The old man begins to feel bad for the great fish he had hooked. The strange, old, gigantic fish must have been hooked many times, he thinks, and thus knows that pulling out to sea is the best way to escape. Santiago wonders whether the fish has a plan or is it just as desperate as he is? He believes the fish is a male, from its pull and bite. He remembers the saddest and most beautiful thing he had ever saw: he had hooked a female marlin, and throughout the struggle the male stayed with her by the boat. He leaped out of the water, saw the female marlin dead, and then dived back into the depths of the sea. He recalls that the boy had been sad, too-again, he wishes the boy were present for this battle.
The old man marvels at the choices the two competitors had made to meet one another. While the fish had chosen to remain far out at sea where fisherman rarely tread, the old man had decided to fish beyond all other people. Now no one could help either of them; one would win and one would lose.
Just before daylight, something took hold of one of the baits. The old man quickly cut the line, and tied the reserve coils to the one attached to the great fish. He plans to also cut the final line and attached those reserve coils to the master line. He regrets losing the line, hooks, and leaders, but will sacrifice anything to bring in the great fish. While he stretches to attach the final coils, the great fish pulls so strongly that the old man is pulled down on his face, leaving a cut just below his eye. "Fish," he says softly, aloud, "I'll stay with you until I am dead." The old man knew to expect the same from the fish.
As the sun rose, the old man realized that the fish was not tiring. He still pulled north, again the eastern current. The only good sign was the depth of fish, which had decreased over the night. Maybe he will jump, thinks Santiago. He increases the tension on the line slightly, hoping that the pain will force him to jump above the water. But he quickly sees that the line is as taut as it can support. If he pulls more, it might break. If it does not, the gash the hook makes grows wider, and increases the likelihood that a jump will throw the line. "Fish," he says aloud, "I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends." The fish then gave a sudden lurch, which would have pulled Santiago overboard had he not braced himself and gave some line to the creature. His hand was now bleeding, but he also knew the fish must be hurting, too. He washes his hand in the salt water, and as the blood trickles away he notices that the skiff moves much slower now.
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