By: Ernest Hemingway
Scribner & Sons, 1952
Well, I'm back in the saddle again. As you can tell, I've skipped ahead to 1953 for this book. My husband and I had a short car ride and decided it would be a good time to listen to a book on CD if we could find one that was short enough and it turns out that Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is only three hours on CD. The review that encouraged me to read this book early can be found on Rebecca Reads.
I found this novella to be sad but interesting as well. Almost the entire story takes place at night and we listened to it driving at night, so I think that really helped me to picture the events in my mind. Usually I hold back on too many detail of a story so that I don't ruin it for those who haven't read it, but I think most have read The Old Man and the Sea at some point in their lives. So, I will go into a little more detail than usual.
Hemingway's book is the story of an old man who used to be a master fisherman but is losing his luck in his later years. Everyone remembers the glory of his past but feels sorry for him because he doesn't catch much anymore. The old man is aware of their pity and is determined to bring in the Big One to prove his time is not up. His chance comes one evening when his bait is taken by the biggest marlin this man has ever seen. He spends several days and nights pulling the giant fish in in such a way that it won't break his line or upset his boat. Finally, he is able to get the fish close enough that he can kill it and strap it to the side of his boat for the ride home (it is too big to put in the boat). Sadly, as he makes his way home sharks smell the blood of the marlin and repeatedly attack the boat, eventually taking all of the meat, leaving only the skeleton. The old man is distraught with feelings of failure after expending so much time and effort. The one redeeming fact is that there is still a skeleton on the side of his boat that everyone sees when he arrives home. They know he still has his fishing skills, but the irony is that their pity for him only increases.
This story pulls me in two different directions. On one hand, it seems that Hemingway is demonstrating the futility of life - the old man works so hard and has nothing to show for it but pity in the end. On the other hand, the spirit and determination of the old man that refuses to give up is such and encouragement. If you have never read The Old Man and the Sea it is definitely a must read.
The image above, although it is a political cartoon, is a good illustration of the book. It can be found in the Edmund Valtman collection on the Library of Congress website (The Old Man and the Sea, 1972Published in The Hartford Times, October 31, 1972Ink on duotone paperPrints & Photographs Division (8)LC-USZ62-130426).