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The Old Man and the Sea is Ernest Hemingway at his simplest, and most powerful, as a story teller. The sentences are short. The meaning is clear. The cadence of the prose advances your sense of what is happening.
An old man goes out fishing alone from Cuba and hooks the fish of a lifetime. This fish could make a lifetime of disappointments and setbacks all worth while.
After an incredible and exhausting fight, the fish is his. Now all he has to do is get it back to shore. Then the struggle really begins!
The Old Man and the Sea lets us see our own lives more clearly, by experiencing the challenge to and empathizing with the fisherman in this classic tale of man versus nature and man versus himself that explores the true nature of human nobility. What does life mean? What is striving for? From what do we gain our dignity?
Anyone who thinks that he who dies with the most toys wins will can learn a great deal from this story.
Even if the story was not so compelling and universal in its appeal and themes, the book is worth the trip just for the writing. Simple words combine into simple sentences that build into metaphors that pile on top of metaphors in order to make for a magnificent vista and experience for you. Seldom has so much complexity been portrayed with such simplicity. What's even more astonishing is how short this novella is. Amazing!
Just to let you know how much I love this book, I often use the techniques and concepts in The Old Man and the Sea in my own writing. Miscommunication is what people have the most trouble with in cooperating with each other. Any time you run into that stall, think about how Hemingway would have solved the problem. Tell a story like this one that makes the point you want to share. Then tell the story again and again. Thirty times or more, and everyone will begin to get it. When your listeners start telling the story thirty times to others, you have made an important first step.
Read this book, reread this book, learn from it each time, and enjoy ... enjoy ... enjoy!
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on 10 January 2012
There are enough good reviews here, which leaves me little to add except that this book figures in my top ten favourite reads of all time. I've read it on and off since I was twelve or thirteen (I'm now thirty-seven), and it still never fails to capture the imagination and pull you right into the story. It's a beautifully crafted masterpiece suitable for all ages. Great stuff!
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on 7 May 2011
This isn't the exact copy I have, but it is the closest so it will have to do. If you have never read anything by Hemingway, this might be the best place to start. It is short, simple, and without any of the brutality or serious depressive atmosphere of most of his other books, but it still has the same masterful prose style as everything else he wrote. This has never been one of my favourites of his, but it is wonderful to read, and I think I enjoyed it more this time than any other. Hemingway was one of the very few people in history who really knew how to write. He wrote about what he knew well, and he was able to transfer what he perceived with his keen senses onto the page in such a way that someone completely ignorant of the subject could still see and feel what he was describing. And not only could he describe things so clearly and distinctly, but also so beautifully that through his words there always flows emotion - usually melancholy in nature, it's true, but nonetheless pure, poignant emotion. Most writers would give their right arms to be able to conjure up emotion in such a deceptively simple way, but most will never be able to do it. Cormac McCarthy, I have noticed, tries to write more and more like Hemingway, and does fairly well at it, but he will never surpass the master, and most writers who admire him never even attempt to copy his style. Because what seems so simple is anything but, and another one of his many admirable qualities is that he knew what to leave out as well, which is something almost every author needs to learn better. I think most writers would think that this book needed to be longer, and would have tried to fill it out with non-essential material (more characters, side story, back story, lost love, etc.), which would have taken something away from it rather than adding to it, as he well knew. But enough gushing - simply put, if you haven't read this, you should.
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on 7 January 2014
My first book of Hemingway and I came in with high expectations given Hemingway's recognised literary prowess. The book did not disappoint at all. The simplicity of its writing prompts, and even forces the reader to search for the deeper hidden messaging which starts to become apparent mid-way through this gripping story about a fisherman one of his trips out at sea fishing. The powerful writing style keeps you drawing parallels with a number of life lessons. All in all - a quick read, gripping and emotive throughout, and provokes serious thought.

PS: There is also a nice essay about the book - "Confiteor Hominem: Ernest Hemingway's Religion of Man" that I recommend once you have finished reading the book and taking it in through your own lenses.
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2013
I really enjoyed the movie (1990) with Anthony Quinn as Santiago. So I decided it was time to read the book. Well I found the book and the movie paralleled pretty well. How ever I was getting bored with the book. He kept going on and on about Joe Dimaggio's bone spur.

