The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea

It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and personal triumph won from loss and transforms them into a magnificent twentieth-century classic....

Title:The Old Man and the Sea
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Old Man and the Sea Reviews

  • Madeline

    "There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know."

    -Ernest Hemingway

  • Matt

    Worst book ever.

    Just throw the fucking fish back in. Fuck.

  • Sara

    Oh, my good lord in heaven. Cut your line, land your boat and go to McDonald's! Just as in the case of The Great Gatsby, I understand the book. Yes, I know it changed the way American writers write. I also understand that it celebrates the ridiculous American idea that you're only a REAL man if you've done something entirely purposeless, but really dangerous, in pursuit of making yourself look like the bull with the biggest sexual equipment. Get over it, already! Go home and clean out the refrig

    Oh, my good lord in heaven. Cut your line, land your boat and go to McDonald's! Just as in the case of The Great Gatsby, I understand the book. Yes, I know it changed the way American writers write. I also understand that it celebrates the ridiculous American idea that you're only a REAL man if you've done something entirely purposeless, but really dangerous, in pursuit of making yourself look like the bull with the biggest sexual equipment. Get over it, already! Go home and clean out the refrigerator, or wash the curtains, or vacuum under the furniture. Pick your kids up from school or take your daughter bra shopping. THAT would impress me. Being too dumb to cut your fishing line? Not the mate I would pick...

    The only bright spot about the book is if you think of it on a metaphorical level: there is a point at which ALL of us must grit our teeth and hold on in the face of despair. That is the definition of life. However, if that's the point, then the plot situation needs to be one of necessity (like the shipwreck in Life of Pi), instead of stubbornness.

    ************

    It's been a while since I wrote this review, and there's a lot of amusing speculation in the comments people have attached. I have to say, they crack me up. Here's my final word on reviewing on Goodreads (or anywhere); One of the most important elements of reading is that it allows each of us to react in the way we need to react, without judgment, as we experience the book. This is how I reacted to The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway is dead, or I wouldn't have been so up-front with my opinion. He's not insulted, I understand that we all need goals in life, and I've been happily married for a LONG time. Now take a deep breath and smile. Life is too short to be anxious about picayune stuff like this.

  • Matt

    I read this as a young man and was disappointed. It didn't work for me. I thought it was about a crazy old man gone off the reservation, picking a fight with an innocent fish while ranting about the New York Yankees ("I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing. They say his father was a fisherman...").

    I picked it up again, after the passage of some years, and found it incredibly poignant.

    It's a simple story. There's an old man, Santiago, who is a fisherman fallen on hard times. He is cared

    I read this as a young man and was disappointed. It didn't work for me. I thought it was about a crazy old man gone off the reservation, picking a fight with an innocent fish while ranting about the New York Yankees ("I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing. They say his father was a fisherman...").

    I picked it up again, after the passage of some years, and found it incredibly poignant.

    It's a simple story. There's an old man, Santiago, who is a fisherman fallen on hard times. He is cared for by a young boy, Manolin, who no longer works on his boat. Santiago goes into the Gulf and engages in the fight of his life with a giant marlin. What follows is a dream-like, stream-of-conscious meditation as the old man matches strength and wits with the great fish.

    After 84 days of no fish, Santiago takes his skiff far out to sea. He drops his line and hooks a marlin. He can't pull it in, so he takes hold of the line, beginning the back and forth: when the marlin runs, he gives the line slack; when the marlin is still, he pulls the line in. The old man's hands are cut by the rope. His muscles strain. He has no food or water. Yet he doesn't give up. The obsession has shades of

    , except at the end of this novel, I didn't feel the need to dig up Melville and punch him in the skull:

    Eventually, the marlin is hauled in and killed. The old man attaches him to the boat, and begins to row towards shore. Of course, the marlin is dripping blood, so if you've seen

    or read

    , you can imagine that his dreams of hitting it big with this fish are probably not going to come to pass.

