The Old Man And The Sea: Chapter 3 - Summary & Analysis

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Section III
His Struggle with The Sharks


The Marlin Attacked by Sharks

      The Old Man had hooked the marlin after a long struggle and after lashing it alongside his boat was now sailing homewards. He knew the fish was not a dream and though his head was not clear he was sailing well. An hour after sailing, the skiff was attacked by a shark. This shark had not attacked accidentally. He had smelt the blood flowing from the wound in the marlin and had been drawn by it. He was a big mako shark, the fastest swimmer in the ocean. He was a handsome specimen except for his teeth which were built to feed on all other fishes in the sea. The mako sharks were fast, strong and so well armed that they had no other enemy. When the Old Man saw the shark coming he knew it to be fearless. He got his harpoon ready and made the rope fast though it was short. His head was clear and he was full of resolution to fight but he did not hope to win. He told himself that good fortune did not last long. The shark came at the marlin with his mouth open and the Old Man heard the sound of skin and flesh ripping and he hit the shark with his harpoon at the spot where he knew the brain to be. He hit it with all his strength but he hit without any hope but “with resolution and complete malignancy.” The Old Man killed the shark but the shark had already bitten away about forty pounds of the Marlin’s flesh. He went down carrying Santiago’s harpoon and all his rope. This worried Santiago because he knew that other sharks would be coming soon. The Old Man now did not like to look at the fish since it had been mutilated. The Old Man felt as though he himself had been hit when the shark hit the marlin. However, he tried to console himself saying that he had at last killed the shark that attacked. It had been the biggest shark that he had ever seen. He felt that his good luck had been too good to last and wished that it had all been a dream and that he was in his bed. But he strengthened his resolve saying. “But man is not made for defeat. A man may be destroyed but not defeated.” He reflected that the shark had been strong and intelligent and he had killed it because he was more intelligent and perhaps superior. He told himself not to think but he could not help it as his thoughts were all that he was left with. And he thought of baseball and DiMaggio and compare himself to the player.

Reflects on the Sin of Killing the Marlin

      The Old Man was now unarmed. He knew that more sharks would come and he needed some sort of weapon. He, therefore, tied his knife to the butt of one of the oars. As he sailed on he began to hope a bit. He told himself that it was silly not to hope. It was actually sinful not to hope. He warned himself to stop but he could not stop thinking about sin. He did not understand or believed in sin and maybe it was a sin to kill the fish. But the marlin would have fed a lot of people. Anyway it was too late to think whether it was sinful or not. The fish was already dead. On the other hand, he reflected, there were people who paid to commit sin and they could think about sin. He had been born a fisherman. He could not help killing fishes. But the more he thought and he didn’t have anything else to distract his mind, he couldn’t help thinking about sin. He reflected that maybe he had killed the fish not just out of necessity but out of pride too. He loved the fish both before and after he killed it. So maybe it was not an act of sin. On the other hand; he was happy that he had killed the shark. He had in fact enjoyed killing the shark. It had not been a scavenger but he had been a beautiful and fearless creature and he had killed it well: Then he tried to analyze and explain his action saying that in this world everything killed everything else. Fishing killed him exactly as it kept him alive. But then he reconsidered and said that the boy was keeping him alive since he had not been able to catch any fish.

Two More Sharks Attack the Marlin

      The Old Man cheered some of the flesh of the Marlin and he noted how good it was. But the blood was flowing and there was no way to keep its scent out of the water. Two hours later, he was again attacked by two sharks. These sharks were galanos and were excited and stupid with great hunger. The Old Man readied himself with the knife lashed to the oar. His hands are hurt but still he forced his hands to hold the oar steady and one shark went under, jerking and pulling at the marlin and the other came at the Old Man with his mouth open. The Old Man again hit the scavenger shark at the spot where the brain joined the spinal cord. He hit the shark again and again till the shark died. The Old Man punched the other shark as he came up but he only hurt himself. He was, however, able to kill the other shark also but they had taken almost a quarter of the marlin. The best part of the meat of the marlin was gone. He wished that it were all a dream. Everything seemed wrong and the Old Man told the fish that he was sorry and that he should never have gone so far out to the sea.

The Next Shark

      The Old Man’s knife was now blunt and he wished that he had a stone to sharpen it. But then he did not have many things which he should have brought. The fish was much lighter now. His hands were also bleeding. He settled down to wait for the other sharks to come, telling himself not to think of anything else. May be it may turn out well yet. The next shark, a shovel nose came soon. He let him hit the fish and then drove his knife into the shark’s brain. But the shark jerked backward. The knife blade was snapped. The shark died. The Old Man did not concern himself about the dead shark. His knife was gone and he told himself “I have the gaff now. But it will do no good. I have the two oars and the tiller and the short club.” He thought that now the sharks had beaten him. He was too old to club sharks to death. But he resolved to do it and put his bleeding hands into the water to soar them. It was already late in the afternoon.

