- Hardcover: 46 pages
- Publisher: Benediction Classics (August 24, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1781396817
- ISBN-13: 978-1781396810
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2,142 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Old Man and the Sea
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Here, for a change, is a fish tale that actually does honor to the author. In fact The Old Man and the Sea revived Ernest Hemingway's career, which was foundering under the weight of such postwar stinkers as Across the River and into the Trees. It also led directly to his receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1954 (an award Hemingway gladly accepted, despite his earlier observation that "no son of a bitch that ever won the Nobel Prize ever wrote anything worth reading afterwards"). A half century later, it's still easy to see why. This tale of an aged Cuban fisherman going head-to-head (or hand-to-fin) with a magnificent marlin encapsulates Hemingway's favorite motifs of physical and moral challenge. Yet Santiago is too old and infirm to partake of the gun-toting machismo that disfigured much of the author's later work: "The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords." Hemingway's style, too, reverts to those superb snapshots of perception that won him his initial fame:
Just before it was dark, as they passed a great island of Sargasso weed that heaved and swung in the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket, his small line was taken by a dolphin. He saw it first when it jumped in the air, true gold in the last of the sun and bending and flapping wildly in the air.If a younger Hemingway had written this novella, Santiago most likely would have towed the enormous fish back to port and posed for a triumphal photograph--just as the author delighted in doing, circa 1935. Instead his prize gets devoured by a school of sharks. Returning with little more than a skeleton, he takes to his bed and, in the very last line, cements his identification with his creator: "The old man was dreaming about the lions." Perhaps there's some allegory of art and experience floating around in there somewhere--but The Old Man and the Sea was, in any case, the last great catch of Hemingway's career. --James Marcus
"It is unsurpassed in Hemingway's oeuvre. Every word tells and there is not a word too many" --Anthony Burgess "A quite wonderful example of narrative art. The writing is as taut, and at the same time as lithe and cunningly played out, as the line on which the old man plays the fish" Guardian
Top customer reviews
The most intriguing part of the novella is when the Old Man, Santiago, fights off the sharks that came to eat his Marlin. In this scene, Santiago ferociously strikes the sharks with his harpoon but when it gets caught in the shark’s head, he doesn’t give up but instead he pulls out a knife and finally he snaps the knife in half, but in his last effort he uses his oar and club to beat the sharks to death. This example demonstrates the extent of the Old Man’s internal strength and courage to go through hardship, and his willingness to sacrifice his life for the success of his adventure. This famous quote from this novella, “man can be destroyed but not defeated” further represents the theme. The following day of his return from this great journey, the little boy asks him if he is going to fishing the next day, and the old man answers of course. This shows his spirit of adventure.
The story would be far less interesting if he just got back safe with the marlin intact. There is more dignity in having fought courageously. What he went through is a metaphor for what almost all people with go through weather it’s not coming in first place in a competition or not getting into your college of choice. Just keep being persistent and determined no matter the up and downs, and you will succeed.
My wife read this as a kid in school. I'm glad I did not, because reading it now as an adult for myself, I could just enjoy the story without dissecting it too much.
One can pick out lots of themes, of course. But the thing that resonated with me the most is how this old man, despite all of his years and experience, still feels the need to prove himself. Its a bit sad that he is not more contented at this stage of life, but that is overshadowed by his never-quit spirit.