    Age teaches you a lot of things. You start to realize that you might never be the person you thought you'd be as a child. Days go by, you start to lose more and gain less. I thought about this as I thought about the old man, raging like Dylan Thomas against the night; an old man nearing the end of his days fighting against nature, time, death, a fish, able to boil all things down into one climatic struggle on the high seas. At the end, he did not succeed, at least not in the manner he'd foreseen, but he was, in an inimitable way, victorious.

  • Stephen

    My

    time reading

    and I absolutely

    . Sometimes the experience you have with a book can be effected by many things beyond the narrative itself, and I think that is certainly the case here. While I believe I would have loved this story regardless, there is no doubt that the stars aligned themselves perfectly to make this a singularly special read for me.

    Let me explain...

    Last year, I was in Napa with my wife and two of our best friends celebrating my (

    ) 40th birthday

    My

    time reading

    and I absolutely

    . Sometimes the experience you have with a book can be effected by many things beyond the narrative itself, and I think that is certainly the case here. While I believe I would have loved this story regardless, there is no doubt that the stars aligned themselves perfectly to make this a singularly special read for me.

    Let me explain...

    Last year, I was in Napa with my wife and two of our best friends celebrating my (

    ) 40th birthday. It was the latter part of October (near the end of harvest time) and the weather was perfect...

    , it’s Napa.

    We were staying at our favorite Napa sanctuary, the Villagio Inn and Spa.

    Though pricey, Vellagio is just about perfect, it's centrally located, with wonderful rooms, and one of the BEST breakfast spreads in the world...Hey, when you are going out drinking all day, it is important to load up on foodstuffs to avoid alcohol-related trouble. have a nice big breakfast before you go out and drink all day...it is called being

    .

    Speaking of drinking all day, we had just come back from an awesome tour of the

    which is, I shit you not, a real castle in the middle of Napa, California...

    …complete with

    ...and a

    …..yep, a rack, an Iron Maiden and some device that made me constipated just looking at it.

    .

    .

    .

    Anyway, we got back to the room and had a few hours to relax before a late dinner reservation. Well, I don’t sleep all that much and so, while my wife took a nap (light weight that she is), I decided I would find something fairly short to read. I choose this story because it was only 100 pages long (or just under 3 hours via audio) and it seemed to fit my time allotment perfectly.

    So, feeling a little buzzed and in a superb, yet contemplative mood (I had just turned 40 for crying out loud), I poured myself another glass of wine (shut up and don't judge me), went and sat on the balcony outside our room and, with the sun starting to go down, began listening to the audio version of this story.

    Well, this story slammed me and had me sucked in and captive from the very first words:

    By the way, now would be a good time to mention that the audio version I listened to was read by Donald Sutherland, and the marriage of the story with Sutherland’s perfect narration was nothing short of magical. In my opinion it is THE ONLY VERSION of the audio book that should be sold. 



    As many have said (and almost as many have complained), this is in many ways a simple story about an old Cuban fisherman named Santiago, who has had a significant run of bad luck fishing (i.e., 84 days).

    Attempting to change his luck, he decides to take his skiff further out than he has ever gone before, "

    " Eventually, he lands the largest Marlin he's ever seen and the bulk of the narrative details his epic struggle to reel in the fish and get it back to shore. 



    Yes, a simple story and Hemingway uses sparse, straight-forward prose...and devastates with them. The most powerful emotions, passions and struggles that people experience are often tied to the most basic needs and the most elemental aspects of who they are. I felt an immediate connection to the story and was deeply moved by the restrained, yet palpable power of the narrative.

    The most lasting message that I took away from the story was that, despite the many hardships Santiago faces, and the titanic trials that he endures on the open sea, I

    felt that I was supposed to pity or feel sorry for him in any way. Here was a person doing what he loves to do, what gives him purpose in life, and struggling with an iron will to accomplish his goal. The struggle is hard, it is difficult, but it is who he is and what gives him fulfillment in life. All I could feel was giant admiration for this man.

