Book Review :: The Old Man and The Sea

The Old Man and the SeaThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stripped down. Brutally simple. Magical.

This story will only appeal to those who’ve seen real struggle in their lives, for this story is a mark on life and people, the battles & struggles they go through to reach towards that something. Otherwise, it is just a tragic story about a crazy old fisherman, who goes deep into the middle of the sea, to prove his worth to the other young fishermen, victoriously battles a mighty eighteen feet marlin, loses it to the jaws of the beastly sharks, and returns shore with the marlin’s skeleton after three days.

Santiago, an old fisherman, is going through hard times. A young boy, Manolin, cares for him. It is to this boy that Santiago wants to prove that he is not over and that he still has strength in his arms. His proud determination takes him far out to the sea, where he hooks a marlin. Then begins a battle where the fish and the man, both prove their worth. Bruised and worn out, no food or water for nourishment, the old man endures.

“I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars. Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. . . . Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. . . . There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity. I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.”

Finally, after an intense battle (with himself and with the sea) the old man wins. The marlin is killed. Yet, it is not over. The marlin’s blood leaves a trail. And, what dwells in the farthest of the seas? Sharks. The old man’s prize is attacked. He defends it, in vain. With much regret and introspect, he returns shore with only but the marlin’s skeleton.


Imagine yourself, far out in the middle of the sea. Out there, there is a deafening calm. Add age to that. And, you have for yourself a perfect recipe that nourishes you with wisdom. The Old Man and The Sea, is one such story. If you have been through any form of struggle there is, you realize that what you thought as a child, is not be what you are today.

“Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.”

Far out in the sea, the old man introspects. He has been through a lot in his life. He has seen many things. Why must it matter to the old man to fight nature with fierce nerve? Here is a man’s challenge to himself, his will to win. Yes, he is old. Nothing much matters to him. Yet, there is always the lingering feeling of what was, that keeps the old man going.

“He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy. He never dreamed about the boy”

At the end of it all, the old man does not succeed. Yet, he is victorious in reclaiming his honour. For him, it was always about fishing. And, having caught a mighty eighteen feet long marlin was victorious for him. There is immense pride one takes in doing what they love the most. Accomplishing that thing is what counts.

'You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food,' he thought. 'You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?'


Incidentally, I happen to be writing this review after watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyI am reminded of Gandalf’s words, ‘Saruman believes it is only great power than can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found, it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… Small acts of kindness and love.’ While the essence of those words, deeply has a lot to do with Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, it is the point about ‘small everyday deeds of ordinary folks’ that drew my attention. The style of writing (as everyone knows) is stripped down. Brutally simple. And, it is that simplicity, the everyday language, the normal, that deepens my love for the book. It draws the reader without a moment of boredom.

I don’t usually care what other people think of a book that I like or dislike. However, I wish to put it out into the universe that if you are looking for multisyllabic words and complex sentences, and literary references that give you an orgasmic high, it is a humble reader’s request to kindly stay away from this book.

Celebrate the spirit of endurance. Go read, The Old Man and The Sea.

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