Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man And The Sea

Posted on | July 20, 2010 | 20 Comments

Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man And The SeaI have an absolutely ancient copy of this book lying around, and it’s actually bizarre that I’ve not read the book yet – it’s just 114 pages long! Published in 1974, the book cost just 30p at the time (US$0.45)! The book costs £7.99 now… let’s keep that musing for another day!

The Old Man and the Sea is an extremely ‘concise’ book, for the lack of a better word. The plot is uncomplicated, with minimal dialogue. It’s literally about an old man and the sea, as the old man (Santiago) tries to change his luck, after going eighty-four days without catching a fish.

Santiago’s protege, Manolin, has moved on to a “lucky” boat, as per his father’s wishes, and so, when the old man heads out to the waters on the eighty-fifth day, he’s all alone, without the boy he trusts.

On this fateful day though, Santiago’s luck does change, as he catches what appears to be a giant fish, and an epic battle begins at sea between the fish and the man, as he is not able to haul the fish onboard. Thus begins a great game of waiting and patience (and impatience) as the old man bides his time, and ponders upon many-a-thing, including how useless his left hand his (when it starts cramping), how much he misses the old boy, and how he would have made some changes in his journey, had he known better.

He could feel the steady hard pull of the line and his left hand was cramped. It drew up tight on the heavy cord and he looked at it in disgust.

‘What kind of a hand is that,’ he said. ‘Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw. It will do you no good.’

While I’m glad I read this book, I still thought it dragged on a bit, by recounting the story of the old man’s stay at the sea and his battle with the fish. Ironic that I’m saying the above about a book which is only 114 pages long, but there you have it. I guess I’m not interested in fishing, and while I understand the basic jargon, I don’t really get what a lot of it means. For that matter, I don’t quite understand fishing techniques either. So, maybe that’s just me!

The old man’s characterisation was fantastic though, as was his dialogues with the various natural things around him, including his victim – the fish. The way he handled exhaustion, cramps, hunger and thirst was mind-blowing, and I couldn’t help but sympathise with him at those times. Even when I finished the book, I felt slightly despondent – but I reckon that’s an emotion the book is expected to evoke.

The writing was brilliant – not poetic, but very real. The language was simple, and easy to read, while simultaneously bringing alive some of the scenes from the book. There was no superfluity, but all the words came together as though essential to form the whole story.

It’s the first Hemingway I’ve read (yep, I know that’s embarrassing!), but was wondering if you have read any of his works. If yes, what would you recommend?


20 Responses to “Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man And The Sea”

  1. Kathy
    July 20th, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

    I really liked A Farewell to Arms. That’s a bit odd, since I really don’t like books about war, and since (if I recall correctly) the book is quite depressing, but I think it’s one to try.

  2. Becky (Page Turners)
    July 21st, 2010 @ 3:11 am

    I haven’t actually read any Hemmingway – even more embarassing. I think I had the same feeling though after finishing Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. I recognised it was really good writing, but I felt so despondent at the end of it I couldn’t decide if I really liked it or not

  3. Thomas at My Porch
    July 21st, 2010 @ 5:17 am

    I’ve read this one, The Sun Also Rises, and The Garden of Eden. I think I like The Sun Also Rises best. Altough I just read The Old Man not too long ago and I liked it a lot. Normally a fishing story wouldn’t interest me, but I was mesmerized by this one.

  4. Joanna
    July 21st, 2010 @ 10:08 am

    I remember reading this in high school and thought it was terribly boring. It kept me from reading anything else by Hemingway, which is probably a shame!

  5. JoAnn
    July 21st, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

    In addition to this, I’ve read For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Garden of Eden (which I liked best). A Moveable Feast is here near the top of my tbr. Had hoped to read it for Paris in July, but picked up a Persephone yesterday instead.
    Timely post – today is Hemingway’s birthday!

  6. jane
    July 21st, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

    I was going to comment on it being his birthday today, too! Well, I absolutely loved The Old Man and the Sea – I think it might be my favourite book, in fact. I loved the simplicity of it, and the fact that it was such a good story. The Sun Also Rises is very good, A Moveable Feast is wonderful – especially if like me you love Paris, and one of my very favourite books in the world is A Farewell to Arms – the saddest love story ever told, I do believe. A beautiful book.

  7. Mae
    July 21st, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

    This was my first, and only, Hemmingway too. I think I got swayed by its slimness! :-) I read it in high school and had no idea what happened after I finished the book. Now that I think about it, could be it the abridged version of Moby Dick? I haven’t read that though…

  8. anothercookiecrumbles
    July 21st, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

    @ Kathy : I’ll give it a shot! It seems slightly more chunky than The Old Man and The Sea. Okay! I’m going to stop being so lazy….

    @ Becky : I changed that a week or so ago (not having read any Hemingways), so you know… :) I’ve not read any Kafka yet (which is also embarrassing). Maybe I should change that as well?

    @ Thomas at My Porch : I’ll check out The Sun Also Rises. Barring a bit in the middle, I thought this was fantastic. I think I’m slightly biased though, as the thought of actual fishing does kind-of freak me out.

