Book Review: The Old Man and The Sea

The Old Man and The Sea

I only had about 20 pages left in 10% Happier when my girlfriend and I went to see the movie “Logan.” I was beginning to wonder what book I should read next. I had a few options swirling around my head. But the “Deadpool 2” teaser shown right before the feature film chose my next book for me, and that book was The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

For reasons I have yet to figure out, there is a book report on The Old Man and The Sea that scrolls on a black screen at the end of the teaser. (an accurate and amusing assessment¬†See Here (external link)¬† While at the theater I was unable to read anything but the first line of the report. I already owned the book, I read the first 20 pages about a year ago, never finished it though. But the teaser was enough to convince me to give the book another shot. So that night, after I finished 10% Happier I read the first half of Hemingway’s classic. And I finished it the next morning before I got out of bed to start my day.

In short, the story tells about Santiago, an old fisherman in Cuba who has gone a long time without catching a fish. On the 85th day of his drought he decides to venture out further in the sea than he has before. He hooks a 1,500lb marlin and much of the story is about him and his thoughts during the days he spends trying to catch the fish.

It’s a very quick read. The version I have is 127 pages in length with the actual story starting at page 9. The book is physically small as well, measuring 4×7. (Yes, I measured my book.) Though it is a short book it does manage to get tedious at one point. Santiago hooks the great fish on page 41, and *spoiler alert* doesn’t catch it until page 94. It wasn’t a bad story, just not what I was expecting. I was thinking he would catch the fish, land it, and get to enjoy the rewards of such a catch. Obviously I don’t know Hemingway.

I should have seen it coming. I have read The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. I should have known better. The prized marlin was too large to keep on Santiago’s small skiff, so he had to tie the trophy to the side of it. On his journey home the marlin is devoured by sharks and Santiago eventually returns to shore with little more than a large skeleton to show for his journey. He then returns to his small shack defeated but not destroyed, and falls asleep on his worn down mattress that has newspaper covering the metal springs. That’s the Hemingway I remember.

There are some interesting motifs in the book. Santiago has an obsession with Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio enters Santiago’s waning mind as the sea takes its toll on Santiago’s body. The 56 game hitting streak DiMaggio had in 1941 still stands today. He was the Yankees’ center fielder for a long time and married Marilyn Monroe. A real life Hemingway Hero. Santiago also has an interesting dialogue about sin, ultimately concluding to let the people who are paid to worry about it should worry about it. He also has three dreams remembering his youth and time and again dreams of lions on the beaches of Africa. I think Santiago misses the strength he had in his youth and wishes he could use his aged wisdom and youthful body simultaneously.

I was first introduced to a Hemingway Hero in my final year of junior college. It was an American Literature class and the professor had us read A Farewell to Arms. I really enjoyed Hemingway’s crisp writing style. No time for fluffy words, there’s a story to tell. And in modern times, where masculinity is often considered toxic, it’s nice to read a book where being a “manly man” is okay, in fact it’s encouraged. I’m reminded of the line from¬†The Sun Also Rises, “You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.”

The Old Man and The Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953. And because it’s Hemingway, it’s automatically a classic. It’s an interesting read for sure. And a must read for any Hemingway fans or anyone who loves a good fishing story. But ultimately I think it’s a book from the past and that today there are much better alternatives to read.

I’m glad I finally read it. It was worth the $2.50 I paid at the now closed used bookstore. There is still Hemingway on my shelf to read, For Whom the Bell Tolls, In Our Time, and The Short Stories. I hope to get to all of them some time. Thank you, Marvel, for giving me the push to finally read this book.


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