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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

THE THIRD NIGHT

"Half fish," Santiago said. "Fish that you were." It sounds mildly Shakespearean. He continues with another apology for going out too far. "I ruined us both." This statement invites the question of how Santiago has been ruined. (And was it defeat or destruction?)

He toys with the idea that the fish and he could have been teammates-in fact, have been teammates. Together they've killed several sharks: the fish by attracting them, the man by dealing the deathblows.

Is Santiago already dead too? For a moment he thinks he might be. He isn't physically, of course. The pain in his shoulders tells him that. But in another way?


The galanos come again, not so strangely around midnight, the traditional hour of evil. Santiago fights them with a club, but a shark grabs it and strips him of that. He pulls the tiller of the skiff free from the rudder and makes it a weapon. It breaks and he fights with the splintered end and then even that is gone.

But so are the galanos. And so is the marlin. Is Santiago? Is he gone too now? There's a strange taste in his mouth, "coppery and sweet." Blood? He spits into the ocean, telling the galanos to "make a dream you've killed a man."

It's possible to see the coppery taste and Santiago's brief speech to the galanos as evidence that they have killed him, that he is actually headed for death from the physical drain of this experience or from some internal injury he has sustained because of it. This isn't a common view, however. Death, if there is one, is usually considered symbolic or mystical and it invites the question, "Precisely what has died?" His pride? Ambition? His meaning? What defeated (killed?) him?

"Nothing," he answers to the question, meaning nothing else, nothing in the world he lives in. If anything, it was himself. "I went out too far."

It's the middle of the night when he arrives at the harbor. Carrying the mast (the cross?), he struggles to his shack, falling during his journey, another obvious allusion to Christ. Too obvious, in some opinions. Is Hemingway being beautifully simple here? Or is he playing games?

Whatever, he isn't finished with it. He puts Santiago to bed in a strange crucifixion pose: face down, arms out, palms up. One commentator has suggested that this combination is almost physically impossible.

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