Old age is a common excuse, and for certain things it is legitimate, but all too often it is used either where it has no place or before any effort has been made to prove the assumption wrong. When the sharks begin attacking Santiago’s marlin, at first he fears that he cannot defend himself because of his age, but before long, he gathers his tools to be used as weapons and does what he must. When he breaks the blade off his knife in the body of one shark, the fear sinks in again. “Now they have beaten me,” he thinks. “I am too old to club sharks to death. But I will try as long as I have the oars and the short club and the tiller.”
The simplicity of Santiago's house further develops our view of Santiago as materially unsuccessful. It is interesting that Hemingway draws attention to the relics of Santiago's wife in his house, presenting an aspect of Santiago which is otherwise absent throughout the novel. This is significant because it suggests a certain completeness to Santiago's character which makes him more of an Everyman - appropriate for an allegory - but mentioning it simply to remove it from the stage makes its absence even more noteworthy, and one might question whether the character of Santiago is too roughly drawn to allow the reader to fully identify with his story.
For non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. The bystanders look askance on him in the public street or in the friend's parlor. If this aversion had its origin in the contempt and resistance like his own he might well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour face of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause disguise no god, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more formidable than that of the senate and the college. It is easy enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes. Their rage is decorous and prudent, for they are timid, as being very vulnerable themselves. But when to their feminine rage the indignation of the people is added, when the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concernment.