The rich waters of the Gulf Stream provide a revolving cast of bit players––birds and beasts—that the old man observes and greets.
Through Santiago’s interactions with these figures, his character emerges. In fact, Santiago is so connected to these waters, which he thinks of good-humoredly as a sometimes fickle lover, that the sea acts almost like a lens through which the reader views his character. Santiago’s interaction with the weary warbler, for instance, shows not only his kindness but also, as he thinks about the hawks that will inevitably hunt the tiny bird, a philosophy that dominates and structures his life. His strength, resolve, and pride are measured in terms of how far out into the gulf he sails. The sea also provides glimpses of the depth of Santiago’s knowledge: in his comments about the wind, the current, and the friction of the water reside an entire lifetime of experience, skill, and dedication. When, at the end of the novella, Manolin states that he still has much to learn from the old man, it seems an expression of the obvious.