#67 A Review of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Cover Image The Old Man and the Sea is a short simple novel that was written by Ernest Hemingway in the 1950’s. 
The story tells the tale of Santiago, an old fisherman, and his epic battle with a giant marlin fish out on the open sea.  It has been eighty-four days since last catching a fish.  His apprentice, a young boy named Manolin, has been forced by his parents to start fishing with another crew, leaving Santiago to fish alone.  They feel Santiago is unlucky and want their child to spend his time catching fish with another crew.  Manolin still keeps an eye out for Santiago, making sure that he helps him take his equipment on and off the boat each day.  There is a real sense of caring and friendship between the two. On the morning of the eighty-fifth day Santiago claims that he will catch a fish!  Out he goes on his normal routine, baiting the sardines and setting up the fishing lines.  It takes a little while but he soon sees the line tugging on one of the fishing poles.  He knows it to be a large fish, judging by how the fish is tugging at the line.  It is this fish that Santiago will wrestle with for the remainder of the book.
This was not my first Hemingway novel.  I read The Sun also Rises when I was still in high school.  I didn’t remember what it was about and decided to embark on a crusade to re-read it and other Hemingway novels.  Hemingway truly does have a great simplistic style about his writing in this novel. Everything is fairly straight forward, one major conflict with two major characters. 
I recognize that this novel changed the way writing was looked at and done in the 50’s. Sadly, I couldn’t get into the novel.  The story seemed so dragged on. The battle with the fish is almost 70% of the entire book.  It’s page after page about how the old man is holding the fishing line, how hard the fish is tugging on the line, which direction the fish is swimming in, the old man hurting, etc. I enjoyed the interaction between Manolin and Santiago more than anything else, and craved for more of that.  Since the old man is out at sea alone while the struggle with the fish is going on, all the dialogue is one-sided.  He talks to the fish and himself, and after a while just becomes too much to listen too. 
I understand the major theme of the story, overcoming even the most insane circumstances with faith and confidence, but I just couldn’t wait for it to be over. I’m upset with myself for not liking this more than I did.  I would have thought that I could relate to the theme of the novel since I myself am battling to read 100 books this year. Thankfully, this hasn’t deterred me from reading Hemingway’s other works and I’ve eagerly added them to my to-read pile. 
I strongly encourage others to try to read the book.  While I myself was not a huge fan, you yourself might like it.  If you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
2 out of 5 stars.

7 thoughts on “#67 A Review of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

  1. I think we read this in junior high but I don’t really remember. I probably blanked out because of the lengthy battle with the fish, which doesn’t sound that exciting to me. 😉

    I have A Farewell to Arms, though, and hope to read it sometime soon.

    • I can appreciate the theme of the story, but I agree the length of that battle was just too much. It reminds me of the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. It was ok to watch because you just watched the action. With The Old Man and the Sea you had to read it all, and it just became tedious all the times it was mentioned that the fish was pulling the boat or the old man was trying to pull in the fish. I was like geez, how long does it take to catch this thing!

  2. How did his writing change the way books and authors were looked at in the 50’s? I’ve never read any Hemingway and want to try one. Which one are you reading next?

    • Hemingway wrote characters/stories that everyday people could relate too. He became known as the voice of the expatriate community known as the Lost Generation in the 1920’s. It’s really his style that he became known for. The Old Man in the Sea is supposed to be what won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

      On a side note – Do you remember the movie we watched with Sandra Bullock being a nurse during the war over-seas? She took care of an ambulance driver who was injured in the war. It was called In Love and War? The ambulance driver is Ernest Hemingway. (Not really, it’s an actor – but the film is about him and a woman named Agnes von Kurowsky whom he fell in love with)

  3. Pingback: The Weekly Roundup « Reflections of a Book Addict

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