There were a few places that made me squeamish. One such place is when he gutted a dolphin and had his face stuck in it.

The story is too short to go into detail without revealing the surprises; however it is about (you guessed it) an old fisherman, that should be over the hill, going out to sea from Cuba to catch fish. He has 84 days of bad luck and with any luck this is about to change (or is it?)

The reader helps bring the story to life.
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on 3 November 1998
The Old Man and the Sea had some really interesting thoughts in it that made me think about hero's in a new way. The story of Santiago's struggles and how he returned with no physical rewards or prizes, seemed very relatable, very realistic. I really admired the old fisher, amazed at what he endured, and sympathetic to his fate. It would have been romantic if he had returned with his marlin, and the story had ended happily. However, just like you learn from struggles in life, I learned a lot more from the struggles in the book. The thing that I liked the most about the book was that Hemingway challenged most people's view (at least in the western world) of a hero. I liked that he showed in this story that the superficial and worldly prizes aren't necessary to make a human being worthy of admiration. Also, just like the tourist's at the end didn't understand what the fisherman had gone through, most people don't recognize the true hero's that are alive now, but not to let that discourage you. Though the story was sad, I really enjoyed it. It made me think that maybe, even though though I might not become wealthy or beautiful or famous, that I still might attain true worth through obstacles that I face and overcome, by my character, not my prizes.
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I’ve read the majority of Hemingway’s works, almost all of them when I was in my teen’s and 20’s. I am now in the process of re-reading a number of them, including this finely crafted novella, which was a contributing factor in Hemingway being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Particularly this work, after almost a half a century, resonate all the more, now that you can feel some of the old man’s pains, and you are much more conscious how you have to use your knowledge and experience to overcome the declining strength of one’s body. A high school student really cannot truly understand.

The “old man” is Cuban, whose wife has died, and he lives in a shack, alone, along the beach, still practicing the only real profession he has ever known: being a fisherman. A young boy has “adopted” him, and provides moral and physical support to alleviate his poverty. The “old man” has had his “glory days,” sailing as far away as Africa, where he saw the lions on the beach. He also had immense strength in his youth, beating an opponent in a hand-wrestling contest that lasted all night.

The heart of the novella is when the Old Man “grabbed the Brass Ring,” hooking the largest fish ever, a marlin that is two feet longer that his 16 foot skiff. It is truly an epic struggle to reel the marlin in – and the old man fishing experience allows him to “think like a fish,” knowing instinctively the most likely tactics the fish will use. The old man also instinctively knows – long before the days of GPS and weather forecasts, where he is, and what weather will be forthcoming. Even with all his experience, he rues how unprepared he is, in terms of the omission of certain equipment from his boat, for such a multi-day struggle with The Big One of his life. He can still summon forth some of his youth’s strength, along with his cunning, in order to prevail.

Victory though is bittersweet, as it so often is. On more than one occasion I’ve thought that the bleak outcome of this work might have foreshadowed Hemingway’s decision to commit suicide, at the young age of 61, when so many possibilities still remained.

In terms of “high school assignment books,” this is one that I fully advocate still being assigned, for many a student should appreciate the straightforward narrative, and the clean-cut epic struggle, even though today they might never have heard of Joe DiMaggio, or known that the Dodgers were once in Brooklyn. But if you read it in high school today, please make a modest commitment to read it a half century later, and undertake the steps to improve your chances of making it that half century. For your understanding of it, the second time around, might easily be “3 x” that of your youth. 5-stars.
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on 8 March 2015
I feel I'm missing out somewhere. This is widely acclaimed as a beautifully written masterpiece. But I did not find it so. I agree that it's a reasonably good story (but very simple, and taken from a true event, I understand), and that some of the writing conjures up images of the sea quite well. There may well be powerful allegories or metaphors buried in the tale, although I couldn't be sure (and Hemingway said otherwise - "There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man" etc. "The fish is a fish").

