The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway …Review by Yokibu Editorial
Posted on: December 14, 2020.

The “old man” in the story is Santiago, an elderly Cuban fisherman. The “sea” in the story is the Gulf Stream—an intense, warm ocean current in the North Atlantic Ocean, flowing through Florida and Cuba.

Sadly, for old Santiago, 84 days had passed without a single fish being caught. For the first 40 days, Santiago had an apprentice—a young boy named Manolin. Both Santiago and Manolin are much fond of each other.

Besides fishing, Santiago educates Manolin about life. But, under such unfortunate circumstances, Manolin is accosted by his parents for apprenticing under Santiago, calling him ’salao’—the worst form of ‘unlucky’.

They send Manolin off to another boat that had netted three good fish the previous week. But little Manolin is miserable as he misses old Santiago who is also disheartened without the little boy’s presence.

However, Manolin continues to guide old Santiago on his way home—every day in the 44 days that they were away from each other—when he returned from the sea empty-handed, and supplies him with food and bait.

Manolin would ask, “What do you have to eat?”, to which Santiago would reply, “A pot of yellow rice and fish.” Then Manolin would ask, “Can I take the cast net?”, and Santiago would reply, “Of course!”.

This was a fiction in conversation that they went through everyday—both Santiago and Manolin knew that there was no pot of yellow rice, or fish, or cast net—they’d sold it long ago.

On the 85th day, Santiago decides to skiff into the deep waters of the Gulf Stream, with bait—sardines, supplied by Manolin—and little else to net a fish.

“And the best fisherman is you!”, Manolin tells him. Santiago resolves to prove the little boy right, and hopes to really catch some fish that day. He gets into his skiff and sets sail.

To Santiago’s utter disbelief, a giant marlin fish—longer than his boat—gets caught in his net. He reels the massive fish into his skiff, using all his experience and strength. This is the heart-piece of the story.

It portrays—in fine narrative eloquence—the story of an old fisherman’s struggle with nature—a giant marlin fish—and himself. The fish is as desperate to escape as the fisherman is to catch it.

For three days Santiago struggles with the giant marlin, admiring its strength, dignity, and faithfulness to its identity—its destiny is as true as Santiago’s as a fisherman.

Santiago introspects, “Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Finally, he reels the giant fish into his skiff. However, the dark shadow of fate befalls Santiago—sharks!

The tethered marlin attracts sharks which swarm the boat for a bite. Santiago is unable to recover the giant marlin from the sharks—although he manages to kill a few—who eventually devour the carcass completely.

Santiago returns to the shore with only the giant marlin’s skeleton. Santiago, dejected beyond consolation, but feeling more tired and worn out, goes home to sleep, after returning to the harbor.

Much to their amazement, others come to witness the giant-sized skeleton tied to Santiago’s skiff. Manolin, however, is more relieved at Santiago’s return—after going missing at sea for three days—than amazed.

Human spirit enduring hardship and suffering in order to win is—through Santiago’s struggle with a giant fish at sea—demonstrated, allowing him to prevail at sea, in its impassive cruelty and beneficence.

And in tandem with an old fisherman’s struggle—constantly tugging, unreeling a little more, and then pulling again—the narrative flagrantly encourages the reader to finish reading the story in a single sitting.

Following the instant worldwide success of The Old Man and the Sea, when it was published in 1952, the author, Ernest Hemingway, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

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