The Old Man and the Sea is a novella by Ernest Hemingway. It tells the story of Santiago – the old man – a Cuban fisherman who has not caught a fish for 84 days.
Santiago, well past his prime, and impoverished by lack of success, takes to the sea each day in a dilapidated skiff.
The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.
But in spite of his reduced estate, he is a seasoned fisherman, with a healthy respect for the sea and his prey.
…the old man always thought of her [the sea] as feminine and as something that gave or withheld favors, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.
His young apprentice, Manolin, just a boy who loves the old man, is prohibited from fishing with Santiago because the old man is considered bad luck.
On the 85th day of his draught, Santiago hooks an enormous Blue Marlin that will test his skill, stamina, and resolve. He battles the fish for three days and two nights. Santiago gets little sleep and must eat raw fish to maintain his strength. Although, he is not religious, Santiago prays and adds a little something to the standard Hail Mary…
Blessed Virgin, pray for the death of this fish. Wonderful though he is.
He considers the fish a friend or brother, even though he knows he must kill it, and he often talks to it.
“Fish” he said softly, aloud, “I’ll stay with you until I am dead.”
Santiago is a fan of the New York Yankees and admirer of Joe DiMaggio. He wonders if the great DiMaggio would be proud of his epic struggle. Being a Tigers fan myself, I smiled when Santiago worried about the Yankee’s chances…
I fear both the Tigers of Detroit and the Indians of Cleveland.
I’ll spare the spoiler – though you probably know how it ends. This is my first read of The Old Man and the Sea, though I have read several works by Hemingway. I always admire Hemingway’s writing, but I don’t always love his stories. This one however, was superb; it is now my favorite work by Hemingway. It is a tender, thoughtful story, heartbreaking and heartwarming.
Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this work in 1953, and it was cited as one of the factors for his award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Hemingway’s friend Charles Scribner wrote:
It is a curious fact of literary history that a story which describes the loss of a gigantic prize provided the author with the greatest prize of his career.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this for The Classics Club spin #20.