    I found this uplifting and a powerful reaffirmation of what is truly important in life.

    Whether it was the setting I was in, the mood I was in, the wine I was drinking, the wonderful narration or the power of the words themselves, in the end the result was the same. I felt ALIVE, and for that I say thank you “Papa” wherever you are!!! 


    That is basically it, but I wanted to leave you with my favorite line from the story, one that I think encapsulates everything Hemingway set out to accomplish in his tale.

    5.0 stars and one of my “All Time" favorites. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

  • Riku Sayuj

    I started this in high spirits as my updates show: "fifth re-read, how thrilling it is to plumb new depths in old wells of wisdom..."

    But, as I read on towards the last few pages, I couldn't shake the feeling that this is

    set in an alternate universe.

    is a noble, unseen fish - steady and without malice.

    is transformed into a gentle, wise old zen master. Santiago - a humble fisherman with no legendary crew t

    I started this in high spirits as my updates show: "fifth re-read, how thrilling it is to plumb new depths in old wells of wisdom..."

    But, as I read on towards the last few pages, I couldn't shake the feeling that this is

    set in an alternate universe.

    is a noble, unseen fish - steady and without malice.

    is transformed into a gentle, wise old zen master. Santiago - a humble fisherman with no legendary crew to command and only his frail body instead of a Pequod to do his bidding.

    is a young boy, who instead of being a "end is nigh" Nostradamus is a loving, weeping young boy who cares deeply about the world.

    is probably the dolphin which was the old man's only hope against his foe, his brother.

    Now Moby Dick for me was the grand struggle of an obsessed genius with his destiny (in fact, about the creative struggle) - it proves that life is a tragedy and in the grand conclusion, you go down with a mighty confrontation and your ambitions take you down to the depths of the sea - no trace left of either you or your grand dreams except a mist of madness propagated as a half-heard story.

    This was profound and it moved me to tears - but it was still grand, was it not? The great struggle, the titanic battle and the heroic capitulation! It was operatic and it was uplifting - even amidst the tragedy, the mighty bellow of man's cry in the face of the unconquerable; that gave me goosebumps.

    It takes you beyond the happily-ever-after of Moby Dick (!) and as always those unchartered waters are beyond description. This alternate universe is much more cruel and much more real. There is no grand confrontation that ends in an inspirational tragedy.

    It turns it into a battle of attrition - you are inevitably defeated even in success and life will wear you down and leave no trace of your ambitions.

    It makes you battle to the last breaking point of every nerve and sinew and lets you win a hollow victory that you cannot celebrate as life has worn you out too much in your pursuit of your goals and the destiny, the destiny too now seems more and more unreal and you ask yourself if you were even worthy enough to start the battle.

    And as you turn back after that jaded victory, then comes the sharks, inevitably, inexorably. And then begins the real battle, not the grand epic, but a doomed, unenthusiastic battle against reality - with the knowledge that no grand ambition can ever succeed.

    The alternate universe is depressing and it is Zen at the same time, I do not know how. I probably have to read this many more times before any hope, any secret light in it comes to illuminate me - for today, for this reading, Hemingway has depressed me beyond belief and I cannot remember how I always thought of this as an inspirational fable!

    The scene in which the restaurant lady sees the bones of the once great fish sums it up for me - In the end you give up hope of success and only wish that at the very least you might be able to bring back a ghost of the fish so that people can see how great your target really was - but all they see is the almost vanished skeleton of your idea; your grand dreams are just so much garbage now and who will have the imagination to see the grandeur it had at its conception?

