The Old Man and the Sea

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Friendship Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Resistance to Defeat Theme Icon
Pride Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Youth and Age Theme Icon
Man and Nature Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Old Man and the Sea, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Friendship Theme Icon

The friendship between Santiago and Manolin plays a critical part in Santiago's victory over the marlin. In return for Santiago's mentorship and company, Manolin provides physical support to Santiago in the village, bringing him food and clothing and helping him load his skiff. He also provides emotional support, encouraging Santiago throughout his unlucky streak. Although Santiago's "hope and confidence had never gone," when Manolin was present, "they were freshening as when the breeze rises." And once he encounters the marlin, Santiago refuses to accept defeat because he knows Manolin would be disappointed in him.

Yet most of the novella takes place when Santiago is alone. Except for Manolin's friendship in the evenings, Santiago is characterized by his isolation. His wife has died, and he lives and fishes alone. Even so, just as he refuses to give in to death, he refuses to give in to loneliness. Santiago finds friends in other creatures. The flying fish are "his principal friends on the ocean," and the marlin, through their shared struggle, becomes his "brother." He calls the stars his "distant friends," and thinks of the ocean as a woman he loves. Santiago talks to himself, talks to his weakened left hand, and imagines Manolin sitting next to him. In the end, these friendships—both real and imagined—prevent Santiago from pitying himself. As a result, he has the support to achieve what seems physically impossible for an old man.

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Friendship ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Friendship appears in each chapter of The Old Man and the Sea. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Friendship Quotes in The Old Man and the Sea

Below you will find the important quotes in The Old Man and the Sea related to the theme of Friendship.
Day One Quotes
"There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you."
Related Characters: Manolin (speaker), Santiago
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Manolin's adoration for Santiago is clear throughout the story, and we know Manolin only stopped fishing with the old man because his parents thought Santiago cursed to never catch another fish.

We learn that Santiago taught Manolin everything the boy knows about fishing, and here Manolin's pride at being an apprentice to the old master shows. It's also a reassurance to Santiago, who is made fun of by many of the younger and more successful fishermen. Despite the fact that these other men seem to catch fish almost every day, while Santiago hasn't caught anything in eighty-four days, Manolin's commitment to Santiago is unbreakable.

As we learn throughout the story, Manolin is the closest thing Santiago has to a friend. And, because Santiago's wife has died, Manolin is also the closest thing the old man has to family.

Hemingway writes in many of his novels and stories about "good" and "great" men, and there's a characteristic bravado to Manolin's statement. It never becomes clear whether or not Santiago is really the best fisherman, but in Manolin's eyes he's a singular talent.


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He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy.
Related Characters: Santiago, Manolin
Related Symbols: Lions
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

By using all these terms of negation (like "no longer" and "nor") to list things Santiago used to dream about, Hemingway creates a strong sense of all the experiences Santiago has had in his long life. Though the list evokes some nostalgia, it seems like Santiago's feelings resolve toward the end of this passage to a contentment with what he has lost and what he currently has.

The bravado of Hemingway's male characters emerges again, as we notice the things that Santiago once dreamed of: storms, women, great occurrences, great fish, fights, contests of strength, and his wife. In the world of these fishermen, and probably in Hemingway's mind too, these are the things that allow a man to assert his manliness. This mention of "contests of strength" points to the passage where Santiago arm-wrestles another man for an entire day.

It's important not only that Santiago is a man, but also that he's an old man. The other fishermen see Santiago as an old man, but he wants them to see him as a man just like them-- or better than them. If Santiago can wrestle in the big marlin, he'll prove to all the other fishermen he's still on top of their hierarchy.

And yet Santiago no longer dreams of these things. Maybe he just doesn't care too much what the others think of him now. His dreams of lions seem to emerge from memories of working on ships off the coast of Africa, far back in his past, and something about this choice of memories makes it seem like part of Santiago wants to retire from the difficulty and competitiveness of fishing and escape far away. Hemingway loves to write about lions, and they're an important element of many of his most well-known short stories.

