Title: The Old Man and The Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Written in: 1951, published in 1952
Accredited with: The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and cited as contributing to the Nobel Prize for Literature to Hemingway in 1954!
"It's silly not to hope. It's a sin, he thought". This line from the supposedly outstanding short story by Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and The Sea perfectly summarizes what was one of the most pivotal themes for me in this book: hope.
Set in the seas of The Gulf, this is a story about an old man named Santiago, a boy Manolin and a big marlin (a kind of fish). It's a story of the old man's struggle as he sets out to fish after 84 days of no luck, full of hope and determination. Because of family pressures, Manolin is unable to accompany him, although he cares deeply for the old man and helps him get ready for the journey by bringing him fresh sardines for the bait and getting the equipment ready. The old man sails off in his skiff and it is after hours of baiting and waiting when finally he feels the line get stiff. Finally he's caught some fish, although he might have been a big fish because he started swimming on its own course, taking the old man and the boat along with him. The story is about this journey, about the man in his aged demeanor and his habit of talking to himself (because he's alone now), about how he struggles to catch this big fish, bigger than the skiff itself!
The old man's thinking to himself, talking to himself and in this one can observe how different it might have been had the boy been with him, as the old man also observes. They could have taken care of everything together, but as it was, he was being rowed by the fish far into the sea for almost three days. Most of the writing is internal dialogue, the man talking to himself or to the sea or to the fish and thinking back to his small shack in the small village where he lives, thinking of the boy and thinking of life. What I found so.... peculiarly cute (I'm sorry if this word doesn't fit the actual literary understanding, but this is just my perspective) was how Santiago respected the fish too. He understood that as a fisherman he has to kill them, but that's the way it is to be. Natural. "He is a great fish and I must convince him, he thought. Thank God they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and able".
Santiago offers hope, like I mentioned before. He's tired and his hands are bleeding and cramped, his shoulders ache and he had to eat raw, distasteful fish, but he still holds on to the big fish because that is what is meant for him to take. Even afterwards he's battling back home, fighting more creatures of the sea, yet he's hopeful. Apart from the hope angle, I found parallels to his philosophical thinking. "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 sea and kill our true brothers".
With all these thoughts for company, he's contemplating if what he has done and been through at the sea was right and if he was worthy of it. This is one thing I was sad to see. From how I interpret it, when the old man continuously thinks it was wrong for him to go so far out, it says if you have stepped out of the zone society has created for you, even if you don't feel you can't do it, if you fail you would think you did the wrong thing because what you did wasn't expected from you. I don't know, that's just one way I interpreted. Although yes, it does show him as a victor in the end, it being a "victory in defeat" so I guess it makes up for it. "But a man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated."
This is a beautiful story, albeit a short one. That's what makes it simple too, I guess. I loved the way it was written, although at some parts I thought it was repetitive, but they turned out to be the old man's thoughts and I suppose it is supposed to reflect the way he was thinking. I got this book sometime last year but got around to reading it now. For my 2013 Reading Challenge, I had decided to read up classics, but I've managed to read just three of them. :| I hope to make up for it this year itself! Classics are just so.... classic! ;)
PS- This book has been made into a movie twice! Once in 1958 and once in 1999. You can watch the 1999 movie on youtube here.