Santiago’s Hand Match with Negro in The Old Man and the Sea has significance. It might well be a reminiscence of Santiago’s youth. It may also be linked with the autobiographical element of Hemingway’s own life.
Santiago’s Hand Match with Negro:
This is about a hand match with a Negro; the strongest man on the docks, at Casablanca comes to his mind. They had held against one another a day and a night “with their elbows on a chalked line on the table”. They changed the referees every four hours. It was such a tough fight that blood came out of their finger nails. People were betting on them.
The Negro was huge and dark. They looked at each other’s arms and elbows. People fed the Negro rum while he also smoked with the assistance of others.
The Negro, after each pour of rum, “would try for a tremendous effort” but Santiago would keep it “dead even”. And when everybody wanted a draw, he had defeated the Negro and after that he had defeated several others quite easily including the same Negro that stood against him for so long.
After this, “everyone had called him The Champion”. This reminds Santiago of a tale of perseverance, patience, fortitude and bravery of himself wherein he defeated a man stronger than himself. Santiago remembers this during his toil with the marlin. It gives him encouragement.