Monday, July 28, 2014

The Old Man and the Sea (Pulitzer Winner)

He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is beautiful, sad, and haunting.  The wonderful experience of reading this 1953 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction makes suffering through some of the other winners worthwhile. The story is short, perfect, powerful, and complete.

The old man is Santiago, who hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days. The villagers consider him unlucky. He eventually even loses his apprentice because the boy's family is concerned that the bad luck will rub off.  So one day Santiago goes out alone and finally catches a fish, a huge marlin, and the two of them dance/battle. The interaction goes on for days, with the marlin dragging Santiago further and further away from shore. In the end, the sea takes its toll on Santiago.

The Old Man and the Sea reminds me of a Native American hunting story, yet it is the story of a Cuban fisherman. Deep in his heart, Santiago know the sea. He feels love and respect for the marlin, referring to him as “brother.” Yet, the story acknowledges the sea's dangers. Santiago isn’t puffed up with bravado. He accepts that he is an old man, yet all his years of fishing have made him masterful.

The Old Man and the Sea touched my heart and changed it. Part of me knows the story is also metaphorical, but I don’t want to think about that. I am content to let the metaphors reveal themselves in their own time.

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