    @ Joanna : Ah! The joys of high school reading – other than Little Women (which we read in middle school), I didn’t enjoy any of the books we did at school, which is a pity as some of them were actually really good.

    @ JoAnn : Ooh, didn’t know today’s Hemingway’s birthday. It’s the second time I’ve had a post co-incide with an author’s birthday/death anniversary. I’ve got a copy of For Whom The Bells Toll, so I might venture near that next. Enjoy the Persephone and Paris in July in the meantime. :)

    @ jane : Thanks for the comment, jane. You’ve pretty much made me want to read all the books! So confused about where to go from here now…

    @ Mae : lol, I almost thought my edition of this book was abridged! Maybe it’s time to revisit Hemingway? :)

  9. Jo
    July 21st, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

    I have a similarly ancient copy of this on the shelves too, and A Farewell to arms. Both priced at 75p!
    I’l join you in the embarrassment because I’ve never read Hemmingway either, but I thin my first may be A Farewell to Arms because this one really doesn’t appeal that much!

  10. Mish
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    I barely remember my Hemingway experience years ago but it wasn’t bad.

    Old Man and the Sea has been on my reading list simply because of the fishing. It’s one of my favourite relaxations where I can just ponder. Cast a line, wait, reel in, repeat. It’s very meditative. Now that my fishing buddy has moved I’m kind of at a loss.

  11. charley
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 4:33 am

    A friend recommended A Moveable Feast to me, and I acquired it about a year ago but have yet to read it. I’m more interested in all the polydactyl cats on Hemingway’s property than I am in reading his work.

  12. Nancy
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

    I have tried to read The Sun also Rises several times and can’t get past page 10. I liked For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms, but the short stories represent Hemingway at his best.

  13. Des
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

    I enjoyed your review…Thanks. And it brings back a lot of memories…I read this twice, the second time, with an audio book I borrowed from the library. And both times, I cried, as the old man lost its fight against nature, but his spirit as always, resilient.

  14. claire (kiss a cloud)
    July 23rd, 2010 @ 8:44 am

    Lol. The book is as old as me, exactly. I loved this. Also have read The Sun Also Rises, which is another great one. You’re right, he isn’t poetic at all, but man can he write.

  15. anothercookiecrumbles
    July 23rd, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

    @ Jo : I don’t think I was even alive then, but I miss those days! Books are so expensive at the moment (comparatively). Hopefully, I’ll read Farewell to Arms as my next Hemingway. Let’s see…

    @ Mish : Aww :( I’ve never been fishing. Might have something to do with me being a vegetarian… Reckon you should read this book, if you like fishing. It’s literally about an old man at sea, fishing alone, looking for the catch, while talking to himself and the nature around him.

    @ charley : Haha, have to say, I’m not a cat person! Didn’t know about the polydactyl cats ’til you just mentioned it, and then had to google it! Oh, ignoramous me!

    @ Nancy : I’ve not read any of his short stories. I used to have a copy of For Whom The Bells Toll, but it’s not there anymore. :S I guess I’ll avoid The Sun Also Rises for the time being.

    @ claire (kiss a cloud) : lol, wow! I’m normally a sucker for poetic writing, but enjoyed this one irrespective!

  16. Bellezza
    July 25th, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

    This is another book we were required to read in high school; I haven’t read it since then. I remember it being very real to me, but tedious at the same time. However, as an adult, I can now see that the fish could stand for many things in a person’s life. (Why do they insist on having high schoolers read stuff they can barely understand because they haven’t lived long enough?)

    My father loves to fish, we’re going out tomorrow as a matter of fact. Not because I love to fish, but I do love to be with him under any circumstance. I should get this book on audio for him to listen to in the car.

  17. Nicola
    July 25th, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

    I ought to read more Hemingway. I didn’t care for A Farewell to Arms but I like the sound of this one. Suppose I’m a bit put of by Hemingways macho reputation.

  18. anothercookiecrumbles
    July 26th, 2010 @ 12:51 am

    @ Bellezza : It’s a very good question – the one about high schoolers being made to read books they can’t really appreciate. More often than not, it also leaves the poor student with bad memories about the book for a long time after! Hope you enjoy your day out fishing, and good luck on getting the catch. Also, hope you manage to get the audio book – guessing if you enjoy fishing, you’ll appreciate it loads more than I did.

    @ Nicola : Sorry to hear you didn’t care for A Farewell To Arms. Guess Hemingway’s reputation precedes him, huh?

  19. Mish
    July 26th, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

    I was a vegetarian, but reintroduced seafood into my diet after ten years. Now I partake of meat a few times a week and my body’s much happier. Part of my theory is that if I’m eating it, I should be willing to get it myself…hence fishing.

    Thanks for bringing Old Man and the Sea back to my attention.

  20. Natalie @ Coffee and a Book Chick
    July 29th, 2010 @ 12:24 am

    I just recently read several Hemingway works and actually just returned on Sunday from the Hemingway Days Festival in Key West, Florida to support my Dad in the Hemingway Look Alike contest, which I posted on my blog as well! It was a blast! I actually enjoyed every moment of The Old Man and the Sea and felt that it has become one of my favorite books, along with Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Great to see that Hemingway is still being read! :)

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