Study Guide

The Old Man and the Sea Day Three

By Ernest Hemingway

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Day Three

  • As the sun rises, the old man realizes the fish doesn’t seem to be getting tired. But he is swimming closer to the surface, which means he might jump.
  • The old man addresses the fish again. I love you, he says, but I will kill you. Fatal Attraction, anyone?
  • The old man sees a low-flying bird, who must be very tired.
  • The bird perches on the line and the old man talks to it, telling it that it shouldn’t be so tired.
  • He then refers to the fish as a friend. The fish responds by almost pulling the old man overboard. His hand is bleeding. Love hurts.
  • He says again that he 1) must eat the tuna and that 2) he wishes the boy were there. Think of it as a chorus in a song.
  • He washes his bloody hand in the water. Shoot, he thinks, I really need my hands for this.
  • His hand cramps up and he chastises it as if it were a misbehaving child. Except he essentially says "screw you" to it, which isn’t a recommended child-rearing tactic.
  • After all this talk about eating the tuna, the old man finally ... eats the tuna.
  • Interestingly, the old man wishes he could feed the marlin, his "brother."
  • He sees some wild ducks and realizes that a person is never alone on the sea.
  • The weather is good – except for it being hurricane season. Seriously, though, he would be able to see it coming if a hurricane was on the way. There’s a little birdie that tells him so.
  • He finds his cramp to be humiliating.
  • He wishes the boy were there to massage the cramp away.
  • The fish starts coming toward the surface. This is hugely exciting.
  • The fish comes out of the water. He’s purple and longer than the boat. Holy cow.
  • Interestingly, the old man says he has to hide the fish’s strength from him. He notes that people are smarter, but fish are more noble.
  • The old man has seen fish this size but never caught one by himself.
  • But why did the fish jump? The old man doesn’t know, either.
  • He’s spending all this time thinking (mostly about his cramped hand) and wishes he were the fish – life would be so much easier. Except for the whole hook in your mouth thing.
  • Since brute strength appears not to be working, the old man says some prayers and talks about making a religious pilgrimage.
  • No, wait, he just promises that he will make the pilgrimage if he catches the fish. Dude, you have to pay the cashier before you get the merchandise.
  • He decides to re-bait the other lines so he can catch some smaller fish to eat in case the marlin decides to spend another night in Hotel Agony by the Sea.
  • He comments on being "a strange old man."
  • Next comes, in our humble opinion, the most important paragraph in the entire book. Read it. The one about proving oneself. Read it again.
  • THEN he proceeds to talk about the LIONS. Coincidence? Most certainly not.
  • The old man recalls that, once upon a time, he could see decently well in the dark.
  • He comments on the fish being strange.
  • He thinks about baseball. He knows who’s playing whom.
  • He compares himself  to DiMaggio and some fighting cocks. Oh, and the fish, who he still wants to be.
  • I’m totally screwed if there are sharks, he thinks.
  • How much fun is arm wrestling? The old man remembers competing at it for two straight days (one round!) against a black man in Casablanca. They played it 'till their fingers bled. Was it the summer of...we don’t know the year.
  • Everyone watched them, refereed, placed bets, stood around and gaped at their ridiculous stamina.
  • He almost lost, almost lost, almost lost, and then ... he won.
  • After that, everyone called him The Champion. Rock on, old man.
  • The old man could have been champion of the world. At least in arm wrestling. But he decided he needed his right hand for fishing.
  • He tried to arm wrestle with his left hand, but it betrayed him. (Yes, that’s the same hand cramping up at the moment.)
  • He hopes for a dolphin so he’ll have something to eat.
  • He wonders why the fish are purple.
  • Right around nighttime (night number two), he gets a dolphin on the other line. He clubs it on the head.
  • The fish hasn’t changed at all. It’s just slower. Which, last time we checked, counts as change.
  • When to gut the dolphin? We agonize over such decisions ourselves.
  • He rigs up the line so that the boat is taking a lot of the strain instead of him.
  • Eating this food? Not pleasant, considering it’s bloody and occasionally still flopping about. The man hasn’t eaten in a day and it’s a painful process to FORCE this food into his stomach.
  • The cramp is gone.
  • He looks at the stars. He is sad about killing the fish but glad he doesn’t have to kill the stars. Now THAT would be a battle.
  • He’s still up for killing the fish but sad that people will eat this noble creature.
  • He believes that hunger will be the end of this big fish.
  • There is a constant concern that the fish may break the line.
  • He figures out that he needs to sleep in order to not "become unclear in the head."
  • He cuts open the dolphin and finds two flying fish inside, which is essentially like a Christmas present, or possibly a very disgusting Easter Egg.
  • He eats the raw fish.
  • He notes that there will be bad weather in three to four days, which means this fish business better be done soon.
  • He doesn’t dream about lions. He dreams about porpoises instead. And then he dreams about the lions. Phew. And he is happy.

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