I passed some Hurricane Irma displacement time by reading Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” the story of a poor, aging fisherman who for a long stretch hasn’t been fortunate in his catching efforts.
So when he finally hooks what feels to be a massive fish, he doesn’t let go, even as it pulls him on a days-long, painful battle over open waters.
Any criticism against the work — a Pulitzer winner by one of the most renowned American writers — is, of course, meaningless coming from me, but I will say the overly simplistic language was occasionally a bit dull, and some of the middle third could take a couple whacks from the editor’s knife.
But the story itself is a treasure-filled hole that forces the reader to dig to the bottom without rest, easily done because of that simple language and sentence structure as well as the straightforward narrative.
From my dig, some jewels stood out. May they shine for you, too.
1. Some of the older fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as el mar which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or 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.
2. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush. But perhaps he has been hooked many times before and he knows that this is how he should make his fight. He cannot know that it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man.
3. “I told the boy I was a strange old man,” he said. “Now is when I must prove it.” The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.
4. “The fish is my friend too,” he said aloud. “I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.” Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. But imagine if a man each day should have to try to kill the sun? We were born lucky, he thought.
5. You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.