Friday, April 15, 2011
Thoughts: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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.