Dan Sandman

49: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

In Adventure, Books, Fiction on 05/12/2014 at 12:00 pm

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest HemingwayErnest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) blew off his head with a shotgun, depressed and too old to fish. This biographical fact is tragic and upsetting; a sad end to a great novelist’s life. Hemingway traveled his whole life, and just could not cope with old age and infirmity. He was an adventurer, a hunter, and he liked to fish in his boat, particularly when he lived in Havana. Standing still and growing old would mean no adventuring, and no fishing. Maybe this is why he fell into a deep depression, chose the shotgun, and ended his brilliant life.

The Old Man and the Sea (1954) won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and is about one-hundred pages of continuous prose, without chapter breaks. It can be read in one sitting, and requires a rudimentary knowledge of tarpaulin (a term coined by William Golding to describe seafaring words). So much has been written about the book, that there really is nothing left to say. It is concise, has three main characters (one of which is a fish), and is about one man’s heroic battle against the sea – its waves, sharks and isolation.

I think Hemingway was a sexist and a drunk, but he could write a good story, and his books are fascinating because they take certain prejudices for granted. Men should be men, and woman should know their place. It is men who do heroic things; like kill sharks with just a harpoon, or hold the (fishing) line whilst their manly hands bleed with pain. Woman are at best observers to this macho world, occasionally asking ‘What’s that?’ (pg.99).

It’s like Robinson Crusoe, set on a boat, in the 1950’s, without the boring bits.


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