Pride is often depicted as negative attribute that causes people to reach for too much and, as a result, suffer a terrible fall. After he kills the first shark, Santiago, who knows he killed the marlin "for pride," wonders if the sin of pride was responsible for the shark attack because pride caused him to go out into the ocean beyond the usual boundaries that fishermen observe. Santiago immediately dismisses the idea, however, and the events of The Old Man and the Sea support his conviction that pride is not the cause of his difficulties.
In fact, Santiago's pride is portrayed as the single motivating force that spurs him to greatness. It is his pride that pushes him to survive three grueling days at sea, battling the marlin and then the sharks. Yet it is important to recognize that Santiago's pride is of a particular, limited sort. Pride never pushes him to try to be more than he is. For instance, when Manolin tells him, "The best fisherman is you," early in the story, Santiago humbly disagrees. Rather, Santiago takes pride in being exactly what he is, a man and a fisherman, and his struggle can be seen as an effort to be the best man and fisherman that he can be. As he thinks in the middle of his struggle with the marlin, he must kill the marlin to show Manolin "what a man can do and what a man endures." Santiago achieves the crucial balance between pride and humility—that "[humility] was not disgraceful and it carried no true loss of pride."