  • Fernando

    Cuando yo era chico, a la edad de diez años, acostumbraba a acompañar a mi papá a pescar. A mí no me gustaba la pesca, pero me encantaba verlo a él en todo el esplendor de su pasión. Mi padre era carpintero, pero los domingos acostumbraba a subir a su lancha “Gui-Fer II” que había reconstruido (era un bote de salvamento de un viejo barco pesquero llamado "Cristo Rey") y pasaba toda la mañana y la tarde pescando en su querida laguna “Brava”.

    Una tarde, nos llevó a un lugar más lejano llamado “La c

    Cuando yo era chico, a la edad de diez años, acostumbraba a acompañar a mi papá a pescar. A mí no me gustaba la pesca, pero me encantaba verlo a él en todo el esplendor de su pasión. Mi padre era carpintero, pero los domingos acostumbraba a subir a su lancha “Gui-Fer II” que había reconstruido (era un bote de salvamento de un viejo barco pesquero llamado "Cristo Rey") y pasaba toda la mañana y la tarde pescando en su querida laguna “Brava”.

    Una tarde, nos llevó a un lugar más lejano llamado “La cueva del tigre”, que se parece más a la locación de una novela de Joseph Conrad que de un lugar para ir a pescar. Armó su equipo (era un profesional en esto) para pescar corvinas y comenzó, hasta que en un momento enganchó algo realmente pesado. Intuía que era un pez enorme. Le llevó un trabajo titánico y una lucha de cuarenta y cinco minutos sacarlo y todo esto haciendo pie en un lugar lleno de algas resbaladizas y con un equipo de pesca para peces de mucho menor peso y tamaño.

    Extenuado y con los brazos doloridos, finalmente lo sacó. Era un tiburón leopardo de 2,10 metros de largo y 42 kilogramos. Una pieza realmente excelente que en su desesperación cuando se encontró fuera del agua intentó tirarle un mordiscón a un pescador que con la mano quiso agarrarlo de la cabeza. Lo llevaron en un Jeep hasta un lugar en donde lo colgaron y mi padre se sacó una foto (que lamentablemente ya no tengo) exhibiendo orgulloso su trofeo. Recuerdo que en la foto, la cola del tiburón se doblaba por el piso. No pudieron extenderlo en su totalidad desde el malacate. Jamás en mi vida vi a alguien pescar algo tan grande.

    “El viejo y el mar” es una novela inolvidable para mí, porque me remite siempre a esa experiencia que viví con mi padre. La lucha de Santiago con semejante pez es más agotadora y le lleva más tiempo pero la similitud entre ambas “luchas” es sorprendente.

    Esta novela le fue encargada a Hemingway por la revista Time y gracias a ella ganó el premio Pulitzer en 1953 y además le sirvió de espaldarazo para ganar el premio Novel un año después.

    Es también un ejemplo de tenacidad, de superación y fortaleza porque el viejo Santiago nunca se rinde. Pelea y pelea hasta el final y de esa lucha sin tregua primero contra el pez y luego contra los tiburones que de a poco van despedazando su presa pero no cede hasta arribar al puerto con los restos que le quedan del pez. De toda esta historia surge la frase más famosa del libro:

    En el caso de la novela se aplica a la lucha de este pescador durante toda su travesía pero es algo que todos podemos aplicar en cualquier aspecto de nuestras vidas.

    Es un libro muy corto y se disfruta muchísimo. Yo lo recomiendo mucho.

    Santiago es para mí, Oscar, mi papá, a quien ya no tengo conmigo pero que llevo siempre presente en mi corazón.

  • Will Byrnes

    It is intimidating to offer a truly critical look at such a classic, so we will ease into it with a few images.

    The GOP has offered us a ready-made item to begin this list, and yes, I know that John Stewart already snagged this one and threw it back.

    I turned up a visual art concept that fits in, for a restaurant based on EH themes:

    Although I did not sit for this photo, the resemblance is indeed striking

    And, of course

    The Old Man and the Cee Lo.

    I

    am certain there are plenty more images one

    It is intimidating to offer a truly critical look at such a classic, so we will ease into it with a few images.

