Il pescatore, durante il suo solitario lavoro nella semplice piccola barca a vela, osserva tanti tipi di organismi che sono nell’acqua sotto di lui, mentre altri sono semplicemente nei suoi ricordi: plancton, alghe, uccelli, meduse, pesci e tartarughe. Tutto quello che lo circonda fa parte della sua vita: è contro di lui, è in suo favore, è uguale a lui. Il mare, le sue creature e il vecchio sono un tutt’uno inscindibile. Il finale è quasi una premonizione del gigantesco pesce che Santiago dovrà affrontare da solo al largo, mentre la sua notevole esperienza e sagacia compenseranno la fragilità della vecchiaia.
“As he looked down into it (sea) he saw the red sifting of the plankton in the dark water […] and he was happy to see so much plankton because it meant fish. But the bird was almost out of sight now and nothing showed on the surface of the water but some patches of yellow, sun-bleached Sargasso weed and the purple, formalized, iridescent, gelatinous bladder of a Portuguese man-of-war floating close beside the boat. It turned on its side and then righted itself. It floated cheerfully as a bubble with its long deadly purple filaments trailing a yard behind it in the water.
“Agua mala,” the man said. “You whore”.
From where he swung lightly against his oars he looked down into the water and saw the tiny fish that were coloured like the trailing filaments and swam between them and under the small shade the bubble made as it drifted. They were immune to its poison. But men were not and when some of the filaments would catch on a line and rest there slimy and purple while the old man was working a fish, he would have welts and sores on his arms and hands of the sort that poison ivy or poison oak can give. But these poisonings from the agua mala came quickly and struck like a whiplash.
The iridescent bubble were beautiful. But they were the falsest things in the sea and the old man loved to see the big sea turtles eating them. The turtles saw them, approached them from the front, then shut their eyes so they were completely carapaced and ate them filaments and all. The old man loved to see the turtles eat them and he loved to walk on them on the beach after a storm and hear them pop when he stepped on them with the horny soles of his feet.
He loved green turtles (testuggini verdi) and hawks-bills (tartarughe embricate) with their elegance and speed and their great value and he had a friendly contempt for the huge, stupid logger-heads (tartarughe carretta), yellow in their armour-plating, strange in their love-making, and happily eating the Portuguese men-of-war with their eyes shut.
He had no mysticism about turtles although he had gone in turtle boats for many years. […]. Most people are heartless about turtles because a turtle’s heart will beat for hours after he has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, I have such a heart too and my feet and my hands are like theirs. He ate white eggs to give himself strength. He ate them all through May to be strong in September and October for the truly big fish”.
A proposito non abbiamo mai parlato di tartarughe o di altri rettili marini!