Other Books

The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway, Ernest - Finished Sep 19, 2016

Run-on Sentence Summary

Hemingway’s literary classic about a man and his struggle to catch a marlin, allegorically exploring themes of manhood, obsession, humility and identity.


Hemingway is a divisive cultural icon. In his day, he was the definition of American masculinity in a way that modern writers can’t hope to achieve. Say what you will about his character; after all, his chauvinist machismo goes against the zeitgeist. It is interesting to see some reinterpreting his image as a sensualist.

Regardless, the man could write. His minimalist style has been endlessly emulated and parodied, and there’s even an app that attempts to refine your writing algorithmically to mimic his simple perfection, mainly by shortening sentences and cutting adverbs.

The Old Man and the Sea is hailed as one of the great works of American fiction and was specifically cited when Hemingway was granted the Nobel prize in literature in 1954. It is written in a plain, fable-like style, and can easily be read in one sitting.

The book is based on a true story of an old Cuban fisherman, who after hooking a huge fish that he was not able to reel in, battles the fish for four days and four nights, getting dragged way out to sea without food or water. When he finally defeats the fish, it is larger than his small boat and he has to lash it to the side of his skiff to sail home. Unfortunately, sharks get to the fish and by the time he finally returns to port, the man is found weeping over the skeletal remains of his great prize.

Hemingway is often quoted blithely insisting that there is no symbolism in the book, that it is just as simple and straightforward as it appears. That is the essence of his writing: simple, genuine, and powerful.

Final Thoughts

Even if I don’t agree with what Hemingway wants to tell me about being a man, its impossible not to appreciate the formidable writing ability that inspired a generation. It is rare to find a book that can say so much with so little.

Favorite Quote

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”