Day Three Quotes
"Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends."
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

The dichotomy within Santiago-- that he must kill and sell this marlin in order to live, but also loves, admires, and identifies with the fish-- keeps coming up. Santiago realizes that he needs to make a living and that he may be able to kill the fish even though he loves it, but he never quite seems to fully resolve his worries.

Both Santiago and the marlin are unwilling to give up. They are both extremely determined to win the battle, but Santiago wants to exhaust the fish and kill him by sunset. Even in his old age, Santiago will not give up; even in his toughest fishing expedition ever he'll find a victory of some sort.

Day Four Quotes
You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in his battle with the marlin, Santiago begins for the first time to acknowledge the possibility that the marlin might win. He oscillates throughout the rest of the story between believing he can catch the marlin and make it back ashore, and fearing that he's taken on more than he can handle.

Like in his arm-wrestling match, Santiago realizes that his opponent has just as much of a right and a chance to win as he does. This humility is probably in part what encourages Santiago to work so hard at what he does.

But there's something special about this fish in particular that makes Santiago acknowledge his equal chance of winning and losing. For this fish is greater, more beautiful, calmer, and more noble than any Santiago has ever seen. This is a bit of a mini-lesson in Hemingway's writing style, as he strings together common superlatives to emphasize the almost unutterable greatness of the creature hooked on Santiago's fishing line.

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?
Related Characters: Santiago (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Marlin
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

With the worst of his trials behind him, Santiago begins to question himself and his motives in killing the fish. Throughout the four days of pursuing and trying to wear down the fish, Santiago develops a real connection to it. Now that he has won the battle and killed the marlin, Santiago has second thoughts. He knows fishermen take pride in the size of their catches, and wonders if it might be wrong to do so.

Santiago tells himself it isn't wrong to kill the fish as long as he loves it. This might be a bit of inherited wisdom, something he has learned along the way. He quickly questions this too: might it be even worse to kill a creature when you love it? Given his near-absolute certainty as a fisherman and a navigator, it is a bit unnerving to see Santiago so unsure of himself. This journey has taken so much out of him that his mind goes places it wouldn't normally go. Or maybe Santiago is no longer interested in this kind of prideful fishing, and we are looking on as he finishes his final fishing trip.

Day Five Quotes
"How much did you suffer?"
"Plenty," the old man said.
Related Characters: Manolin (speaker)
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

The depth of the connection between Santiago and Manolin shows in this short dialogue between them. Manolin intuits that Santiago must have suffered greatly at sea for multiple days, having seen the massive fish skeleton left ashore. But, by asking Santiago how much he has suffered, Manolin tries to get the old man to talk about whatever happened over the past four days.

Santiago doesn't take the bait, and either out of humility or pure exhaustion doesn't want to discuss his struggles. This humility again suggests the Jesus-like character of Santiago. It is presumed that Jesus suffers greatly in the Biblical story, but he refuses to complain about the pain or say much of anything against the men who kill him. Santiago alludes to the fact that he suffered "plenty" at sea, but doesn't go into greater detail.

"To hell with luck," the boy said. "I'll bring the luck with me."
Related Characters: Manolin (speaker)
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

Manolin, eager since the beginning of the book to rejoin Santiago aboard his unlucky skiff, is even more excited about the idea after the old man makes it back ashore from his arduous journey. Still Santiago worries that he has bad luck.

It seems unlikely that Santiago actually thinks himself unlucky, given that he continues to go to sea every single day and even discusses buying a lottery ticket before leaving on his big expedition. Instead, Santiago's worry about his "bad luck" is probably more a worry about how Manolin's parents will react if the boy tells his parents he wants to return to working with the old man.

Manolin's response shows a sort of recklessness, but also suggests he might not really believe in luck either. (Most people who really believe in luck probably wouldn't curse luck itself!) But his eagerness to work with Santiago also provides a sort of hope at the end of the story, that they might indeed work together again and that Santiago might have an easier future out at sea.