The very first lines introduce us the character of Santiago. He is drawn as an old man. He catches fish and earns his living. But he has caught no fish for eighty-four days. A boy named Manolin is his friend. He has been learning the art of fishing since his child hood. We feel at first he has been failed to catch fish. Now the fisherman does not regard his as a man but consider him a ‘Salao’.
As they believe in a code which is based on fate. It seems that fate is angry with him. May be he is too old now to be either a real fisherman or a real man. Fishermen think that Santiago is useless. Moreover they think him unlucky. Because of these reasons, the parents of Manolin force him to leave Santiago.
Santiago lives in the village of ignorant fisherman who think him a futile person. Young boy’s much at him and avoid him as he is considered the unlucky man. Now Santiago seems unfit in the village. Fishermen make fun of him, as he is not ready to surrender his efforts. They think him a foolish person because of his strong determination. They consider him wrong as he will not admit his defeat and will not admit that he is a failure. However old fishermen feel pity towards him. But they do not want to tease him so they deep secret their feelings. They just talk about the currents, how deep they dropped their lines.
The only person who has devoted love for Santiago is Manolin. He knows the old man very well. He knows that old man is different. So he is more human than other fishermen. Fishermen do not think them real man, as the old man is too old to catch a fish; the boy is very little. To their community they are not men.
The old man thinks the villagers materialistic. He thinks them spiritually dead. To the fisher man of the village the only criterion of success is to bring money. Santiago considers fishing is his life – a hope for living; a purpose to prove the identity of human being. He does not think it a way of making money. For Santiago idealist while the other fishermen believe in materialism. The parents of the boy prefers to the materialistic approach. A man must catch a fish other wise he cannot have money. The simple fishermen of the village do not have the ability to see inflexible and marvelous courage of old man. Who is ready to retain the will to continue his struggle? They cannot judge the courage to try and rise what is believed to be impossible.