Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Review: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Published: March 1952

Publisher: Simon Schulster Trade

Pages: 123 (Paperback) 

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway’s most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal—a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.

Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the classic theme of courage in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss. Written in 1952, this hugely successful novella confirmed his power and presence in the literary world and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.


Note: Here, I am going to take a moment to ask everyone to take a deep breath and let me step away from YA for just a moment.  I am not done reviewing YA fiction, and I still absolutely adore young adult.  But until next summer, not all, but most of what I'll be reviewing will be school reading.  I am an all Pre-AP student, and I don't have time to read much else.  But no,  I am not done with YA forever, and I will most certainly read and review more YA.  School reading will not be the only thing on my blog, and even as it stands, it is only temporary.  I promise!

When I was looking over the list of what I'd have to be reading for School this year and I saw the title The Old Man and the Sea on the English section, it can honestly be said that I was not overly excited.  I mean, honestly, to me, that title sounds a bit dull.  Old man. The sea.  Lovely.

And then I saw the cover art and fell into a complete cover-love swoon.  I mean, look at it.  Ahhh, I love it so much.  I'm a pretty simplistic girl as far as my taste goes, and this was just the perfect touch of simplicity mixed with sophistication.  So I got a little more excited.

Then I read the back of the book.  The gist of what I saw was this:
   "This book is about an old, Cuban man who goes fishing.   The climax is a battle with a marlin.  Have fun reading this.  You will be bored out of your mind.  Enjoy." 

... And I became a bit more scared.

So the day came when I had to read it for English.  Being that I liked reading, and I hadn't had much time for it at all this school year, I wasn't too disappointed.  But, I'm really not a "fishing" kind of girl.  Especially in literature.  I'll be happy for quite some time if you give me just a stack of action-y YA books, a glass of water, and a jar of peanut butter.  So a book about a man who goes fishing was not exactly the most appealing thing to me.

And I started reading it and went into a Hemingway-shock.  (And beware, if grammar mistakes bug you, you may have to brace yourself when reading Hemingway's books.  He doesn't like commas very much.)  But, if that man could do anything, he could write beautifully.  Slow? Yes.  Gorgeous nonetheless? Yes as well.  Early into the book, when I could not have managed to be any more bored, Hemingway comes at me with this: "He always thought of the sea as La Mar, which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her.  Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her, but they are always said as though she were a woman.  Some of the younger fishermen... spoke of her as El Mar, which is masculine.  They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy.  But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them.  The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought." 

It astonished me that Hemingway could take something that most people would just brush off of their shoulders, if they noticed it at all, like whether a person calls the sea "El Mar" or "La Mar," and write something so completely beautiful about it.  He takes this one word and in it finds a way to convey the old man's thoughts about the sea.  All from one word.

Also, though you may not think it as you begin reading,  The Old Man and the Sea shows you a lot of tips for life.  Perhaps not directly, as most of our biggest problems in life are most likely not in regards to fishing, but he does nonetheless address important values in life.  Hemingway shows us the value of preparation and hope through one of the old man's fishing habits.  "But, he thought, I keep them with precision.  Only I have no luck anymore.  But who knows? Maybe today.  Every day is a new day.  It is better to be lucky, but I would rather be exact.  Then when luck comes you are ready." 

Now, I will admit, as beautiful as the writing is, the plot is just not that exciting.  For over half the book, it's just the old man talking to the fish.  I would honestly say that almost all of the main plot for this book is contained in the last twenty pages or so.  

But, aside from that, it truly is  a well-written book.  It's just rather hidden behind its own plot line in my opinion.  But classics are classics for a reason.  In the end, I am quite glad that I read it.

Peace Out, Girl Scouts!