Old Man and the Sea: Novel Summary: Chapter 2

The first day of the old mans adventures at sea begins with Santiago waking the boy, and having a quick pre-sunrise coffee together. After wishing each other luck the old man sets out alone in his skiff — with only a bottle of water for the days nourishment — rowing out of the harbor in the dark. Although Santiago rows so far away from the harbor that no other boats and people are visible, he begins to talk to himself aloud, a habit formed after the boy stopped working with him. Santiago admits, “If the others heard me talking out loud they would think that I am crazy…But since I am not crazy, I do not care” (39).
Through this habit the reader gains constant insight into the old mans thoughts. As he prepares his fishing lines, for example, Santiago begins the first of continual reflections on the many tropical life forms inhabiting the sea, including flying fish, birds, man of wars, and turtles. At the heart of Santiagos observations, however, lies his relationship with the sea itself. The old man views the sea “as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them” (30). Santiagos acknowledgment of the seas variability sets the stage for his coming triumphant gain and tragic loss as the sea proceeds to alternately provide and destroy.
In the midst of his meditation Santiago sees that a fish is taking the bait on one of his lines, and begins the careful process of ensuring that the fish swallows the hook, which it does. When the old man attempts to pull the fish up, however, Santiago finds he “could not raise him an inch,” (44) and the fish begins to tow him farther and farther out to sea. Santiago holds the line against his back, hoping to wear the fish down so that he can kill it. The fish — invisible to Santiago as it remains in deep water — continues pulling for hours, until the sun goes down. Despite being towed out of sight of land, and only having a bottle of water and whatever fish he can catch as nourishment, Santiago remains calm and holds on for the long haul, vowing, “Fish, Ill stay with you until I am dead” (52).