The protagonist of the novella, Santiago is an elderly widowed Cuban fisherman whose "luck" seems to have run out—he hasn't caught anything in 84 days. Santiago is humble in his dealings with others, yet takes great pride in his work and himself, and is frustrated and embarrassed by his failures. He views his aging body as a kind of betrayer, and fondly remembers his younger days, when he was exceptionally strong and a successful fisherman. Other than fishing, Santiago's greatest joys are the time he spends with his former apprentice, Manolin, and the time he spends talking about baseball, and, in particular, his favorite player, the "great DiMaggio." Besides Manolin, Santiago considers his only friends to be the sea, the fish, and the stars. In his conquest over the marlin, Santiago exhibits exceptional determination and endurance in the face of physical and psychological pain. Although he loses the marlin to sharks, the entire struggle constitutes a spiritual triumph in which Santiago emerges as a Christ figure.
The The Old Man and the Sea quotes below are all either spoken by Santiago or refer to Santiago. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of The Old Man and the Sea published in 1952.).
Day One Quotes
Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.
"There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you."
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.
Day Two Quotes
Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such birds that fly, dipping and hunting, with their small sad voices are made too delicately for the sea.
But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favors, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.
He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought. Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely... He cannot know that it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man.
Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either of us.
Day Three Quotes
"Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends."
The clouds were building up now for the trade wind and he looked ahead and saw a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea.
"If I were him I would put in everything now and go until something broke. But, thank God, they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able."
But I must have the confidence and I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel.
"It is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers."
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.
"God help me endure. I'll say a hundred Our Fathers and a hundred Hail Marys. But I cannot say them now."
Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all of the skiff.
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?
"A man can be destroyed but not defeated."
He stopped for a moment and looked back and saw in the reflection from the street light the great tail of the fish standing up well behind the skiff's stern. He saw the white naked line of his backbone and the dark mass of the head…
He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder.
The timeline below shows where the character Santiago appears in The Old Man and the Sea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.