    The GOP has offered us a ready-made item to begin this list, and yes, I know that John Stewart already snagged this one and threw it back.

    I turned up a visual art concept that fits in, for a restaurant based on EH themes:

    Although I did not sit for this photo, the resemblance is indeed striking

    And, of course

    The Old Man and the Cee Lo.

    I

    am certain there are plenty more images one might lure into our net, but sticking to words for a bit, we will pass on the porn offering, The Old Man and the Semen. How about the moving tale of a Navy Construction veteran, The Old Man and the Seabees, or an obstetrical episode of Grey's Anatomy, The Old Man and the C-Section. Then there might be a psychological drama about a man with bipolar disorder, The Old Man and the See Saw, or a book about an elderly acupuncturist, The Old Man and the Chi. How about a Disney adventure in which Paul Hogan rescues a pinniped, yes, gentle reader, The Old Man and the Seal. Maybe a bit of Cuban self-affirmation, The Old Man and the Si. I could go on, of course, and probably will, at home, until my wife threatens to leave. The possibilities

    rather endless. But the Geneva Conventions might be brought into play, and we can’t have that. Tackling such a review head on seems, somehow, wrong, like using paint by number to copy the Mona Lisa, carving the Pieta out of gigantic blocks of cheddar, writing a love poem for your beloved using MadLibs or

    At some point, though, I guess you have to, you know, fish or cut bait.

    I struggled mightily with this one, finding a hook, then having it pull away, grabbing hold of an idea and watching it disappear beneath waves of uncertainty. I tried waiting a while, resting between attempts, losing myself in other contemplations. Smiling a bit, but always hoping for something I could finally yank aboard. Notions of religious connections, Papa’s personal philosophy, and story-telling technique all pulled in diverse directions. As you will see, it was a not a simple contest. And I am not certain that what I ultimately caught is all that filling.

    So opens

    , the book, we hear tell, that convinced the Nobel committee to reel in EGH with the biggest literary hook of them all. Santiago is an old, unlucky, but skilled Cuban fisherman. He has an able assistant, the young Manolin. The lad is not a blood relation, but he sees a father figure in the old man, and he may be a younger reflection of the old man himself. Maybe Santiago sees himself in the young man and takes some strength from that. Like the best sort of father, he teaches the boy to fish rather than fishing for him. But Santiago’s ill fortune has marked him as someone to be avoided and Manolin’s parents have put the kibosh on their professional association. The old man is determined to salvage his reputation, and his honor, and bring in some money by going farther out than the other fishermen are willing to sail, in search of redemption. No herald calls him to action. No dramatic event sparks him to excessive risk. It is an internal challenge that powers his engines. But it is a quest nonetheless on which Santiago embarks.

    Any time there are fish involved, one might presume a degree of soul saving. I do not know enough Hemingway to have a take on whether or not that figured here. I raise it only as a passing thought. But the second sentence of the book offers a hint. “In the first forty days…”clearly places Santiago’s travails alongside another person who spent forty days in a different barren environment. It was after being baptized that Jesus spent his time in the desert, preparing for what awaited. Is Santiago to be tested here? Will he be offered a route away from his difficult path?

    The waters are becalmed. Nothing moves. A moment, then, for a digression. OK, let’s try some simple arithmetic, if Jesus, at age 30, spent 40 days in the desert, and Santiago has gone 84 days in his version of the desert, just how old is the old man? 63, according to my calculations. Possible. I do not recall seeing an actual age noted, so I am gonna go with that. I know you guys will let me know if an actual age is revealed somewhere and my squinty geezer eyes missed it. Done. I can feel a slight breeze beginning to flutter the sail.

