The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway

Sep 7, 2014 review (read between Aug 24, 2014 – Aug 29, 2014)

2nd reading read review on Goodreads

I first read The Old Man and the Sea back in middle school at the insistence of my dad, and I absolutely hated it. Granted, this was during a period of time when I was reading nothing but the Star Wars Extended Universe novels, so of course I was bummed out by the lack of blaster fights and hyperspace travel. An old man on a boat getting pulled further out into sea by a giant fish? Not exactly my idea of riveting back then.

This early encounter made me develop a natural aversion to all things Hemingway, so I avoided reading any other work by him until a few years ago when I picked up A Movable Feast. Maybe it was due to older age or a evolving reading preferences (it had been years since I had last read a Star Wars book), but I actually enjoyed it a lot. With this in the back of my mind, when I saw The Old Man and the Sea mentioned on some internet article recently, I went and picked up a copy. ‘An old man on a boat getting pulled further out into sea by a giant fish’ was literally all I remembered of the book, so I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to gleam something new from it.

Well, it’s still the story of an old man (Santiago) on a boat (skiff) getting pulled further out into sea by a giant fish (marlin), but there was plenty that I didn’t notice or appreciate the first time I read it: Santiago’s experience, the respect it carries with his fellow fishermen, and the circumstances of his hard life. The struggles out at sea, with the marlin and the journey home, were heartbreaking. Santiago, the experienced fisherman down on his luck, in a world where luck could make or break you. When the rare opportunity presents itself, it’s his experience that lets him battle the marlin to its death, but like any human being he is not fully prepared for the hardships the encounter throws at him. Mistakes are made, but Santiago is able to obtain his trophy, three days from home. On the return trip, he kills multiple sharks that assail him and his prize, but nothing but bones remain of the marlin when he reaches home. Reading through it I could only wonder at how I forgot about the part with the sharks; it was nothing short of brutal.

The second time around, The Old Man and the Sea spoke to me of experience, struggle, and the futility of it all. I still had a hard time getting around the writing style but found myself having more appreciation for it now. I also didn’t go chasing for the biblical undertones that I hear the book was written with, ended up running into a few regardless, but enjoyed it still. Definitely a book I’d re-read many years later to see how my interpretation of the book changes.