The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

by jptanabe

My Review of Ernest Hemingway's classic story, "The Old Man and the Sea." A deceptively simple short tale that captures the imagination and inspires deep thoughts.

I love Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." It's a great introduction to his writing, and not just because it's a short book!

The story is quite simple. For the most part it follows an old Cuban fisherman on one fishing trip, which turns out to be both victorious and tragic. There is none of the bullfighting and horrors of war that are common themes in Hemingway's longer novels. While I enjoy reading those, there is something about the simplicity of "The Old Man and the Sea" that leads the reader into reflection of the complexities of life. Sounds contradictory? Well, Hemingway's not your average simple author, even though he is well-known for the apparent simplicity of his prose. There is always much more being said than appears on the surface of the words on the page, just like an iceberg.

"The Old Man and the Sea"

This book is short, just over 120 pages, and most of the story involves one man, the fisherman Santiago, alone on his fishing boat. Well, not quite alone - there's the fish too!

The novel is quite unforgettable as Hemingway masterfully takes the reader through Santiago's struggle to defeat the great marlin.

A book I've read over and over again, and the tale moves me every time.

"The Old Man and The Sea" won a Pulitzer Prize and was specifically cited when Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in literature.

How would you do out on the ocean alone for 3 days

trying to catch a fish?

Hemingway's classic tale of one old fisherman's heroic struggle.

Yes, Santiago spends three whole days on this fishing trip because during the previous 84 days he has failed to catch anything closer to shore. This means it's really life or death for Santiago. Without catching fish he has no livelihood. But going far out to sea alone is dangerous. He would have taken his young apprentice, Manolin, but his parents have forbidden him to fish with Santiago due to his lack of success.

A large part of the book is spent detailing Santiago's struggle with a large marlin that takes his bait. The fish displays not only strength but determination. Santiago matches everything the marlin tries during the many hours that it pulls his boat while he holds the line against his body. Imagine the pain!

In the end though, Santiago is no match for the sharks that circle his boat as he tries to get back to shore. Without totally spoiling the story, let me just say that Santiago wins back the respect of his Cuban community even though he tells Manolin he was beaten. Manolin reminds him that it wasn't the marlin that beat him. Their friendship endures.

Everything about him was old except his eyes

and they were the same color as the sea

and were cheerful and undefeated.

A story about an old fisherman or an allegory?

This book can be read simply as the story of an aging fisherman who tries so hard to get that big catch. There is also a lot of Christian imagery involved, which makes the story all the more fascinating.

How did you read this book?

Is it just a great story?
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Movies based on the book

To be honest, I haven't seen either of these movies. But I do know that Spencer Tracy and Anthony Quinn were both great actors in their day. I'll not choose which does the better job portraying the Cuban fisherman Santiago, although obviously the Mexican Quinn has the edge in authenticity!

As reviewers of both movies have noted, filming a story that takes place with one person out on a boat for three days is a bit of a challenge for any movie maker.

Learn more about Ernest Hemingway

Updated: 02/13/2024, jptanabe
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jptanabe on 09/22/2015

Thanks Mira. I've read the book several times. I really should watch the movies too!

jptanabe on 09/22/2015

Thanks WriterArtist! I agree Heminway deserved his Pulitzer prize. However, I'm not sure he'd appreciate being called an "English" author, since he's American! (I know what you meant, he did write in English)

Mira on 09/22/2015

I've started this book recently and liked what I read but then moved to other books. I may have read it in the past, though, because I did go through a Hemingway phase.

I'll go back to it :) I'd like to see the films, too!!

WriterArtist on 09/22/2015

I have always admired English authors for their contribution to the literature and Ernest Hemingway is one of them. His style and strength is the simplicity of words he chooses to depict the story. We all get bonded to the selection of his words. The old man and the sea is the classic story and he had become famous with it. He truly deserves the Pulitzer prize.

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