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Skill in The Old Man and the Sea

Instructor: Joe Ricker

Joe has a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Skill in ''The Old Man and the Sea'' is shown through Santiago's determination to change his luck as a fisherman, and to land the biggest catch of his life.

Skill of the Unlucky

When Santiago sets sail in his skiff at the beginning of The Old Man and the Sea, he has gone 84 days without catching a fish. His lack of success brands him as extremely unlucky by the other local fishermen. Despite this, Santiago knows that his skill as a fisherman will eventually break his streak of bad luck, and he sets out to go farther out to sea than the rest of the fisherman in his village will dare to venture. Hemingway illustrates skill through Santiago's struggle to catch an enormous marlin and how he attempts to defend his catch against sharks. Santiago's frequent references to the great Joe DiMaggio also present skill as Santiago compares his struggle to that of the Yankees baseball player's perfection.

Santiago believed DiMaggio was perfect in his skill as a baseball player.
Joe DiMaggio

The Fish

It takes Santiago three days to land the marlin. The marlin is the biggest fish that Santiago has ever seen, and his struggle to catch it is indicative of his skill. Santiago has been a fisherman for most of his life. His age, and the fact that he is alone so far out to sea, leave him with nothing to depend on for success except his skill and dedication. From the moment the marlin takes Santiago's bait, the old man knows exactly what to do. He knows when to set his hook, how much tension to keep on the line without letting the fish break it, and that when the fish is tired enough, that he will be able to pull it in. He also knows how the fish will behave through this ordeal: when it will dive and run and how it will begin to circle the boat when it tires out. There is also a period where Santiago is literally doing this single-handed because his left hand is injured and cramps up. Santiago even states:

'If he cramps again let the line cut him off.'

Santiago's skill in fishing is continually compared to his hero, the great DiMaggio. Santiago knows that he is a skilled fisherman, but his humility comes through as he compares his struggle to how the great DiMaggio struggles to be a perfect baseball player. This aspect of skill comes through with Santiago's focus on the player's perfection. Santiago states:

'But I must have 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.'

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