When I first began to take an interest in reading and writing I thought I should check out some of Ernest Hemingway’s work, since he is considered one of the best in the business. I began with his Pulitzer Prize-winning novella, The Old Man and the Sea. It wasn’t long before I understood why this book is so popular, and why it is considered a masterpiece. It’s an honest and heartfelt story; I sympathised instantly with the old fisherman and his struggle. The author, in his signature style, has created an exemplary piece of storytelling, uncluttered and effective. The only problem was I didn’t like it.
Plot Summary: An old man catches a big fish, but while he is towing it back to shore sharks eat it.
Analysis: There’s nothing to analyse. Fishing is hard?
Many have speculated on the symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea. Some say it is about youth and old age; others, defeat and triumph; while some even think it is about Hemingway himself, returning to his former glory as a writer after years without success. If any of those people had bothered to ask the author what he was writing about they would have learned there is no symbolism in the book. Hemingway said that the sea represents the sea, and the old man represents the old man. That’s it. He sounds like my kind of guy.
While I didn’t like the story, I found The Old Man and the Sea encouraging for me as a writer. It showed me what I now believe is the standard of greatness in writing: the ability to write a hundred pages in which almost nothing happens, and have millions of people love reading it. That’s impressive. I was also encouraged by the way Hemingway endured criticism from some over his story about a man who catches a fish. I too have received my share of criticism: my grade eleven English teacher gave me a D- for a short story I wrote about a man who catches rabies. She said it made no sense, my handwriting was atrocious, there was far too much profanity and I shouldn’t have written the assignment on the back of an old phone bill. It hurt at the time, but I realise now I was a misunderstood genius.
The Old Man and the Sea is superbly written and a favourite of many. There just wasn’t enough action in the story for my taste. 6/10
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