The Old Man And The Sea

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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from "The shark was not an accident" to "The old man was dreaming about the lions."] The first shark to come is a Mako. It hits the marlin, and the old man kills it with the harpoon. The rope snaps as the shark thrashes, and the old man loses his harpoon. The marlin bleeds from fresh wounds now, and the old man knows more attacks are inevitable.

Before they come, Santiago tries to cheer himself by thinking of DiMaggio. He lashes his knife to one of the oars for a makeshift weapon. He enjoyed killing the Mako because it was a worthy opponent, a mighty and fearless predator. He has nothing but disdain, however, for the scavenging shovelnose sharks who arrive next. The old man kills them both, but not before they take a good quarter of the best meat.

He now wishes it had in fact been a dream, the whole ordeal.

He cannot bear to look at the mutilated marlin. Another shovelnose comes. The old man kills it, but loses his knife in the process. Just before nightfall, two more shovelnose approach. The old man's arsenal has been reduced to the club he uses to kill baitfish once he has pulled them onboard. He manages to club the sharks into retreat, but not before they repeatedly maul the marlin. Stiff, sore, and bone-weary, he hopes he does not have to fight any more. He even dares to imagine making it home with the half-fish that remains. His luck might change.

But, no, more sharks arrive near midnight. He fights near-blindly, striking at the sounds of jaws and fins. Something snatches his club. He breaks off the boat's tiller and brandishes it, though he realizes it is futile. At last there is no meat left. One tries to tear at the tough head of the fish, and the old man clubs the shark until the tiller splinters. He plunges the sharp edge into the shark's flesh and the beast lets go. It is the last.

The old man spits something strange into the water that frightens him for a moment. Then he settles in to steer, numb and past all feeling. He asks himself what it was that defeated him, and concludes, "Nothing." When he reaches the harbor, all lights are out and no one is near. He takes down the mast and begins to carry it up the hill to his shack. He is so tired that he must rest five times before reaching his home. The old man goes to sleep.

Some fishermen gathered around Santiago's boat measure the carcass at eighteen feet. Manolin comes to the shack the next morning, and the sight of the sleeping old man's ravaged hands brings him to tears. He goes to fetch coffee. When the old man wakes, the two talk warmly. Manolin declares that he will work with the old man again, whatever his parents might say. The two make plans, and then the old man sleeps again.

That afternoon two tourists at the terrace café mistake the great skeleton for that of a shark. The old man is still sleeping, dreaming of the lions, as the boy quietly watches over him.