Friday, April 15, 2011

Thoughts: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway is known for his machismo and, because of that, I’ve stayed away from his work. When we were required to read The Old Man and the Sea in one of my classes, however, I had no choice, but to suck up my unexplainable dislike for the man.

The Old Man and the Sea is about, well, an old man who hasn’t caught a single fish in eighty-four days. A boy named Manolin used to go fishing with him, but Manolin’s parents thought the old man was salao, the worst kind of bad luck. On the eighty-fifth day, the old man decides to go farther than the other fishermen. He encounters a majestic marlin, and that’s where the story really begins.

I didn’t understand some of the “technical” fishing terms in this story, but the rest of it was told in really simple language. I guess that’s what impressed me most about Hemingway’s writing. In one passage, Santiago, the titular old man, accepted the other fishermen were stronger then him, but added that he had unique tricks. With a few simple words, Hemingway managed to show Santiago’s humility and confidence at the same time.

During our class discussion, my lit teacher said that the thesis of the novel is basically this quote:

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

For me, the quote is all about human endurance, about not giving up even if the problems and obstacles in our lives are proving to be more than difficult. I find it particularly interesting, since Hemingway committed suicide. Maybe he couldn’t deal with the issues in his life anymore, I’m not sure.

I asked my teacher if the maxim could still be considered weighty or of value, even if its creator, Hemingway in this case, failed to live up to it. My teacher said yes. It all depends on how we apply such maxims or quote to our own lives. Reading The Old Man and the Sea showed me, once again, how knowing something about an author’s life can really enrich the reading experience.

The only things I didn’t like about The Old Man and the Sea were the allusions to Christ. I didn’t think they were necessary, and were, to be frank, as subtle as a sledgehammer to the knees. Overall, though, I think The Old Man and the Sea is a great introduction to the works of Hemingway. It’s just not my cup of tea, since I’m a Bronte/Austen kind of girl.

Rating: 4/5

16 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I listened to the audio version of this one several years ago and thought it was very well done.

mooderino said...

Good review.
cheers,
mood

Amanda said...

I absolutely adore this book and have read it 4 or 5 times over the last decade. It's the most powerful of all the Hemingway books I've read. I didn't mind the religious references because they are Santiago's references, not Hemingway's (I believe Hemingway was an athiest).

Red said...

i like your review. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I've never read any Hemingway. I don't know that I'll be picking up this one anytime soon but perhaps I'll give something else of his a go.

Zibilee said...

I have stayed away from Hemingway for just the reasons that you mention, and I am not sure when I will pick up one of his books. He seems so terse in his writing, and that is one thing that I have a hard time getting used to.

Annie said...

I haven't read this for over forty years, when it was one of my set books for 'O'Level. I think I was much too young to have any real understanding of it and I ought to go back and re-read it now when I might be in a position to understand the old man rather better.

Ben said...

In the end, Hemingway was really sick and he wasn't all there anymore.

http://www.badhemingway.com/hem_with_gun.jpg

He spent his last year shacked up and people around him said he was not doing well mentally.

Shelley said...

I just read this about a month ago and the thing I liked about it most was the depiction of the setting. I'm not even sure how Hemingway did it, but everything was so vivid. I was curiously unmoved by the main theme. Maybe it's just a matter of timing.

Brenna said...

I read this last month and liked it well enough, but I preferred The Sun Also Rises.

Eclectic Indulgence said...

Seeing Austen being rated above Hemingway crushes my very soul! :)

I do agree with the religious sentiments, but I would give Hemingway another go. Other than his remarkable short story collection, I would reccommend 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'.

Sharon said...

I read this one a couple of years ago and really liked it. The religious references were fine with me, they fleshed out Santiago that much more. This is the only Hemingway I've read and intend to read some more.....sometime....
Great review, thanks!

mel u said...

try this pod cast of a great Hemingway short story-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/audio/2010/dec/08/julian-barnes-ernest-hemingway-podcast

Trisha said...

I swear this is one of those books where the mood I'm in while reading has a severe impact on my enjoyment. I liked it the first time, hated it the second.

Rebecca Reid said...

I read this right after natural childbirth and I felt invincible. I should reread it to get that back. And, I don't remember any reference to Christ. So, hmmm.

Teacher/Learner said...

I like how you balanced your review to show how much you appreciated the book despite not being blown away by it. Well done! I think your teacher brought up a brilliant quotation that could very well apply to Hemingway, even though his death suggests otherwise.

Mel said...

I am slowly coming to read more Hemingway. I read the Old Man and the Sea many years ago and enjoyed it well enough. I read "To Have and Have Not" last year and enjoyed that one more. Like others have commented, I found your review interesting and really well balanced. Many thanks

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