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The Old Man and the Sea

Home The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway, born in early 1899, was the child of a music teacher and a doctor. At eighteen years old, he volunteered to work as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, during First World War, in Italy, which he later fictionalized the experience in his book, A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway later moved to Paris in 1921, where he corresponded for Toronto Daily Star. In Paris, Hemingway joined a group of English and American expatriate writers including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. He started gaining fame as an analyst, in the 1920s, for portraying the disaffection experienced by American youth following the First World War (Hemingway 29).

A Farewell to Arms (1929) and The Sun Also Rises (1926) established Hemingway as a literary voice of the period, with his spare, charged technique of writing that was termed as revolutionary. After leaving Paris, Ernest Hemingway published content on bullfighting, followed by numerous articles and short stories that covered the civil war in Spain, where he published his best-selling, For Whom the Bell Tolls (Hemingway 32). The articles and short stories aided him to create a mythical masculine breed. Hemingway's work and life circulated hunting, big-game hunting, bullfighting, and fishing, which were endeavors that he attempted to master as well as writing. In the mid-1930s, he moved his residence to Florida's Key West district and later relocated to Cuba, where he pursued fishing.

The years spent in fishing gave him the needed background for the descriptions of the typical fisherman's craft in his book, The Old Man and the Sea (1952). The novel was combined with a short article for Esquire covering the tale of a Cuban fisherman, dragged out to the water by a game fish, weighing hundreds of pounds (Hemingway 37). The success experienced from writing. The novel was a vindication that won a Prize for Fiction award in 1953, and later on a, 1964, Nobel Prize. Despite Hemingway's soberly life-affirming resonance of his novella, he was at his life's terminal, with frequent bouts of depressions, which led him to commit suicide in 1961 (Hemingway 44).

The novel covers the tale of a battle between an aged, seasoned fisherman and, termed, the greatest sea creature that he had ever caught in his entire life. For eighty-four days, the aged Cuban fisherman (Santiago) set out to deep sea and came back empty-handed (Valenti 30). The unsuccessful attempts forced the folks of his devoted apprentice to pull their son out of the venture, so as fish in prosperous territories. However, Manolin (Hemingway's apprentice) continued to tender to the old man's needs every evening after his return from the sea, by toting his gear to his rusty, ramshackle hut and securing his food. The two casually sat down, from time, to discuss the American baseball developments, especially the tryouts of Santiago's favorite player, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago was confident and hopeful that the unyielding streak would end, resolving to sail deeper into the waters the following day (Valenti 52).

Santiago, as promised, traveled with his skiff beyond the island's shallow waters, venturing into the deep Gulf Stream. After preparing and dropping his lines, a marlin (a big sea fish) fell for his bait at around noon, which had been placed over a hundred fathoms deep into the sea water. The old man hooked the fish in hasty attempts but came to a predicament when he realized that it was impossible to pull the fish because of its weight, and instead, the fish started to pull his boat. Since Santiago was unable to tie his line to the skiff, fearing that the marlin would snap a line, he had to bear the line's strains using his back, hands, and shoulders, ready to provide slack if the fish would try to swim off. The fish pulled the boat all day, causing the line to tear into Santiago's flesh, with every draw (Valenti 69).

However, on the third day, he was able to pull the worn-out marlin and spear it with his harpoon, lashing it close to his boat. As he sailed home, a trail of blood drained from the marlin's carcass drawing in a shiver of sharks that devoured the marlin, leaving a fleshy bony carcass, with a fleshy tail and head. Santiago, discouraged, set for home where he arrived before daybreak and stumbled into his shack to sleep (Valenti 95). The following morning, fishermen were amazed, as they gathered around the marlin's carcass, which remained lashed to Santiago's boat. Tourists at a close by cafe viewed the carcass and mistook it for a shark's, while Manolin - worried over Santiago's whereabouts - cried when he located his friend safe in bed. The story ends when Manolin is seen fetching Santiago a mug of coffee and a newspaper with the week's baseball scores. Santiago then returns to his slumber, dreaming of lions as they play on the African beaches.

Ernest Hemingway, in his novel, creates a tragedy, parable genre for his readers, which is experienced in the narrations of an anonymous character. The events and characters are occasionally objectively described; however, the narrator gives frequent details about the old man's inner dreams and thoughts (Jaspal Singh 48). Despite the narrator's matter-of-fact, journalistic tone, his opinions about Santiago and the struggles he experienced are apparent. The novel is narrated in past tense, in a late 1940s fishing village that is located close to the waters that cover the Mexican Gulf, Havana, Cuba (Jaspal Singh 56).

Hemingway portrays a rising action in the storyline, which is seen when, after eighty-four unsuccessful attempts, Santiago vows to his former apprentice, Manolin, that he will pursue deeper territories of the sea. Covering the theme of determination, struggle and pride as a source of greatness, the author showed the fisherman's success when he was able to bait a marlin on his eighty-fifth day (Jaspal Singh 60). The fish's capture leads to a tussle, which is followed by a climax in the story, realized when the marlin circles the boat, as Santiago slowly reels it to his skiff. The fisherman nearly faints from exhaustion but struggles to collect enough strength, which enables him to successful harpoon the fish through the heart, causing its death. The author depicts a falling action that is manifested by the emergence of sharks, which attack and devour Santiago's hard-earned prize, leaving him with an empty carcass (Jaspal Singh 81).


Ernest Hemingway is able to bring out a great aspect of foreshadowing, which is seen in Santiago's insistence to sail out deeper than ever before. The old man's insistence is a foreshadowing to his destruction, whereby, the fish is connected to Santiago. Therefore, the fish's death foreshadows the old man's destruction by the scavenging sharks.

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