The old man is unique in his relationship to and understanding of the natural world. He talks about the sea as though it were a woman, the birds as friends, the sharks as personal enemies. He examines the relationship between turtles and jellyfish, between fish and birds. The creatures and the natural world become a lens through which we examine the old man; they become parables and analogies that allow us to gain insight into his character. The lions function in this same way, as they have much to do with the way the old man views himself. The Old Man and the Sea also incites discussion as to the natural order of things; the old man justifies and interprets his actions and the actions of others as things that they "are born to do." We see a sense of inescapability in these ideas.
The old man seems to prefer the natural world to the world of people, but his struggles with nature and creatures are only for the purpose of his status back on society.