Hero of the Novel

The hero of the novel is an old man. His name is Santiago. He is a born fisherman. He lives in a coastal village near Havana. He is not a common angler. He hooks big fish like Dolphin, Marlin and Shark. He is strong and gaunt. His eyes are of sea colour. He has no relations and lives alone. A boy, Manolin looks after him. He fishes in Gulf Stream with the help of a small skiff. He has simple and cheap fishing apparatus. The boy, Manolin helps him in fetching the apparatus to and from his shack. His shack is made of sturdy fibred guano. There is a table, a chair, a bed covered with newspapers and an army blanket in his shack. He has decorated the walls of his shack with the pictures of Jesus Christ and Virgin of Cobre. His shirt as well as the sail of his skiff is patched with floor sack. His sail is so tattered that the writer calls it “The flag of permanent defeat”. The people call him “salao” because of his continuous hard luck. He has been without fish for eighty-four days. For the first forty days the boy, Manolin was with him but then his parents send him to another boat because they have become fed up with his skiff that always returns empty. The boy Manolin loves him very much and does not want to leave him but he is bound to obey his parents. Now he tries to help the old man by serving him with food, beer and sardines (for bait). The old man is an ordinary sailor but the light of determination in his eyes makes him someone special. He calls himself “A Strange Old Man”. He is no doubt a strange old man so far as his courage and endurance is concerned. After eighty-four desperate days of fruitless struggle he is still ready to test his luck and to go fishing to regain his reputation as a successful fisherman and also to remove the slur of being Salao. Following are some of the important aspects of his character that make him hero of the novel and representative of the whole human race:

• His loneliness:
Santiago, the hero is leading a life of loneliness. He is leading his life courageously. He has formed the habit of talking to himself overcome his feeling of loneliness. He thought aloud and talked to himself to console and comfort himself. He has put the photograph of his wife under his clean shirt in the corner because it makes him too lonely. His cry during the heroic struggle, “I wish I had the boy. To help me and to see this” indicates his feeling. He talks to sea, to fish and to the bird.

• His passion of love:

The writer wants to show that need of a companion is natural. A man can live alone but cannot avoid feeling lonely. The old man is kind hearted and loving by nature. His behaviour with the boy indicates his love. He even loves the birds that could not catch any fish. He invites a bird to take rest in his skiff. He thinks that fish are man’s brother. He feels sorry for the huge Marlin, as he says when he was trying to beat the fish he says

His expertise:
The old man is not only a fisherman par excellence but also a confident explorer of the sea. He is one of those very few people who stand in no need of the conventional apparatus like a compass or a wireless set for guidance. He can locate his position in any part of the sea with the help of trade wind. When the fish drags him into the high seas, he is not at all afraid. Another fisherman in his place would have cut off the line and sailed back, but he says, “Fish I will stay with you until I am dead”. He is so daring not because of stupidity but because of his sound knowledge and his well placed confidence.

• His sense of humour:
The conversation between Santiago and Manolin is lighthearted and perfectly enjoyable. His address to the bird especially his remarks “what the birds are coming to,” his taunts and threats to his own left hand. His promises to say, “Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s” as well as his remarks “consider them said” are all very amusing. He says to the second shark, “Go and see your friend or may be it’s your mother,” and he says to himself “you talk too much old man,” are all humorous.

• His Reveries:
The old man is alone on the sea. The boy Manolin has been taken away from him and he has no radio to bring him baseball or music. Quite naturally, he takes to self-communing. His deliberations sometimes become his reveries or a vocal stream of the subconscious. Although talking during fishing is injudicious yet he cannot help doing so. He talks to the bird that alights upon his line to take rest, to the hand as it cramps. His conversation on these occasions is amusing and witty and at the same time thought provoking.

• His dreams:
The writer has employed symbolism to convey his message completely.

• • •

His struggle: His optimism: His unscathed pride: His symbolic significance: His sense of religion: His past memories: His confidence: His resolution:

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