Sunday, March 10, 2013

Man vs. Marlin

The Old Man and the Sea, published in 1952 is one of Ernest Hemingway's classic works of short fiction, and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953.   The story is about a fisherman named Santiago who has both a physical battle with a marlin he tries to catch off the coast of Havana, Cuba, as well as a psychological battle within himself.  Hemingway is quite economical in his words, yet he vividly captures the scene so much so that you feel you are alongside Santiago in his boat as he captures the fish, then patiently waits for it to come to the surface, and then battles against sharks who want to eat the newly captured and killed fish strapped to the side of his boat.  There are some intriguing elements to this book, one being Santiago's relationship with a boy named Manolin.  They have a very tender and loving relationship, revealed to us through just a few exchanges between the two of them.  Santiago also has emotions toward the fish he aims to kill and sell.  He states, "I love you and respect you very much.  But I will kill you dead before this day ends."  He further describes fish as as "noble" and "more able" than man, and acknowledges the fish's "greatness and his glory."  Interestingly, he even at one points admits that the killing of such a great fish is "unjust."  Hemingway writes, "Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him.  How many people will he feed, he thought.  But are they not worthy to eat him?  No, of course not.  There is no one worth of eating him from the manner of his behaviour and his great dignity."  As the fisherman becomes more tired, hungry, in pain, and even delirious, he continues to ponder the concept of killing the fish.  Ultimately, his great effort is not rewarded and we are left to ponder the message of this short but powerful "man vs. nature" story.  This is a book best read in one sitting!

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