He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he
had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty
days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the
boy's parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and
finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy
had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish
the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day
with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either
the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled
around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it
looked like the flag of permanent defeat.
The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his
neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings
from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches
ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased
scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars
were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert.
Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same
color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.
"Santiago," the boy said to him as they climbed the bank from where the
skiff was hauled up. "I could go with you again. We've made some money."
The old man had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him.
"No," the old man said. "You're with a lucky boat. Stay with them."
"But remember how you went eighty-seven days without fish and then we
caught big ones every day for three weeks."
"I remember," the old man said. "I know you did not leave me because you
"It was papa made me leave. I am a boy and I must obey him."
"I know," the old man said. "It is quite normal."
"He hasn't much faith."
"No," the old man said. "But we have. Haven't we?"
"Yes," the boy said. "Can I offer you a beer on the Terrace and then
we'll take the stuff home."
"Why not?" the old man said. "Between fishermen."
They sat on the Terrace and many of the fishermen made fun of the old
man and he was not angry. Others, of the older fishermen, looked at him
and were sad. But they did not show it and they spoke politely about the
current and the depths they had drifted their lines at and the steady
good weather and of what they had seen. The successful fishermen of that
day were already in and had butchered their marlin out and carried them
laid full length across two planks, with two men staggering at the end
of each plank, to the fish house where they waited for the ice truck to
carry them to the market in Havana. Those who had caught sharks had
taken them to the shark factory on the other side of the cove where they
were hoisted on a block and tackle, their livers removed, their fins cut
off and their hides skinned out and their flesh cut into strips for
When the wind was in the east a smell came across the harbour from the
shark factory; but today there was only the faint edge of the odour
because the wind had backed into the north and then dropped off and it
was pleasant and sunny on the Terrace.
"Santiago," the boy said.
"Yes," the old man said. He was holding his glass and thinking of many
"Can I go out to get sardines for you for tomorrow?"
"No. Go and play baseball. I can still row and Rogelio will throw the
"I would like to go. If I cannot fish with you, I would like to serve in
"You bought me a beer," the old man said. "You are already a man."
"How old was I when you first took me in a boat?"
"Five and you nearly were killed when I brought the fish in too green
and he nearly tore the boat to pieces. Can you remember?"
"I can remember the tail slapping and banging and the thwart breaking
and the noise of the clubbing. I can remember you throwing me into the
bow where the wet coiled lines were and feeling the whole boat shiver
and the noise of you clubbing him like chopping a tree down and the
sweet blood smell all over me."
"Can you really remember that or did I just tell it to you?"
"I remember everything from when we first went together."
The old man looked at him with his sun-burned, confident loving eyes.
"If you were my boy I'd take you out and gamble," he said. "But you are
your father's and your mother's and you are in a lucky boat."
"May I get the sardines? I know where I can get four baits too."
"I have mine left from today. I put them in salt in the box."
"Let me get four fresh ones."
"One," the old man said. His hope and his confidence had never gone. But
now they were freshening as when the breeze rises.
"Two," the boy said.
"Two," the old man agreed. "You didn't steal them?"
"I would," the boy said. "But I bought these."
"Thank you," the old man said. He was too simple to wonder when he had
attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not
disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.
"Tomorrow is going to be a good day with this current," he said.
"Where are you going?" the boy asked.
"Far out to come in when the wind shifts. I want to be out before it is
"I'll try to get him to work far out," the boy said. "Then if you hook
something truly big we can come to your aid."
"He does not like to work too far out."
"No," the boy said. "But I will see something that he cannot see such as
a bird working and get him to come out after dolphin."
"Are his eyes that bad?"
"He is almost blind."
"It is strange," the old man said. "He never went turtle-ing. That is
what kills the eyes."
"But you went turtle-ing for years off the Mosquito Coast and your eyes
"I am a strange old man."
"But are you strong enough now for a truly big fish?"
"I think so. And there are many tricks."
Copyright © 1952 by Ernest Hemingway Copyright renewed © 1980 by Mary Hemingway
Excerpted from "The Old Man and The Sea" by Ernest Hemingway. Copyright © 1995 by Ernest Hemingway. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.