Character Sketch of Manolin in The Old Man and the Sea

Character Sketch of Manolin in The Old Man and the Sea

Manolin The Old Man and the Sea


We meet the boy Manolin on the very first page of the novel when we are told that “in the first forty days a boy had been with him,” (that is, with Santiago). After forty days without a fish, the boy’s parents had told him that the Old Man was now definitely unlucky, and the boy had gone under their orders with another fisherman who had caught three good fish in the first week. It made the boy sad to see the Old Man come back each day with his skiff empty, and he always went to the seashore to help the Old Man carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail furled around the mast. In other words, the boy has been serving as a kind of companion and assistant to Santiago on the latter’s fishing excursions.

Manolin, A Disciple of The Old Man

The following sentence may be regarded as the keynote to the relationship between the Old Man and the boy: “The Old Man had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him” (Page 6 ). The boy is thus a kind of disciple of the Old Man, and feels greatly attached to him. The boy has stopped going with the Old Man on his fishing expeditions not because he has any doubt regarding the Old Man’s fishing skill but because of the pressure of his parents. As he tells the Old Man, “It was papa made me leave. I am a boy and I must obey him.” The boy also tells the Old Man that his father “hasn’t much faith”, while the boy and the Old Man do have “faith”

Father-son Relationship

It is made perfectly clear to us that the boy thinks a good deal of the Old Man, and is devoted to him. It is not only a disciple-teacher relationship but a son-father relationship. The boy offers a beer to the Old Man on “The Terrace” and the Old Man readily accepts the offer, “between fishermen”, as he puts it. The boy then offers to get sardines and other fresh baits for the Old Man and the Old Man accepts this offer too, although with some reservations. The boy became an apprentice to the Old Man at the age of five years and once the boy was nearly killed when a particularly violent fish almost smashed the Old Man’s boat.

Manolin’s Interest on The Old Man

The boy is a party to some of the Old Man’s whims and illusions. The Old Man’s self-respect makes it necessary for him to invent a couple of fictions and the boy does not mind supporting those fictions. For instance, the Old Man says that he will eat “some yellow rice with fish.” and the boy accepts the statement as a fact though he knows it to be a fiction. Similarly the cast net” has been sold, but the boy pretends that the Old Man has still got it. The boy also listens to the Old Man’s accounts of baseball matches with same attention and is willing at the Old Man’s suggestion to borrow some money in order to buy a lottery ticket for his sake. The Old Man speaks about the exploits of the great DiMaggio who makes all the difference to his team, and the boy shows much interest in the talk about the relative merits of the various baseball champions.

Manolin’s Attitude of Hero-worship

The boy has a great admiration for Santiago’s qualities as a fisherman Indeed, the boy’s attitude towards the Old Man is one of hero-worship. He thinks Santiago to be “the best fisherman”. “There “But are many good fishermen and some great ones”, says the boy, “But there is only you” (Page 18.) The boy feels quite solicitous about the Old Man’s welfare and attends to his physical needs. Indeed, the boy’s devotion to the Old Man is quite touching.

Manolin’s Reactions on the Old Man’s Return

During the Old Man’s absence the boy has been visiting the Old Man’s shack each morning to find out if he has returned. Eventually when the old man has fallen asleep in the shack after his return, the boy sees his wounded hands and begins to cry. Then he goes away very quietly to bring some coffee, though all the way down the road he keeps crying. He obtains some coffee from “The Terrace” and asks the proprietor to tell the other fishermen not to bother Santiago who needs complete rest. When the Old Man wakes up, the boy says anxiously, “Don’t sit up. Drink this,” and pours some of the coffee into a glass.

The Old Man says that he has been beaten, but the boy consoles him with the words that it was not the fish that had beaten the Old Man. The boy then immediately starts talking about fishing plans for the future, linking himself with those plans and saying, “Now we fish together again.” When the Old Man says that he is not lucky and that the boy should not go with him, the boy replies, “The hell with luck, I’ll bring the luck with me” (Page 113). The Old Man asks what the boy’s parents will say, and the boy’s reply is, “I do not care. But we will fish together now for I still have much to learn.”

The Importance of Manolin in the Novel

It is clear from the above that the boy, Manolin is a vital ingredient in the story of this novel. He does not of course play any active part in the two great adventures of Santiago: the adventure with the marlin and the adventure with the sharks. In other words, he does not play an active part in the development of the physical action as such. But the boy is important to the atmosphere of the story and to its symbolic purpose. In the first place, the boy’s attachment to Santiago shows that the latter is a man of deep feeling. Santiago fully reciprocates the boy’s affection for him. In fact, the boy fulfils a vital emotional need of Santiago.

In this connection we might even say that, in providing this sentimental adulation which in his need for love and sympathy the Hemingway hero in previous novels required, Manolin has taken over some of the functions previously performed by the heroine. Secondly, we are given some idea of Santiago’s fishing experience and skill through the boy’s remarks in the opening pages of the book. In the boy’s opinion, Santiago is the best fisherman in these parts. This view, expressed by the boy, mentally prepares us for the epic fight Santiago puts up in dealing with the huge marlin and also the determined battle which he wages against the fierce and greedy sharks.

The Importance of Manolin to Santiago

Santiago’s remembering the boy many times in the course of his voyage emphasises two facts

(1) Santiago values the boy’s company as a source of comfort to him in his loneliness.

(2) Santiago values the boy because of the assistance he could have rendered in the fight against the Marlin.

Manolin as a Symbol

The boy is also an important symbol in the story. He symbolizes Santiago’s youthful strength (just as the lions do). The boy is a constant reminder to Santiago of his own youthful days, of his courage and bravery in those days. That is the reason why thoughts of the boy occur to him again and again. Subconsciously Santiago draws much consolation, comfort, and strength from his thoughts of the boy. But even consciously Santiago looks upon the boy as a source of inspiration to him. He says in so many words that the boy keeps him alive.

“The boy keeps me alive, he thought” (Page 95).

Actually the Old Man is still young at heart, and that is why he responds to the boy all the more readily. Thus the boy becomes a symbol of the Old Man’s inner youth which still persists in the Old Man and which becomes a bond between him and the boy.

Manolin as a Source of Pathos

The boy contributes greatly to the pathos of this novel. His attachment to the Old Man, as described in the opening pages, is quite touching. Even more poignant are the boy’s reactions to the Old Man’s broken condition and wounded hands on the Old Man’s return from his fishing voyage. The boy is full of concern, anxiety, and solicitude for the comfort and welfare of the Old Man and strives to console him and cheer him up. His ministrations to the Old Man are really very moving.

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