But I find his writing style awful. His sentences look to me as though they have been translated from another language by someone with poor, rather childlike, writing skills. I wanted to edit half his sentences - either too short, or several flat clauses joined together with many "and"s, lacking helpful punctuation, and looking like a caricature of "spare" writing. Just flat and toneless. Or, as EH might have put it: "I read the book and I found the sentences dull and I found the lack of punctuation unhelpful and I found the writing style irritating and intrusive and mannered".

I know that is heresy, and academics get paid for telling us how great his style is, but to me this "great style" is emperor's clothes. It would not be tolerated from any other writer. I've found similar problems with another couple of books of his I've read, but in this short novella he reaches a peak of affected dullness of writing. Gore Vidal referred to Hemingway's style as "careful, artful, immaculate idiocy of tone", and I agree with a quarter of that. A better view of writing, for me, comes from Elmore Leonard, who said "If it sounds like writing, I re-write it." Wise words, sadly written too late for Hemingway, whose prose more than most sounds like writing with a capaial W, to hear. Not that he would have changed a word anyway. While many think Hemingway was a great writer, Hemingway KNEW he was a great writer. And I can't say otherwise, whatever my opinion.
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on 10 November 2013
A simple story about an old man on an improbable fishing trip. At least that's what it can be. On the face of it there seems to be no clear message, there is sub text for sure and wry smiles at life. You can say that it's a commentary on mans fight against nature or his own ego or an exploration of our journey in life that leads to wisdom or of the great futility of life or of many, many, many things but that's not it, that's all too simple and obvious. So still the question remains, what's the true message? Whist it's true to say that it's a simple story, it's impossible to read it and come away thinking that that is all there is to it, that there is nothing more than the simple comparisons to the human condition. Even if you can't immediately see what more it could mean, there is too much in it that speaks of some other meaning that just can't be ignored, so what is the author trying to say?

Nothing.

I don't think Hemingway was trying to tell us anything, I think he wanted the reader to make the story there own and give it what significance any individual could read into it, and that is the great skill of The Old Man and the Sea.

It's full of allegory to the things that you choose to make it allegorical to. For Hemingway himself it may have been allegory to his own life, that would certainly fit. For anyone else it's what you choose to make it and that means that it can mean absolutely nothing to you if you have a dead mind or it can be meaningful on many different levels depending on how you choose to interpret it. I love that. It takes great skill to write something that can achieve that, to be allegory for almost anything in life without anyone ever being able to tie the story down to being representative of any one thing.

My second reading some years after the first and now it has a poignance for me and the allegory speaks loud, as if Hemingway had wrote it solely for my own benefit and no one else. A master at work.
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The Old Man and the Sea is Ernest Hemingway at his simplest, and most powerful, as a story teller. The sentences are short. The meaning is clear. The cadence of the prose advances your sense of what is happening.
An old man goes out fishing alone from Cuba and hooks the fish of a lifetime. This fish could make a lifetime of disappointments and setbacks all worth while.
After an incredible and exhausting fight, the fish is his. Now all he has to do is get it back to shore. Then the struggle really begins!
The Old Man and the Sea lets us see our own lives more clearly, by experiencing the challenge to and empathizing with the fisherman in this classic tale of man versus nature and man versus himself that explores the true nature of human nobility. What does life mean? What is striving for? From what do we gain our dignity?
Anyone who thinks that he who dies with the most toys wins will can learn a great deal from this story.
Even if the story was not so compelling and universal in its appeal and themes, the book is worth the trip just for the writing. Simple words combine into simple sentences that build into metaphors that pile on top of metaphors in order to make for a magnificent vista and experience for you. Seldom has so much complexity been portrayed with such simplicity. What's even more astonishing is how short this novella is. Amazing!
Just to let you know how much I love this book, I often use the techniques and concepts in The Old Man and the Sea in my own writing. Miscommunication is what people have the most trouble with in cooperating with each other. Any time you run into that stall, think about how Hemingway would have solved the problem. Tell a story like this one that makes the point you want to share. Then tell the story again and again. Thirty times or more, and everyone will begin to get it. When your listeners start telling the story thirty times to others, you have made an important first step.
Read this book, reread this book, learn from it each time, and enjoy ... enjoy ... enjoy!
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