    Some sort of religion seems to flow through this fish tale. Not only are we sprinkled with forty-day references, but Santiago discusses sin. In his struggles he suffers physical damage in which some might see an echo of Calvary. But I think that is a stretch, personally. So, we have a bit of religion, and a quest. What is Santiago questing for? Redemption would fit in nicely. Having failed for a long time, he feels a need to redeem himself in the eyes of his community. Maybe not a religious thing, per se, but swimming in the same waters. And speaking of religion, water as a baptismal element is always a possibility, although somewhat diluted here, as Santiago makes his living on the water.

    The old man is strong, skilled and determined. Maybe it is his character that is at issue. Maybe somehow, taking on this challenge is a way to prove to himself that he is truly a man. He goes about his business, and his fishing is his fate, maybe even his life. It is in how he handles himself when faced with this challenge that will show us the sort of person he is, a common Hemingway theme, and he does just that.

    This is a very short novel, more, maybe, a novella or large short story. But it has the feel of a parable. There is definitely something going on here even if it keeps slipping out of my analytical net.

    I was reminded of another well-known fish story, Moby Dick (really, allow a little literary license here people. Yes I know the whale is not a fish. Geez.). Whereas in that one, the fisherman, Ahab, sets himself against the whale, and therefore either fate or god, seeing a personal enemy, Santiago sees the fish as his brother, a fellow creature in the universe acting out his part. The challenge is always about oneself and not about the external enemy, or rival. In fact, the fish and Santiago are both victimized, together, by the sharks that feast on his catch.

    One might be forgiven for seeing here a possible reference to catholic communion and the relative merit of so many of those who receive. Is the fish (a Christian symbol if there ever was one) meant to be Jesus or some other form of deity, as Moby was?

    Could it be that Hemingway’s notion of religion is less Christian and more a sort of materialist (as in non-spiritual, not as in accumulating stuff) philosophy? Lacking the proper tackle for that I will leave such considerations to those who have spent more time than I trolling Hemingway’s waters.

    The writing is mostly either third-person description or the old man’s internal, and sometimes spoken, dialogue. Regardless of the literary ambitions splashing about here, the story is about a very sympathetic character. Santiago is a man not only of physical strength, but moral character. He is not portrayed as a saint, but as a simple man, maybe even, in a way, an ideal man in his simplicity. He knows his place in the world, faces the challenges that world presents to him and using only his skill, intelligence, strength and determination, overcomes (or not). It is easy to climb on board as a Santiago supporter. He is a fellow who is very much a part of the world, even as he contemplates larger things.

    The Old Man and the Sea is a small story, but it is a whale of a tale. If you have not fished these waters before, don’t let this be one of those that got away.

    ==============================

    1/5/13 - Jeffrey Keeten sent along this

    . Gary Wyatt had shared it with him. It will definitely make you smile

    6/20/13 - I discovered that one of the images I used had vanished into the ether, so I substituted another["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Jibran

    Many years ago when I read

    I thought it was going nowhere, that it was too simple and ordinary to be of any consequence. On a second reading, however, my view changed and I ended up loving it. What I mistook for repetition was a literary device for emphasis and the boat, like the story, that I judged to be unmoving in the rolling seas was caught in a whirlpool churning the waters in its depth so that the boat and the old man at the sea were n

    Many years ago when I read

    I thought it was going nowhere, that it was too simple and ordinary to be of any consequence. On a second reading, however, my view changed and I ended up loving it. What I mistook for repetition was a literary device for emphasis and the boat, like the story, that I judged to be unmoving in the rolling seas was caught in a whirlpool churning the waters in its depth so that the boat and the old man at the sea were never at rest till the end.

    Although grounds for comparison do not exist, reading this novella,

    came to mind. It's their ability to weave the many similar threads of narrative into a stunning improvisatory whole that turns a small, and prima facie simple, scenario that might be covered in a few pages into an expanded mass of words that transcends the boundaries of its immediate context to inform on larger human struggle. Repetition or artistic improvisation, when done well, is fascinating and here Orhan Pamuk and Ernest Hemingway appear brothers-in-arms. You start with a pin prick of a view that widens and opens out into a wide vista giving you a clear view of the clutter of human ethos.

