Very few books manage to leave an everlasting impression in the minds of the readers. The old man and the Sea manages to do it well on many levels. Written in 1951 and published in 1952, the book is considered to be one of the best classics ever written along with his A Farewell to Arms, The Sun also Rises and For whom the Bell Tolls. It earned Hemingway worldwide fame. The story can be categorized along with Faulkner’s The Bear. The novel won Pulitzer in 1952.
It feels pretty secure to sit at one’s home, listening to the cacophony of the people and traffic which does the basic work of cutting us out from the bedlam of nature. Hemingway brings us to the sea and puts forth the panoramic view of the open sea which in a way is a metaphor for the eternal fight of a man with nature. This is a story of a man versus nature, a story of courage, valor and an endearing tale of the struggle of a single man, who in spite of enduring all the adversities decides not to give in.
The story revolves around an old fisherman named Santiago who goes out fishing in his boat and hooks a gigantic 18 foot long fish. The next few days happen to be a long battle for Santiago as the fish drags the small boat along with Santiago far into the sea. But eventually, Santiago emerges victorious in the battle with the gigantic fish and shows the fish as the trophy. But then, he loses the great fish to the scavenger sharks that easily prey on him. Hemingway makes sure that the readers feel for Santiago. He is a brave man who risks everything only to earn the souvenir. He poses a brave fight with the sharks only to protect his keepsake. But loses everything by the time he reaches the shore. His loss happens to be much bigger than the mere loss of the fish. Our hearts ache with Santiago.
Hemingway is a master storyteller. A man of few words and yet manages to capture each and every heart with the brevity and economy of words. Santiago’s world is absolutely different from ours. We have probably never found ourselves in the face of such a situation which oozes the strength from nature’s best species. Yet, we find our self-pained and broken when Santiago returns with nothing but the skeleton of the great.
Hemingway forces us to acknowledge the struggle for most basic existence. The struggle of the individual with nature, the inner with the outer. The Old Man and the Sea is a magnificent tale of courage and endurance.