Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Old Man and the Sea

Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway

Paperback, 99 pages
First Published:  1952
Publisher:  Arrow Books
ISBN:  9780099908401

61130Blurb:  Set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana, Hemingway's magnificent fable is the story of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. In a perfectly crafted story, which won for Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man's challenge to the elements in which he lives.

 “I try not to borrow. First you borrow. Then you beg.”

Among the most iconic books written in 20th century, Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea” has a spot of its own. In case you have not been living in a cave since you were born, you’d have heard of its reference somewhere. Published in 1952, The Old Man and the Sea went on to win Pulitzer Prize. It was also cited as the contributing factor to Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize in 1954.

 Santiago, an old veteran fisherman, embarks on a lonesome journey in his skiff to catch a big fish after not catching a single fish for past eighty four days. The book chronicles the struggle of the old man and the marlin in the Gulf Stream. Even with scarcity of basic amenities, Santiago does not let go of the marlin, at the risk of his own life. He does so because he believes in his skills no matter what the other fishermen think of him. The book is the depiction of struggle of man with the nature for his existence.

The writing style of Hemingway is poetic. The scenes are full of imagery. The book contains a lot of monologues, which are masterfully written by the Nobel Laureate. Hemingway is highly economical with his words without leaving any point of the characterization of the old man. Without even ever talking about it, the author depicts the desire of the Old Man to cement his place in the Cuban society and culture. The author also paints the picture of the relation between the young boy, Manolin, and the Old Man. The reader is presented with a vivid picture of their interdependence on each other, even though the young boy’s parents do not let him work with the Old Man.

Although it might take you only a single sitting to read the entire novella, the book will end up giving you enough food for thought that will take a long time digesting. The central theme of the book is man’s capability, strength, bravery and ethics at the time of adversity. Te recurring theme of manhood in Hemingway’s literature is also present in this book. The struggle in the Gulf Stream between the marlin and the old man can also be seen as a metaphor for the adulation, love and respect between two adversaries of equal footing. The turn of the events later on in the book tend to show the ethics of manhood, too.

The book can be summed up as a triumph of an individual. It is the moral code of a life laid bare, where a man has to fight for his even most essential needs.  In modern life we would hardly have to struggle for life’s basic needs against nature like Santiago, but still he teaches us how to accept failure in life, strive alone for our goals with dignity, believe in our capability, and when success comes accept it with humility.

I think every lover of literature should go through this small, yet magnanimous piece of literature. Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea is highly recommended!  

Reviewed by: Shadab Ahmed.
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