he reflects a moment later.

Good, evil, love, hate. They are at the heart of life, aren't they? So it's not surprising, particularly if this story is any kind of an allegory at all, that they're surfacing rather prominently here.

The sharks arrive now, two of them, just as we knew they would. They're not the more respectable mako sharks but galanosshovel-nosed, scavenger sharks. Cowardly, sneaky and very definitely not noble.

Is this, perhaps, sin? A symbol of sin? On the one hand they're going to ravage the noble marlin, an act which could serve as evidence for their sinfulness. On the other hand, the sharks are simply being what they are; that's a piece of evidence for the other position.

A much referred to paragraph is coming next: "Ay," he said aloud. There is no translation for this word and perhaps it is just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood.

There's no doubt about that one, is there? Perhaps it's safer to say that there's no doubt about the reference, the crucified Christ. Does this make Santiago a Christ figure? There will be some further evidence for this view when Santiago finally returns to his shack in the middle of the night. Many people believe the connection is obvious and it's a closed case.

There's a nagging question, though. If Santiago is a Christ, a savior, what on earth is he saving here? Certainly not the marlin. Himself? We'll return to this consideration shortly.

Santiago is able to kill the two galanos with the knife lashed to the butt of the oar, but not before they've done what they came for. A fourth of the great marlin is now gone, and it sends Santiago into another wave of guilt.

"I'm sorry about it, fish. It makes everything wrong." The obvious question is, What's the "it"? The attack of the galanos? He has little control over that, and they're being what they are.

It's treachery again. Santiago returns to his previous guilt feelings about being treacherous, violating the rules of the game. "I shouldn't have gone out so far, fish."

Overstepping one's bounds. Does that perhaps tie in with his recent mention of pride-perhaps sinful pride?


Assuming for a moment that this is the case, let's try to think of some instances where a person attempts too much (goes out too far) and in doing so causes harm (evil).

A young athlete who pours his or her entire life into becoming the best, setting a new record-and in doing so wrecks relationships with family and friends: would that be an example? What about a business person attempting too much success, wrecking family ties and borrowing too much money to make the great venture go? Are these contemporary parallels to Santiago who rowed far out beyond the normal fishing waters of the Havana harbor?

Again assuming that your answer tends to be "yes," the really big question still remains: is that sinful, morally evil? Or just an unfortunate but excusable error in judgment?

There's a practical side to this developing tragedy, of course, and Santiago returns to it. "He was a fish to keep a man all winter." Food versus near starvation. That's being decided here also, along with an these abstract considerations.

More galanos. Half the marlin is gone now. Darkness is approaching and this, we sense, is more than simple lack of sunlight. As John's Gospel notes, when Judas leaves to set in motion the chain of events leading to the crucifixion: "it was night" (JN 13:30).

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