The Old Man and the Sea
Strength and Skill Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"I told the boy I was a strange old man," he said.
"Now is when I must prove it."
The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it. I wish he’d sleep and I could sleep and dream about the lions, he thought. Why are the lions the main thing that is left? (3.3.76-3.78)
The old man is drawn to the lions for their nature; he, too, must prove his strength and skill day after day.
Now that he had seen him once, he could picture the fish swimming in the water with his purple pectoral fins set wide as wings and the great erect tail slicing through the dark. I wonder how much he sees at that depth, the old man thought. His eye is huge and a horse, with much less eye, can see in the dark. Once I could see quite well in the dark. Not in the absolute dark. But almost as a cat sees. (3.81)
The old man recognizes that his strength has faded over the years; he is not what he once was.
As the sun set he remembered, to give himself more confidence, the time in the tavern at Casablanca when he had played the hand game with the great negro from Cienfuegos who was the strongest man on the docks. They had gone one day and one night with their elbows on a chalk line on the table and their forearms straight up and their hands gripped tight. Each one was trying to force the other’s hand down onto the table. There was much betting and people went in and out of the room under the kerosene lights and he had looked at the arm and hand of the negro and at the negro’s face. They changed the referees every four hours after the first eight so that the referees could sleep. Blood came out from under the fingernails of both his and the negro’s hands and they looked each other in the eye and at their hands and forearms and the bettors went in and out of the room and sat on high chairs against the wall and watched. The walls were painted bright blue and were of wood and the lamps threw their shadows against them. The negro’s shadow was huge and it moved on the wall as the breeze moved the lamps. (3.89)
The old man’s battle of strength with the fish is paralleled by his battle of strength with the black man in Casablanca.