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.
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 incites a lot of strong opinions, as you can see from the polarizing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but the message is ultimately quite simple. 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.
Many people get irritated by the foolish behavior of the old man: why didn’t he just cut the line, instead of hopelessly chasing this fish in some vain pursuit of glory? At the beginning of the story, you learn that the old man has not caught a fish in eighty something days, and you see his daily humiliation as he must be cared for by a young boy, having lost the ability to support himself. His temperament is humble and peaceful, but you can’t help but empathize with this man who is realizing, as he declines, that he will never be who he thought he would be. He’ll never be successful like his hero DiMaggio, but he can at least do what he can to catch this fish, in a defiant and desperate attempt to express himself.
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.
It is rare to find a book that can say so much with so little. I adore it.
“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”