Review: The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

Title: The Old Man and the Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Published by Vintage Classics, 1999

How I discovered this book: Everybody who studied literature, or is interested about it, have heard about Ernest Hemingway. It so happens that despite hearing about him, I’d never read anything from him. I chose this book because it won the Nobel Prize and I was curious about it.

ReviewThe Old Man and the Sea tells the story of a very old man, a boy and a really big fish. Santiago is an old fisherman from the islands on the Gulf Stream. He has been a fisherman for many years and lived many adventures. He was friends with a young boy named Manolin, who learnt to fish with him since he was five. The boy loved the old man and was loved by him as if they were father and son.

Despite of the old fisherman’s years and experience, the villagers were considering him to be an unlucky man, since he hasn’t fished a single fish for more than 80 days straight. The boy’s father forbid him to continue to fish with the old man, thus separating them. Nevertheless, the Manolin kept tending to the old man’s needs every morning and every evening, sharing stories, learning and enjoying each others company. One day, Santiago decided to venture himself further into the Gulf Stream sea, sure as he was that he would catch a big and tremendous fish. This is how a tale of strong perseverance and even pure stubbornness, if I may say, begins.

The plot itself is very simple, and so is Hemingway’s writing. There are no big or ostentatious words. I read the  book in a heartbeat! Still, I can’t find words to explain how much I felt every single word of it. It was compelling and frustrating at the same time. I was angry for the way the old man was put aside by the younger fishermen, how he was deemed unlucky, I think, because they saw him as old and therefore useless. I was proud and inspired by the old man’s faith and belief that he would catch that big fish, and his strength and perseverance while he struggled with the fish itself for 3 whole days. I’ve came to respect the fish as Santiago did, to consider it as a brother, a dignified creature who’s not just meat for profit. I hold my breath when the sharks came, when darkness seemed to be all that was left, and admired the old man even more because he always kept fighting. Even when the end was certain, he didn’t give up. If he was to go down, he would go down like the big fish, fighting until the end. Sometimes I felt so irritated! I found myself saying: “Just leave the damn fish behind and save yourself, you stubborn old man! You’ll get yourself killed for being too proud!” But he didn’t let go, and while he saw his dream being shattered he kept going.

OverallSometimes a book comes to you when you most need it. I don’t really care if this book has a whole other symbolical meaning. To me it was a lesson of perseverance and I’ll forever treasure it as such. You can always make a point that the old man probably was completely crazy and obsessed, that in reality he was just too frustrated with his life and wanted to prove to everyone that he could still conquer a great achievement, despite his age. But, to me, I’ll always see it as a tale of faith that remind me to never give up. I really enjoyed this book. It is a small story with a great message. I recommend it to everyone with no doubts.


Quotes worth mentioning: 

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

“It’s silly not to hope. It’s a sin he thought.”

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

“He remembered the time he had hooked one of a pair of marlin. The male fish always let the female fish feed first and the hooked fish, the female, made a wild, panic-stricken, despairing fight that soon exhausted her, and all the time the male had stayed with her, crossing the line and circling with her on the surface. He had stayed so close that the old man was afraid he would cut the line with his tail which was sharp as a scythe and almost of that size and shape. When the old man had gaffed her and clubbed her, holding the rapier bill with its sandpaper edge and clubbing her across the top of her head until her colour turned to a colour almost like the backing of mirrors, and then, with the boy’s aid, hoisted her aboard, the male fish had stayed by the side of the boat. Then, while the old man was clearing the lines and preparing the harpoon, the male fish jumped high into the air beside the boat to see where the female was and then went down deep, his lavender wings, that were his pectoral fins, spread wide and all his wide lavender stripes showing. He was beautiful, the old man remembered, and he had stayed.”