From the vicious mackerel sharks to the kind and thoughtful Manolin, the characters in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea speak to every element of the human condition. Much can be interpreted about the characters through the way Hemingway wrote their speech and descriptions. The male characters who carry this novel are simple. They live basic lives and spend their days contending with their most immediate needs. The village is not a rich one, and many of the residents are quite poor.
The old man about whom the novel was written. Santiago is an older Cuban fisherman who is dedicated to his profession. When the novel opens he’s in the midst of an eighty-four-day unlucky streak without catching a fish. Throughout the novel, Santiago expresses remarkable respect and love for the natural world.
As a young man, he worked on a turtle hunting vessel that traveled to Africa. His most poignant memory, to which he returns throughout ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is that of lions running and playing on the beach. The old man shares a passion for baseball, specifically the player Joe DiMaggio (the Yankee outfielder) with his young friend, Manolin.
Throughout the central conflict between Santiago and the marlin, he shows perseverance and strength that allows him to bear extended periods of pain and disappointment. His thoughts and actions carry the story. Through Hemingway’s stunted sentence structure the old man’s words and considerations come across simply and clearly.
A young boy and a close friend of Santiago. He used to work alongside the old man, helping him on his skiff, but was moved to another boat when the unlucky streak appeared to not be letting up. Manolin assists Santiago when he can and carrying his gear, finding him dinner. The boy often steals and begs in order to feed Santiago and find bait for his next day of fishing.
He’s kind, thoughtful, and as interested in fishing and baseball as Santiago is. If it was up to him, he would still be fishing with the old man. He has faith that Santiago will break his streak. When Santiago returns to land after his days at sea, Manolin once again cares for him.
A secondary character in The Old Man and the Sea. His kindness is shown through his generosity. When Manolin went out to find Santiago something to eat, Martin gave the two dinner and drinks.
A fellow resident of the village who gives Santiago newspapers to read. It is from this publication that he keeps up with baseball. The old man later gives Perico the marlin’s head.
Another man in the village who treats Santiago with kindness. He sometimes helps the old man with a fishing net.
The other fishermen in this novel are mentioned briefly. They represent an array of emotional relations to Santiago’s poverty and the eighty-four-day plight of unlucky fishing. They pity him in secret but try to remain optimistic or neutral to his face. Some treat him as though he is not suffering through this period of strife.
The eighteen-foot 1,000+ pound fish Santiago hooks and battles with over three days at sea. It was a beautiful creature, with shimmering colors along its sides and an enormous sword. Through Santiago’s narration, a reader understands the fish to be majestic, strong, and a worthy brother to humankind.
A variety of shark species, such as shovel-nosed sharks and mackerel, track Santiago’s skiff by following the marlin’s bloody trail. They attack the small vessel, tearing pieces from the fish. Santiago fights the sharks off and manages to kill a few of them. They eventually eat the entire marlin, leaving only its head, tail, skeleton, and sword.