The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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While I didn’t like Hemingway’s short stories when I read them, I did enjoy Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. While it has an element of sadness, there is also a beauty and majesty around its short plot.

The old man of the title is reaching the end of his usefulness in life. He’s a fisherman off the coast of Cuba, and he has had a series of bad luck, most recently going 84 days without catching a fish. He is lonely (his deceased wife’s portrait makes him sad, so he hides it), he is poor (he has very little food), and he is sad. The old man’s only friend is a boy who once fished with him. Now the boy fishes with a different man; the boy’s parents believe the old man is not good enough.

But both the old man (and the boy) do believe he is good. The old man knows his strengths. In the sunset years of his life, he recalls days in his youth when he saw lions dancing on the beach in Africa.

He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy. (page 25)

I love the lions: I think the old man is strong like those lions.

The old man, alone, goes fishing for the eight-fifth day, hoping to change his luck. And there, in the midst of the Caribbean, he meets the battle of his life with a giant marlin.

Can a lone man catching a fish be a novella, let alone an interesting one? Yes, I think so.

I have a hard time writing a review of a book that many people have read, and I find it a challenge to discuss on this novella without divulging important aspects.

Let me just say this: it is beautiful. An old man still has faith in himself, and he is fighting against all odds for that strength he believes he has. In the end, that is what this novella is about: the internal strength of the individual.

I think it is beautiful.

What strength do we all have inside of us?

The old man’s struggle reminded me of my struggle when my son was born. “Ten more minutes of this before I die!” I said to myself again and again during the labor. Of course, once ten minutes had passed, I was able to take ten more minutes. And when my son was finally born (after a relatively short time), I knew that I was stronger than I ever imagined I could be.

I have a used Bookmooch copy of The Old Man and the Sea, and I considered giving it away. I’m sorry, but I’m keeping it, for I know that I will want to read this again and again at various points in my life.

I highly recommend reading The Old Man and the Sea: I felt it was highly relevant to each of us in our daily struggles.

Have you read The Old Man and the Sea? Did you like it? Why or why not? I never read it for school: did reading it for school “ruin” it for you?

If you have reviewed The Old Man and the Sea on your website, please leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.

Reviewed on December 5, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I’m glad you enjoyed The Old Man and The Sea.  I never read it in school and do look forward to reading it as part of my Pulitzer project.  If all goes according to plan, I should be reading it in 2.79 years! 🙂

  • I feel the exact same way about this novel.  I didn’t read it until my semester teacher assisting because my mother hated it so much (she’s a more literal reader I guess), but I found it so meaningful and beautiful.  My students despised it for the most part and I took it personally. 🙂  I am not meant to teach books that I love to other people I suppose.  I need to read this one again. 

    I don’t know if you have read To a God Unknown by Steinbeck.  I think you would like that one as well.

  • I read this book for AP English my senior year of high school.  It was on a list of approved books, so I guess I wasn’t forced to read it.  Anyway, I really loved it.  I saw a lot of symbolism and beauty in it.  Plus, you’ve gotta love Hemingway’s prose.  I need to read it again.  Thanks for the review.

  • When I was in high school, my cousin told me this book was utterly boring, and her father argued the opposite.  I trusted my cousin’s judgement and didn’t read it.  Then my husband brought it to our marriage, and in 2001, I picked it up.  I absolutely loved it! One of the best books I had ever read at that point in my life.  I’ve since read it 2-3 more times, and I’m using it in a book I’m writing.  This is my favorite book by Hemingway.  I’m so glad you liked it!

  • ak, you are so patient in your project, waiting to read the books you’re eager to read!

    Literate Housewife, I haven’t read that Steinbeck (only read East of Eden) so thanks for the recommendation.

    Jessica, I actually didn’t like Hemingway in his stories. But maybe I need to read them again! I’ll give him more of a chance after this one!

    Chain Reader, I hope you also enjoy it!

    Amanda, I have a hard time picking up books when people give me negative recommendations too! but it is nice when my opinion is more positive. I can definitely see myself rereading this book again!

  • I read this my freshman year of high school. I was loving it, really into it, and then I got to gym class. I was sitting out that day, due to a recurring bout of tendinitis in my wrist, when the gym teacher came up to me. She peered at my book (I was about 20 pages from the end at that point), said, “Oh, I read that!” and then proceeded to announce the results of the ending.

    I was so, so disappointed, lol.

  • Stephanie, that is so mean! I kind of knew what was going to happen, but someone telling me would totally mess it up!!

    Chris, oh, I’m so sorry! I really appreciated it now. But I don’t recall liking any other Hemingway either.

  • Need to read a popular book that has same theme as Old Man and the Sea. Final paper will be to compare two books – one classic one popular fiction. Can you suggest what popular fiction book would be appropriate. Don’t want to read something and then be groping for connections.

  • mina, sorry I can’t help: I don’t read popular fiction very often. I hope you can find something that will work well for you. I would think a lot would fit, since the themes of Old Man and the Sea seemed so strong, at least to me.

  • […] Rebecca Reads: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway […]

  • i really didn’t like it i had to read it in year 9 i found it really boring and so did the other 23 girls in my class. i read it twice to see if i was missing something but i still found it really boring. my parents seemed to love it and so did all my teachers.

    • Gabby » I think one would appreciate THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA the older he/she is. Maybe give it a try again in a few decades? Definitely try Hemingway again sometime in your life. Such an incredible writer!

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