The Old Man and The Sea

Book Review:

“The Old Man and The Sea”


by Ernest Hemingway

Published by Paperview (UK) Ltd.

First published in 1952 by Johnathan Cape LTD, United Kingdom.


The book is written in very simple prose, but I feel it tells a much more complicated story.


There is an old man who went out to sea to fish and for 85 days he didn’t catch anything. On the 86th day, sailing far out to sea he caught an 18 foot marlin. He fought and tackled this fish for three days until he was able to reel it in. Too big to put into his skipp, he lashed it to the side of his boat where eventually the sharks ate most of it. He only managed to come into port with a skeleton, barely alive himself.

The narrative is simple enough. The way it is written is simple enough. However, because it is written in such a simple way, the mind automatically tends to fill the gaps. I personally think this book is meant as a comment on success.
A person can fight and struggle, like the fisherman fought with the fish for three days. Eventually we get what we want; we are rewarded for our labour. Then the sharks come. These are people who want the easy way out, and they take what we worked so hard for and leave us with nothing.

For example, if I became successful through my own hard work, I’m sure that there would be plenty of people who would tag along to catch a free ride to gain something for themselves. Can I blame them though? It is human nature. I think that’s what The Old Man and The Sea is saying; that no matter what, you cannot change nature. Things are meant to happen because that is how they happen. Out of desperation the Old Man tried to catch the marlin, and out greed he wouldn’t let it go. The sharks come to feed on his catch, because that is their way. They are presented with an easy meal, so they seize the opportunity.

The part of this book that strikes me most is the ending. I don’t know if I’m interpreting it as open-ended or if it really is, but I feel that the ending could be taken literally, or to mean something else.

“He sailed lightly now and he had no thoughts or any feelings of any kind” (pg. 88)

This sounds like a description of someone who is truly dejected – or dying. I think that’s why the Old Man’s only friend – the boy – cries. I feel the boy senses the old man’s time in this world is ending.

Hemingway writes that “He was still sleeping on his face”, and that “the old man was dreaming about the lions.” At this point, the Old Man could have passed away. He died from exhaustion and from his wounds. Perhaps even some form of internal bleeding or a lack of nutrition. (The old man said himself that sometimes he would forget to take meals.)

Either way, I hope the man has a happy ending regardless of whether it is in this world or the next. I like happy endings.

It is an interesting book. For me it speaks of success, and that we can’t always hold on to it.

Sometimes life will throw things in our way that are beyond our control.

I wouldn’t recommend this book. It is filled with a lot of sailor jargon; there were times I would be lost because I don’t know what the man was doing or why, which I suppose is down to my inexperience of sailing. The pace of the book is also slow; I feel there is no climax. Things just end up happening one after another. The ending is predictable; there are only so many things that can go wrong out at sea.



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