Manolin: Character Analysis - in The Old Man And The Sea

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Manolin: The Old Man's Protege

      Manolin, the boy, is introduced to the reader along with the Old Man in the first place of the book The Old Man And The Sea. The Old Man had been fishing for eighty-four days without catching any fish and in the first forty days Manolin had been with him. But after forty days his father had declared the Old Man salao, the worst form of unlucky and ordered him to go on another boat which had caught three good fish in the first week. It always saddened the boy to see that the Old Man had yet again come in without catching anything and he always went to the shore to help him carry the coiled lines or gaff or harpoon or the sail furled around the mast. Thus, it is revealed in the first page that the boy had once been the Old Man’s fishing companion and he was now helping the Old Man in other ways though he had been forced to separate due to the circumstances surrounding the Old Man. But slowly is the course of the conversation followed by the two, the true relationship is revealed and the boy’s symbolic significance becomes clear only after the book has run its course, “The Old Man had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him.” Is the author’s comment on the next page revealing that the boy’s relationship to the Old Man is that of the protege and tutor but the boy has a deep and strong attachment for the Old Man. Later, it is further revealed that Manolin had come to the Old Man to learn fishing as a young boy of five. His respect for the Old Man was great, and now he tells the Old Man that he would now come with him again as he had made some money. And he tells the Old Man that he had left the Old Man’s boat to go with the others not because he doubted the Old Man’s skill but he obeyed his father as he was a young boy. He had faith in the Old Man whereas his father didn’t. But the Old Man doesn’t mind it. He thinks it a quite normal thing.

Like Father and Son

      That the boy is deeply devoted to the Old Man is made abundantly clear in the manner in which he takes care of all the Old Man’s needs and that the affection is more than revealed in the Old Man’s humble loving acceptance of all that the boy does. In this way, the disciple and tutor relationship transcend to a Father-Son relationship. The boy offers a beer from the fisherman’s restaurant ‘The Terrace’ and the Old Man readily accepts saying it was “between fishermen”. This reveals that the boy cares for the Old Man and is worried about his long run of bad luck. The Old Man in turn accepts it without pride. Again, following the same trend the boy offers to buy sardines for the Old Man to use as his bait the next day. He knows that the Old Man doesn’t even have bait nor the money to buy it. The Old Man refuses but the boy insists saying that he would like to serve in some way even if he couldn’t go to fishing with him. The Old Man feels that the boy has already become a man and they remember the first time when the Old Man had taken the boy fishing at the age of five. The Old Man is very pleased when the boy says, “I remember everything from when we first went together” and he looked at the boy with his sunburnt, confident loving eyes. The boy insists on getting sardines and four baits and the Old Man agrees with him and his hope and his confidence had never gone. But now they were freshening as when the breeze rises. Thus the boy refreshes the Old Man’s hope and confidence and says “Tomorrow is going to be a good day with this current.”

Santiago Loved and Admired

      Manolin loves the Old Man deeply. He therefore, tries to help him in every way he can and honors his whimsy When he reaches the Old Man’s shack, the boy asked him what he would have for dinner and the Old Man answers, “a pot of yellow rice.” Then he requests to borrow the cast net and the Old man says, “of course”. The boy fully understands that the Old Man has made up the ‘rice’ due to his self-respect and unwillingness to admit that he did not have anything to eat and that the cast net was also part of the fiction, they had already sold it. However, he lets the Old Man say as he pleases and humors his fictitious tale, going along and pretending as the Old Man. This shows his deep concern and respect for the Old Man. Then knowing that the Old Man loves baseball he encourages him to talk about baseball and listens attentively to his account. He also readily agrees with the Old Man, that the next day, the eighty-fifth day is going to be a lucky day for the Old Man. And so they should buy a terminal of the lottery with a number eighty-five. The boy agrees to order one and to borrow the required money. The boy’s love for the Old Man is evident in his cautioning the Old Man to keep warm since it was already September and the way in which he covers the sleeping Old Man with a blanket. Later he returns with supper for the Old Man, and on finding him asleep, patiently waits for the Old Man to wake up. When he gets up, he offers him to eat and when the Old Man says that he does not eat. The extent of his love comes through in his next lines. Keep the blanket around you,” the boy said. “You’ll not fish without eating while I’m alive.” It is clear that the boy has a deep regard and concern for the Old Man. He has managed to get food, black beans and rice, fried bananas, and some stew, from Martin, the owner of ‘the Terrace’ and two bottles of beer. He is so concerned that when the Old Man says that he needs time to wash the following thoughts go through his mind:

      “Where did you wash?,” the boy thought. The village water supply was two streets down the road. I must have water here for him, the boy thought, and a soap and a good towel also. Why am I so thoughtless? I must get him another shirt and a jacket for the winter and some sort of shoes and another blanket”. As he lets the Old man talk about the subjects dearest to him-baseball and Africa, to his heart's content, the boy tells him that he is the best fisherman. “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.” And further he adds his conviction and confidence in the Old Man saying that there was “no such fish” to prove it wrong that he was the best fisherman. Early the next morning again, before the old man goes out fishing, he buys him coffee, after having helped him in carrying his equipment to the skiff. The boy’s love and admiration for the Old Man is indeed touching and the Old Man returns the sentiment wholeheartedly.

