The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway Book Cover

Classic Corner: The Old Man And The Sea


Name: The Old Man And The Sea

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Year: 1952

Genre: Novella

The Old Man And The Sea is the 1952 novella by Ernest Hemingway, the first Hemingway novel I have read and is part of the series of short classic books that I planned to read in 2022.

The story is set off the coast of Havana, Cuba and was Hemingway’s final novel. The titular old man, Santiago, is a fisherman who has gone almost three months without catching a fish and he is seen as unlucky. He was usually accompanied by a young boy named Manolin but he has since joined another ship’s crew due to Santiago’s misfortune. However they remain friends and Santiago tells Manolin his plan to sail to inside the Gulf Stream, north of Cuba and in straits of Florida to fish.

The next morning he sets off and is luck enough to hook a very large fish which he is sure is a marlin but as he is alone he can’t haul it in and is afraid of tying the line in case the fish breaks it so for two days and nights he holds onto the line until the fish gets tired out, then he kills it.

Santiago then begins to set sail back to the coast but a trail of blood from the marlin attracts sharks. Though Santiago tries to fight them off, with limited weapons and being on his own he struggles and eventually the sharks attack the fish and by the time Santiago gets back to the coast the fish has been devoured.

He returns to his cabin and falls into a deep sleep. The next morning, Manolin visits and out of concern leaves to get coffee. Meanwhile, a group of fishermen gather around the remains of the marlin and measure it. The fisherman say how sorry they are and a pair of tourists at a nearby cafe mistake the dead fish for a shark.

When Santiago wakes, he donates the head of the fish to Pedrico, he and Manolin promise to fish together once again. Finally, Santiago returns to sleep, and he dreams of his youth and of lions on an African beach.

This book is extremely well regarded and even won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954 but I really struggled to get into it and it’s the first one in my challenge I didn’t enjoy.

I’m not sure whether it is because I find the idea of fishing really dull but I couldn’t get into the story at all.

In the majority of the first half when Santiago is waiting for the marlin to wear itself out it is written almost as a stream of consciousness as he contemplates the fish and life in general. However I have to admit it is too long and even boring.

It is almost two thirds of the book before the fish is killed, though the part with the sharks as Santiago desperately tries to protect his catch is very well written and I think due to the first half of the book being so slow burning does make you will on one level for him to come out of it but by the end of it the fish is devoured and it ended up being a waste of time for Santiago essentially which also left me feeling a bit depressed and like I had wasted my time.

In reading some more about the book now and realising it was Hemingway’s last work and as he is writing from an older person’s perspective which is probably why it has quite a contemplative tone and as myself being a young reader I did struggle to be invested in the character of Santiago.

In a way I do feel bad that I didn’t enjoy this book due to its reputation but compared to some of the earlier ones I’ve read in the challenge this one has probably been my least favourite so far.

If you disagree with my review I would love to hear in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Classic Corner: The Old Man And The Sea”

  1. I haven’t read this, but I’m not a fan of Hemmingway. His works seem to be directed towards men more than women, and I prefer a woman’s take on the world.

    1. That’s an interesting thought about his writing being aimed at men – I didn’t enjoy it very much at all though as I couldn’t escape that it was just about a man trying to catch a fish, even though I’m sure some people may find a deeper meaning in it but wasn’t for me at all. I only gave it some credit for the shark part at the end which does give some feeling of tension.

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