Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Old Man & the Sea- Ernest Hemingway

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1952
Pages:  93
ISBN:  0684830493
Genre:  Modern Classics

Started:  Oct. 28, 2011
Finished:  Oct. 28, 2011 (>1 day)

Where Found:  Book Depot
Why Read:  On my TBR list
Read For:  Back to the Classics challenge (8/8)

Summary:  A poor, frail fisherman in the Cuban Gulf seeks one last big catch in a solo expedition without his young companion.


Apparently this book, even at a slim 93 pages (in my Scribner Classics hardcover edition with gorgeous illustrations) has bored many readers to tears and turned them off other Ernest Hemingway books, because it's...get this...about a fish.  Well, yes, it is, but you don't really believe that even a heavyweight like Hemingway could draw much depth from just a fish, do you?

I read it in one sitting, which is unusual for me, but was part of a rare literary experience--that a book I didn't expect to like because of so many others' misgivings turned out to be a bright although tiny gem of a book.

Hemingway contrasts age, infirmity, and desire through the unusual friendship between the old fisherman and the young boy--one having the wisdom of life experience, the other with the energy, fearlessness, and youthful exuberance to rekindle feelings of optimism and love in his old friend.  And the fish is not merely a fish, but represents the essence of the fisherman's passion.  But this is the obvious connection that is as clear as a fairy tale moral.  What is tougher to grasp is why the fisherman insists on striving for the seemingly impossible: catching a super-sized fish without his young friend.

**Minor spoiler**
Why doesn't he simply let the fish go?  My impression is that he can only do what he has always loved and risk everything to accomplish this feat, or he would die miserably, wondering what could have been.  It's not an easy concept for anyone to understand but if you can at least sympathize with his plight for strength to succeed in what every caper movie I've seen would call "one last score" before retiring for good.

As much as many others have struggled to stay patient with this story and not feel bogged down by the irony of its heft for such a slim volume of work, complaints about the book seem hyperbolized to me.  For someone who has never fished and has no interest or skill in it, the story spoke to me through its treatment of powerful, familiar themes and metaphors of life and death that are simple, straightforward, but not as obvious as they seem on the surface.  Hemingway stays away from the repetition and monotony that makes some literary fiction seem to scream "This is the point!  Get it?" on every page.  The beauty of the story is in its subtlety that reads like a fable.  I encourage you to set aside what you've heard about it and read it for yourself.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend


  1. When you said "about a fish" I immediately thought of Moby Dick (painful and not a fish but that is what I thought of).

    I haven't read this one and had no idea it was so short.

  2. I don't know if I will enjoy this, although your positive review is going some way to convincing me. The only Hemingway I've read is A Farewell To Arms and I wasn't much of a fan.

  3. I actually thought this one was fascinating. I've had bigger issues with some of his other books because of the way he portrays females, but this one feels so different.

  4. I fell asleep a couple of times while reading this, but, in the end, I decided it was worth it. It teaches us that we really have to persevere for the things we or people we care about, which is pretty freaking deep coming from Hemingway. :)