The Old Man constantly Remembers the Boy

      At the point, that is when the Old Man sails out to the sea, the boy physically doesn’t appear till towards the end of the novel. However, the presence of the boy can be felt throughout the book in the Old Man’s constant references to the boy. As his fishing expedition begins, Santiago again and again remembers the boy and wishes he Was with him. He constantly remembers the boy throughout and wishes aloud for his presence at every point or some progress or handicap in his adventure. When he catches tuna and begins talking to himself he wonders when he has started talking to himself. He remembers that he used to sing when he was alone at night. Then he thinks that he had probably started to talk aloud, when alone, and when the boy had left. But he did not remember. When he and the boy fished together they usually spoke only when it was necessary. Thus, he remembers the boy and also indicates that he had been missing the boy ever since he had gone to the other boat and feels lonely without him. Later, he hooks a huge marlin and the fish instead begins to tow him. He had hooked the fish around noon. He is continuously towed and he never gets to see him. Moreover, the fish tows him without even changing his direction throughout the night. He remembers the boy “I wish I had the boy.” The Old Man said aloud, “I am being towed by a fish and I’m the towing bitt”. A little later he says, “I wish I had the boy, to help me and to sep this.” He wishes for the boy similarly quite a number of times. Here, he feels that no one should be alone in their old age and so, he remembers the boy and longs him as a companion, and to help him through his task. Then he remembers how he had once hooked one of a pair of porpoises and how sad it had been to kill the one and watch the other covering over it. The boy had been sad too. But they had promptly butchered it. At this point, he again wishes for the boy for he was desperate and needed help. Again a little while later, he hooks something else and he has to promptly cut away that line for it may offer impediment in his effort to catch the marlin. Again he longs for the boy because he knew he needed someone to help him. “A loudly he said, “I wish I had the boy”. But you haven’t got the boy”, he thought. “You have only yourself and you had better work back to the last line now, in the dark or not in the dark, and cut it away and hook up the two reserve coils.” Thus, he had to work alone. Later, during the second day, the fish is still towing him and the Old Man has to eat a raw tuna in order to keep his strength. And he says, “I wish the boy were here and that I had some salt.” His right hand is hurt, his left hand cramped and his back sored. His wish for the boy here is relevant because at this point he is as important as salt; basic and necessary. And clearly needed for his sustenance and his battle by projection. Then when the cramp on his left hand intensifies and it refuses to uncramp inspite of all his efforts he remembers the boy and thinks “If the boy were here he could rub it for me and loosen it down from the forearm.” Thus, there is no more doubt that the Old Man relies heavily on the boy. A little later when the fish proves all the more difficult, jumping and thrashing and the Old Man is struck by its huge size he strengthens his resolve to kill the marlin and bring it in by telling himself that “I told the boys I was a strange old man, “I said.” Now is when I must prove it. He wishes for the boy a little later when the marlin begins to fight back. As the marlin jumps and draws out line at great speed cutting across hands and he tries to keep the cutting across the calloused parts and not let the line slip into the palm or cut the fingers. He contemplates, “If the boy was here he would wet the coils of line. Yes, If the boy were here. If the boy were here.” His wish for the presence of the boy intense les after he has hooked the marlin, he again remembers the boy in connection with his lines; He says, “The lines all mean nothing now. The boy and I will splice them when we are home?’ Thus throughout his battle against the marlin, he thinks and remembers the boy. He thinks of him whenever a difficulty arises and there is the need for another person. But he also wishes for him otherwise. Later, after his fight with the sharks, as he is coming homeward, he thinks of how near to home he must be and wonders if anyone has been worried for him. He is sure there is only the boy to worry for him but he is also sure that the boy has confidence in him. Thus, the importance of the boy is brought out not through physical presence but his presence is in the thoughts of the Old Man.

