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FREE SUMMARY FOR THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
SECTION 11 - The Perilous Journey Home
There is nothing in the environment around the old man to warn him of danger. There are clouds in the sky and a light breeze that will probably last all night. Santiago is totally unprepared for the appearance of the sharks. The first comes about an hour after he has begun his homeward journey. They then arrive in such rapid succession that the old man has no control even though he battles desperately to save his fish.
The sharks are attracted by blood of the giant fish and come to the surface from the depths of the sea. They arrive with break-neck speed and without warning. The first to arrive is a huge Mako Shark, the fastest fish in the sea. Everything about him is beautiful except his jaws, which contain eight rows of slanted, razor-sharp teeth, shaped like a manís fingers. He is clearly the master of the sea, able to devour any enemy.
When Santiago sees the first shark, he does not lose heart. With characteristic precision, he prepares his harpoon, making the rope fast and never taking his eyes off the new enemy. Unfortunately, he does not have much rope, for it has been used to tie up the giant fish. Although the old man senses that his efforts are useless, he refuses to sit idle and watch the shark snatching away his prize. With determination, Santiago strikes the shark between its eyes. It dies after biting off nearly forty pounds of the giant fish and stealing the harpoon and rope.
When the Mako Shark bites into the fish, it starts bleeding once again. The old man knows that now more sharks will come and attack it. He accepts this fact of nature without anger or disappointment. However, when he looks at the beautiful giant marlin, now partially mutilated, he feels as though he himself is being destroyed. His only satisfaction comes in having killed the Mako Shark.
For a moment, Santiago lets negative thoughts enter his mind, as he wishes that the giant fish were only a dream and that he were home in his hut. Immediately, he pulls himself out of his misery, saying that a man is not made for defeat; he can be destroyed, but not defeated. He knows his only choice is to continue his journey towards home and to take everything as it comes his way. With his usual cheerful optimism, he tells himself that with every minute, he is closer to home; he also thinks he will be able to sail faster, for the giant fish now weighs forty pounds less.
Never wanting to be unprepared, Santiago lashes his knife to the butt of one of his oars. It will be his weapon against the next sharks. He knows he cannot win the battle and that his fish is doomed, but he wills himself to have hope, believing that hopelessness is a sin.
In this section, Hemingway divides the natural world between good and evil, black and white; there is always tension between the two. Until this point in the novel, everything in nature has been harmonious. Even though the giant marlin was a strong and powerful adversary, it was not evil; in fact Santiago identified with it as a brother and admired its strength and determination. Now Hemingway introduces the sharks, creatures of evil who master the sea in a deadly manner. Santiago has little chance of saving his fish from their powerful and hungry jaws. But he will not give up, for hopelessness is a sin.
This section also contains the climax of the plot. Until the appearance of the first shark, it seems that Santiago will go home to his village a real victor, and the story will end as a comedy. The other fishermen will praise him for the giant fish that he has caught all by himself, and the meat from the marlin will bring the old man a handsome sum of money. When the Mako Shark attacks the marlin and steals away Santiagoís harpoon, the plot suddenly changes, and the tragic nature of the tale becomes apparent. Up until the climax, the old man is engaged in an equal battle with nature. If the giant fish has strength, then Santiago has wits. If the marlin has nobility, the old man has tricks. If it has animal splendor, Santiago matches it with human endeavor. But, his battle with the sharks is an uneven one, for the sharks are the deadliest creatures in the sea; even Santiagoís resourcefulness is no match against them. The confident Santiago knows he cannot successfully battle the sharks and will lose his trophy.
Santiago refuses to give up hope or accept defeat. After losing his harpoon, he fashions a weapon with his knife tied to an oar. He fights the sharks nobly and bravely; in so doing, Santiago wins his inward journey. In his outward battle with the sharks, the old manís prize may be destroyed, but nothing can defeat his heart, the symbol of his inward journey.