Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (novel #126)

"Fish" he said, "I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends."


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.

 

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12 comments:

  1. I read this in college and really hated it. I think I might feel differently about it now. Great review!

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    1. Hmmm...if you'd said H.S. or earlier I'd definitely say give it another chance....Oh what the heck. Give it another chance anyway.

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  2. Sadly after reading A Moveable Feast and then A Paris Wife by Paula McLean, I lost all interest in continuing my Hemingway journey. But you’ve almost tempted me here / the Cuban angle appeals to me in particular.

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    1. I think you'd like it. And it's quite short, not a major investment.

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  3. Like you, I'm more a fan of HOW Hemingway writes than the stories he tells. But with this one, I also can enjoy both. It's such a powerful little piece! I greatly disliked it in high school, but I've come to admire it over the years.

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  4. Like so many other Americans of my generation, I read this in high school and in no way appreciated it. I really need to reread it, and based on your review, I will prioritize it. The quotes you provided are superb—I actually mostly like Hemingway and find his simple sentences sublime.

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    1. I don't imagine I would have liked it much in H.S. Probably time for a reread Jane.

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  5. Excellent review! Well done.

    Interesting analogy by Mr. Scribner.

    I read this three times. I loved it in grade school, but then I read it w/ my high schooler, and hated it. But then reread it w/ Hamlete, and fell in love with, as you say, Hemingway's way of telling a story.

    But also, as you point out, this story evokes compassion and empathy and tenderness, capturing a reader's soft heart. (During the time I read it w/ my high schooler, I would say I had a hard heart; obviously that has changed. Reading more has softened my heart.)

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    1. How fascinating and marvelous the reading has softened your heart. I'd not thought of that, but I suspect the same is true for me. I suppose I must give Holden Caulfield one more chance. Thanks for the feedback Ruth.

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  6. Read it some years ago and loved it. A wonderful book. Well done to finish your spin. I am still on my, mostly due to travelling and little time to read. It is Orlando, and I hope to finish it within the coming days.

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    1. It was so short it almost felt like cheating. Thanks for the feedback. I hope you enjoyed Orlando.

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