Manolin upon the Old Man’s Return

      Finally, after three days and three nights the Old Man returns to the shore. During his long absence Manolin, the boy has been quite worried. He had searched for the Old Man with the coast guard and with planes but to no avail. The boy had also visited the Old Man’s shack everyday hoping to find him returned. When the Old Man has eventually returned, the boy comes in to find him sleeping with his face down and his hands stretched out with their palms facing upwards. At this sight the boy begins to cry especially since he saw how badly he is hurt and calloused his hands were. He had already seen the Old Man’s skiff and the enormous white skeleton alongside. He runs away crying to get some coffee and he doesn’t bother to hide his tears and expresses his belief in that the fish had been eighteen feet long. He cautions the men that no one disturbed the Old Man and goes to the terrace to get the coffee. The boy is, therefore, seen taking care of everything now. He runs for the Old Man’s food and coffee, cautions others to let him rest and not disturb him, he arranges for someone to look after the skiff and the skeleton. He is more than a son. When the Old Man wakes he had been sitting over him watching him. He takes care of the Old Man telling him to remain sleeping and to drink the coffee. And he assures him that the fish had not beaten him. Now the boy tells the Old Man that no matter what his father thinks of him. He has much to learn from the Old Man and he doesn’t care for the Old Man’s luck. He would bring luck with him, he tells the Old Man. He and the Old Man then make plans for the future. The boy shall get everything ready. He shall get another knife and fishing lance that the Old Man wants? But he will, wait for the Old Man to get better. He tells him to get his hands well and the strange thing that the Old Man had spit and the broken feeling in his chest. And he goes to get some clean clothes for the Old Man and something to eat and some ointment to put on the Old Man’s hands and the paper for the Old Man’s enjoyment. “As the boy went out the door and down the worn coral rock road he was crying again,” Hemingway writes. The boy’s reaction thus shows his deep love and affection for the Old Man.

Manolin’s Significances

      Manolin, therefore, plays a very significant role in the novel. He does not have any active part, he is rather a passive ingredient in the text. He has no physical role as such in the Old Man’s struggle with the marlin and the sharks but by staying constantly in the Old Man’s thoughts throughout the adventure has a psychological impact on the atmosphere of the novel. And as a source from which the Old Man draws hope, courage and the determination to endure such an ordeal also serves a symbolic purpose through him, much of the Old Man’s character is also revealed. They are deeply attached to one another thereby showing how loving and full of tender sentiments the Old Man is. His constant harking “I wish the boy were here” shows the old Man’s essential loneliness and emphasizes the depth of tragedy that befalls the Old Man. The strong emotional bond of love as shown existing between the two draws the reader's wholehearted sympathy for the Old Man. In some respects though Manolin, the Old Man fulfills some of his emotional voids and gaps and in this regard, Manolin can be seen as taking on the role of the heroine as portrayed in the earlier Hemingway fiction. But the most important aspect that Manolin serves to highlight is Hemingway’s technique of preparing the reader for what is to come. Through Monolin, it is revealed that the old Man was the best fisherman and that he knew many tricks though he was no longer strong. Further, it is through the conversation between them that it is revealed that Old Man having gone eighty-four days without catching a fish was now hoping to catch a big fish on the eighty-fifth day. These details prepare us for the epic battle that is to ensure. And as the story progresses the Old Man draws strength from his memories of the boy and the things they had done together or the things he had told him and finds the resolution and will go on fighting the marlin and later the sharks. In fact, Santiago’s memories of the boy-serve to emphasize two basic points: one, he values and loves the boy's companionship. He longs for his presence but he cannot help it. So, he misses him and draws comfort by thinking of him, two, Santiago understands how great a help he would have been in his struggle against the marlin. He would have been an enormous help and would have lightened his task in many ways. The Old Man loves the boy for these reasons too.

Manolin: Symbolises Santiago’s Youth

      Manolin also serves to symbolize like the lions on the golden beaches of Africa, Santiago’s past youth and more significantly Santiago’s past youthful strength. Towards, the end of the novel, Santiago says, “The boy keeps me alive.” This sums up all that the boy’s purpose has been throughout the novel. He keeps the Old Man alive by providing him with food and drink but he also keeps him alive by being a psychological source of strength, will and resolution. In this way the boy’s symbolism is akin to that symbolized by the lions on the beaches of Africa-inner youth.


      Manolin adds to the pathos of the novel. His love and respect for the Old Man is quite moving. His attachment is clear in the manner in which he takes care of the Old Man. His every action and word reveals his deep love. Before the Old Man leaves for his fishing trip he feeds him, gets him bait, carries his equipment etc. Later, we are told that he had been going everyday to the Old Man’s shack and awaiting his return anxiously. When the Old Man does return, the boy cries on seeing his hurt hands and cries openly but with the Old Man, he assured him that he had not been beaten. His love and confidence in the Old Man touches our hearts. And in the end we draw comfort from the knowledge that now he is going to accompany the Old Man in his future fishing trips.

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