Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea
Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2007 - 160 pages
The Present Book Is An In-Depth Critical Study Of The Modern American Classic, Ernest Hemingway S The Old Man And The Sea, Which Won The Pulitzer Prize In 1952 And The Nobel Prize In 1954.This Study, While Keeping The Novel Under The Critical Lens, Examines It Against The Backdrop Of Hemingway S Aesthetic Convictions And Overall Literary Achievement. It Throws Light On The Various Dimensions Of Not Only The Novel But Hemingway S Craftsmanship Like His Use Of Suggestion And Symbolism, His Inimitable Style, His Manipulation Of Narrative Perspective, And The Way He Projects His Philosophical Theme Of The Ephemeral Versus The Everlasting, Which Is Dramatized In The Old Man And The Sea.The Present Book Will Definitely Prove Useful To Students, Researchers As Well As Teachers Of English Literature Interested In The Study Of Hemingway And His Works.
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My one liner: Such a short book, and so much inspiration to be drawn. A master class in brevity. Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature on the back of the publication of this book in 1951. If you have read this book, re-read it: you will get 100 times more from it than the first time round, especially if it was in your younger days. If you have never read it, do so: it will not take much time.
The story of an old man’s fight, no, change that, relationship, with the immutable laws of nature; his own old age and physical decline; the experience and intuition that come from his years at sea; the challenge that he takes on to lead a large fish that he has hooked; shifting elements of the sea, the stars, the moon and the sun; man’s futile attempts to master that which cannot be mastered.
The Old Man is a Havana fisherman, who has come out of an eight-four day barren period when he did not make a single catch. But he continues to believe in the art and skill of his profession:
“He looked down into the water and watched the lines that went straight down into the dark of the water. He kept them straighter than anyone did, so that at each level of darkness there would be a bait waiting exactly where he wished it to be for any fish that swam there. Others let them drift with the current and sometimes they were at sixty fathoms when the fishermen thought they were at a hundred. But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck any more. But who knows ? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when the luck comes you are ready.”
And the big fish does eventually arrive. And it takes the bait. And the hook sticks. But, it is so big that it can last for days. It swims further and further out to sea, dragging the boat with it. So it is now Man against Fish, a battle of wills between two worthy adversaries.
‘Fish,’ he said softly, ‘I’ll stay with you until I am dead’. He’ll stay with me too, I suppose, the old man thought, and he wished it to be light. It was now in the time before daylight, and he pushed against the wood to be warm. I can do it as long as he can, he thought.
What is it that drives the Old Man to pursue his adversary, when experience tells him that he is taking a big risk ? Perhaps it is his Ego. I certainly think so. The Old Man claims to have “attained humility”:
“He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of pride.” I think that Hemingway is showing us that total mastery of Ego and attainment of Humility is much much harder than we think.
As is mastery of the elements and the natural world.
But whatever his faults and ultimate lack of judgment, we cannot but help
feel admiration for the Old Man. For he has reached a level of self-control and discipline which most of us can only dream of achieving. I have addressed this type of discipline in previous posts on Stoicism (here) and Shibumi (here and here).
In the case of the Old Man, it is his resilience and mental strength to move
on from setbacks which marks him out:
“ Now, he said to himself, look at the lashing on the knife and see if it has been cut. Then get your hand in order because there is still more to come. ‘I wish I had a stone for the knife,’ the old man said after he had elevated the lashing on the oar butt. ‘I should have brought a stone.’ You should have brought many things, he thought. But...
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Read the rest of the review here:
A Brief LifeSketch
Hemingways Literary Credo
Hemingways Contrapuntal Theme
A Brief Summary of The Old Man and the Sea
A Note on the Conclusion of The Old Man
The Old Man and the Sea on the Screen