Manolin’s role in The Old Man and the Sea:
Manolin serves several important functions in Hemingway’s novella. As Santiago’s young apprentice and sole companion, Manolin symbolizes the old fisherman’s lost youth and strength. Whenever Santiago feels weak or defeated while battling the great marlin, he draws inspiration from memories of Manolin. “I wish the boy was here” becomes Santiago’s mantra, reminding him of his pride and perseverance in his younger days.
In addition to symbolic significance, Manolin also provides practical care, comfort and companionship for Santiago. As an aging fisherman without family, Santiago relies on Manolin’s daily assistance and friendship. Manolin helps prepare Santiago’s tackle, brings him food and coffee, and keeps him company on shore. This caring role is especially important since Santiago can no longer fish with another boat as a partner for safety. Manolin becomes his sole source of human interaction and support.
Some scholars argue Manolin also represents hope and faith in humanity for Santiago. Despite the old man’s recent streak of bad luck catching fish, Manolin continues to believe in and assist him. This loyalty gives Santiago motivation to prove his skills have not diminished, for Manolin’s sake as much as his own pride. Even after Santiago’s epic battle leaves him exhausted, Manolin’s devotion keeps the old fisherman’s spirit alive.
In summary, while not physically participating in Santiago’s adventure, Manolin plays a multifaceted symbolic and practical role through his representation of Santiago’s lost youth, daily caregiving, and faithful companionship. He serves as the old man’s inspiration, source of strength, and last tie to the human world throughout his epic struggle. Manolin’s belief in Santiago even in the face of adversity gives the story an underlying message of hope.
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