    Like his so many stories it's a tale of a heroic struggle but only inasmuch as a frail-legged ant suffers to get a tiny lump of sugar to its colony to claim its superiority on the lesser types. A knackered old man dreaming on the seas of a big catch in a boat fit for the axe of a lumberjack with a young boy for a helper do not evoke the romantic world of heroic battles fought by the gun-wielding machismo of Hemingway's other stories. This is something simpler in its setting yet more profound in its humanistic import.

    A piece of writing - a prose story or a poem - becomes great because it has no single, fixed, literal meaning that forbids imagination. It is the reader who picks up the idea consistent with the subjective conditions of his own worldview, interpreting the text, changing it, and then getting changed by it in turn. This novella lends itself to interpretation on multiple levels and, for its rich imagery of natural elements and human emotions, remains one of the very best Hemingway offered us.

    October 2015

  • Brina

    Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the masters of American 20th century fiction. Garnering from his life experiences, his novels reflect on his time as a newspaper reporter and correspondent in a Europe during both the inner war and war years. A member of the lost generation, Hemingway was the first of his group to have a major work published. In addition to all of the accolades bestowed upon him, Hemingway is considered along Steinbeck to be a master storyteller, especially of short stories.

    Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the masters of American 20th century fiction. Garnering from his life experiences, his novels reflect on his time as a newspaper reporter and correspondent in a Europe during both the inner war and war years. A member of the lost generation, Hemingway was the first of his group to have a major work published. In addition to all of the accolades bestowed upon him, Hemingway is considered along Steinbeck to be a master storyteller, especially of short stories. The crowning achievement to an illustrious career, The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952, less than ten years before Hemingway's death.

    Santiago is an older fisherman in Havana. He is content fishing and contemplating on his life while finding out the daily baseball scores. His favorite ball player is Joe DiMaggio because his father was a famed fisherman. As a younger man, Santiago was considered the strongest man in Havana, one time outlasting a negro from Cienfuegos in a twenty four hour arm wrestling duel. Yet, despite his fame and accomplishments as a fisherman, Santiago's luck has run out on hm. As an older man, her needs help from a boy to complete his daily fishing hauls and tasks, and has not caught a fish in 84 days. In spite of this run of poor luck, Santiago still returns to the seas on a daily basis, hopeful to catch the big fish that has alluded him for his entire life.

    Because of lack of successes, his boy has turned to another, lucky fishing boat. Santiago has to go at it alone, with only two fishing lines and baits. Determined to catch that big one, he sets out even with the dangers of sea, especially sharks, knowing that each journey into the water could be his last. Yet, this is subsistence and sustenance for many people on an island, so Santiago persists at his task. His voyage for the big fish becomes more than a fishing trip but his contemplating life, bestowing his wisdom on both the fishing trade and life knowledge on the younger generations. This is without the assurance that he will even catch a fish or if this determination to catch the big one will be his last voyage.

    From this 120 page novella, one can see glimpses of Hemingway's greatness. His sentences are full of imagery and imparting the wisdom of a rich life. As an older man, he himself enjoyed fishing and Santiago mirrors how Hemingway spent his later life. I have read a number of Pulitzers, and while the writing of this novella is enriching, I am left wondering if perhaps Hemingway won the award here as a crowning jewel on his life body of work. The story was captivating and full of messages yet a novella, rather than a novel. Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, this powerful novella was the best work of fiction in its given year and worthy of the award.

    In my quest to read the Pulitzers, I am glad that I was finally lead to read Hemingway. It is clear to me that he is a master of his craft, and I look forward to reading his further work. The Old Man and the Sea looks back on an enriching life and won Hemingway a deserving award, if not for his lifetime of writing. As a lovely story and another Pulitzer I can check off my list, The Old Man and the Sea rates 4 powerful stars.


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