More Sharks

      Just before sunset, the sharks hit the marlin again. The Old Man saw them coming straight for his boat. These two were galonous and his weapon was an oar handle from a broken oar. The Old Man continuously rained blows on the sharks as they bit and chewed the marlin. But his efforts were proving fruitless. Ultimately he drove them away though he was not able to kill them. Now half of the marlin was destroyed and he didn’t even want to look at it. The sun had also set while he had been fighting the sharks. He hoped that he was not too far away from the shore and that no one had been worried for him. He had only the boy to worry about him. Then again he lived in good town and many people must be anxious about him but the boy must be confident. Then he addressed the marlin saying “Half-fish, Fish that you were.” He expressed grief for having gone too far out and thus ruined both of them. But he had killed many sharks.

Possibility of More Sharks

      The Old Man had no more weapons left. He had neither a patent nor a knife. Then he reflected on what he could have done if he and the marlin had been fighting the sharks together. Then he thought of the possibility of the sharks coming during the night and resolved to fight them until he died. The Old Man was tired and hoped to bring the half that was left of the fish in. The Old Man wished for some luck but then he had violated his luck by going too far out. He might have some luck left. He wished that he could buy some.

Finally Attacked by a Pack of Sharks

      Late at night at around ten O’clock, the Old Man saw the lights of the city. And he thought, maybe his battles were over. But he thought the sharks would most probably hit him again. But he was no longer armed. And he hoped not to fight again. However, around midnight he was attacked by a pack of sharks. And with his club he tried to fight them as much as he could. However, after a while he lost his club and eventually he did not have to fight anymore as the sharks went away there being no more meat on the marlin. The Old Man felt something strange in his mouth. He spat it out into the ocean. But he knew that he was beaten. He went to the stern, settled down and sailed lightly without any thoughts or feelings. More sharks came during the night but there was only the carcass now and he hardly paid them any attention and simply steaked. And he thought of his bed and how easy it was when he was beaten. There was nothing that could defeat him. He had gone too far out himself.

Critical Analysis

Victory is Defeat

      The third section of the novel deals with Santiago’s desperate struggle against the sharks to protect his hard won marlin. The sharks come single, in pairs and then in a pack and are formidable enemies for the Old Man unarmed as he is. The section brings out the endurance and indomitable, undefeated spirit of the Old Man. Even during his worst times he does not lose heart and continues fighting. Santiago’s basic heroism is better illustrated in this section. The Old Man’s long struggle with the marlin is left has exhausted him and when the sharks attack he never for a moment thinks of giving up. Even when half the marlin he still thinks of taking it in. Therefore even in his defeat he achieves a victory by the manner of his struggle and his refusal to give up. Santiago even in defeat is undefeated. His magnificent battle endows him with larger than life heroism. After killing the first of the sharks he says, “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” This statement acquires enormous significance. Even after the sharks have left only the carcass, Santiago is still undefeated.

His Sadness and Feelings of Sin

      Santiago feels a deep sadness in the manner in which the sharks have eaten away the flesh of the marlin. It is as though the sharks have attacked him and his own body had been mutilated. He did not feel like looking at the fish nor did he want to think of the mutilated underside of the fish. He tells the marlin how sorry he was and how it was his fault that both he and the fish were now ruined. But then again he tells himself not to think and keep, hope. He, therefore, prepares himself for other sharks that are surely to come. Looking now at the forward part of the half destroyed fish he hopes thinking it is silly not to hope. And later he resolves to fight till he dies. He believes that not hoping is a sin. Then his thoughts take a turn from thoughts of the marlin and hope to thoughts of sin. He began to wonder if he had committed a sin when he killed the marlin. Though his doubts are soon cleared, for the moment he ponders deeply. He tells himself that ultimately everything is a sin. He was born to be a fisherman and fish to be a fish. So it was natural in his profession to kill the fish and, therefore, was not a sin. He tries not to think of sin but he can help it. He reflects that he had killed the marlin for his living and food and also for pride but then he had loved the marlin while it was alive and he loved him after it was dead. Therefore, he consoled himself that it was not a sin to kill the fish.

The Internal Monologues

      This section contains a number of passages that form a series of internal monologues that reveal the character and history of the Old Man. These internal monologues give us a glimpse of how Santiago’s mind works. Santiago is an extraordinary fisherman. His thought accompany him all over the sea during his voyages. After killing the marlin and killing the sharks to protect it, he reflects on the rightness and wrongness of things that is, his killing the fish, even though as a fisherman, it is his trade to kill fish for his living, for his food, and should, therefore, arouse any kind of remorse or guilt. He keeps wondering and meditating over various subjects all the time. He thinks of the marlin, the sharks and sin etc. Later, he is worried if anybody would be worrying about him since he had now been at sea for three days and three nights. He reflects that he has only the boy to worry for him then he thinks that the Older fishermen might worry too, and maybe many others and concludes that he lives in a good town. His reflections on the fish conclude with the thought that it was all his fault for having gone too far out, that was the reason why now both were ruined. He has “violated” his luck by going out too far. After his defeat at the hands of the sharks that come after the marlin one after another, he knows that he is beaten but he is not sad that he is beaten. He had now left everything behind and thus he is described as sailing lightly and he had no thoughts nor any feelings of any kind. He was past everything now...Bed is my friend. Just bed, he thought. Bed will be great thing. It is easy when you are beaten, he thought. He knows that he has been beaten but not by anything. He got beaten only because he went out too far.

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