The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

Paperback, 1952




Charles Scribner's Sons (1952), 127 pages


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.

Media reviews

“the drone of the pastiche parable, wordy and sentimental”
3 more
The Old Man and the Sea has almost none of the old Hemingway truculence, the hard-guy sentimentality that sometimes gives even his most devoted admirers twinges of discomfort. As a story, it is clean and straight. Those who admire craftsmanship will be right in calling it a masterpiece... it is a poem of action, praising a brave man, a magnificent fish and the sea, with perhaps a new underlying reverence for the Creator of such wonders.
It is a tale superbly told and in the telling Ernest Hemingway uses all the craft his hard, disciplined trying over so many years has given him.
Within the sharp restrictions imposed by the very nature of his story Mr. Hemingway has written with sure skill. Here is the master technician once more at the top of his form, doing superbly what he can do better than anyone else.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mrstreme
Hemingway was always an author I wanted to tackle, so I decided to start "small" and go with The Old Man and the Sea. Overall, I enjoyed this novella and appreciated this story of perseverance and sheer will.

The Old Man has not caught a fish in months. Encouraged by The Boy, he decided to go far out into the sea, sure that his luck must soon take a turn for the better. The Old Man was right and snarls an 18-foot marlin. By himself, The Old Man must wait for the marlin to tire out before he can bring the fish to shore. The marlin and the Old Man start a cat-and-mouse game of who's going to last the longest.

I was fascinated with the way this story was written - it was mostly a narrative with very little dialogue. Less gifted writers could not have pulled this off, but Hemingway did beautifully.

Am I ready for more Hemingway? The Old Man and the Sea has definitely made me more confident. In any case, I am glad to have read this delightful little story.
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LibraryThing member aethercowboy
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a geriatric Cuban man alone at sea while fishing for a long duration of time? Then this book is great for you!

Otherwise, you may still enjoy this book, as it provides an interesting narrative in Hemingway's trademark style, all while providing a bit of allegory for the author's life.

And to top it off, it's not that long!

So, if you're looking for a quick read, or want to pick up some more fishing tips (note, you may not actually pick up any fishing tips), then this book is perfect for you!

Recommended for fans of Hemingway, Steinbeck, or Fitzgerald.
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LibraryThing member chickadeegirl
boring!!!!! did not enjoy!!!!
but it does teach it got famous i'll never know
LibraryThing member cmeyer
The old man and the sea

Ernest Hemingway is the author of the story the old man and the sea. He started as a journalist and than he began to write books. In the United States he’s got the experiences and material for his books. He loved to sail and go fishing, so I think this had a big influence of the book. He wrote about an old fisherman called Santiago and his best and only friend Manolin that lived in Cuba. They often go together fishing until Manolins parents has forbidden. But Manolin still helps the old man with several little things like to bring him food.
At the eighty-five day without a catch Santiago goes out far for fishing. He endures a great struggle with a large and noble marlin. But he loses the beautiful fish to the sharks on his way back home.
This is the most important part in the book. I think this part shows the best which two main topics the book has. First and for me the most important topic is the cycle of nature. It means that who a start is, is also and end. It tells also that in the hole world, equal human or animal, there is always a predator and a prey. First Santiago is the predator because he caught the marlin and later he is like the prey because his brother the fish is eaten by the sharks. The second important topic is the faith and vision. I suppose to have faith means not to fear the unknown but to believe in the possibilities. One must have faith in God an also in oneself, because God helps those who help themselves. Santiago beliefs that he is be able to catch the big fish so his faith helps him to confirm this difficult mission.
But also whit this lost Santiago ends this story whit his unbreakable spirit. The fishermen saw the skeleton of the big marlin and thought “ I have never seen a bigger fish in my life”.

In the book the fundamental characters are Santiago, the Marlin and Manolin.
Santiago is an old man who has an unbreakable spirit and trust. He is a visionary, he can do thing witch other can’t do only because he has the faith and he can imagine them. He is a very strong man physically and mentally and he has e great will. About his character we all can learn a lot, because he doesn’t cares what the other people think, he goes his own way.
The second fundamental person is the Marlin, the big fish in the story. He represents the hope of Santiago. He is born as a fish, like Santiago is born to be a fisherman. For me the behaviour from the fish is very interesting and also linked with the manners of the human because he does give up.
Finally there is Manolin, the best friend of Santiago. He is the only person who truly loves the old man and cares about him. I believe Manolin represents Santiago’s immortality. Manolin is the only one that Santiago can pass on his knowledge. For me he is also a symbol of uncompromised love and fidelity.

But I believe that in the book there exist many other important messages. One is that the people must have respect for the nature, because we all life together in one world so we are all connected and a part of the cycle of the nature. And this is shown perfectly in the act with the sharks. They show the cycle of the nature in which everything must be killed/ beat by something else. But they also represent the new generation of fishermen who attack the sea and all its creatures.
I trust that we all must go through some struggles with as much strength as possible because in our life we have struggles every times.
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LibraryThing member maggie0807
I read the book " The Old man and the Sea ". The novel description is one year near sixty years of age senior fisherman, when alone goes to sea in one fishing, fished one big fish, actually did not pull. The senior fisherman socialized several days after the fish, only then discovered this was the big marlin which one surpassed the oneself fishing boat several fold, although knew perfectly well very difficult to win, but still did not give up. Afterwards and further because in the big marlin wound fish fishy smell brought in several crowds of shark fish snatches the food, but the old person still did not hope like this to give up, finally highlighted encircles tightly, returned to the big fish belt the fishing port, lets other fishermen not admire already.
I extremely admire this senior fisherman, because he by now already projected on some fish, but he had not settled to the present situation, but was approaches the bigger goal advance. Again has a look us, usually meets one slightly is difficult, we all complain incessantly. We will be the motherland future, will be supposed to like this old person same mind lofty aspiration, will even better pursue even better, the bigger goal. I admire old person that kind do not dread, the relentless spirit, although knows the match strength is very strong, but he not slightly flinches, but is welcomes difficultly above. Just because had this kind of spirit, the senior fisherman only then achieved this life and death contest success. senior fisherman fear hard and dangerous diligently did not struggle, we also should like his such, could not satisfy the present situation, should positively to above, do any matter all is relentless, meets difficultly must welcome difficultly above, could give up halfway in no way. Only has this, we only then can obtain a bigger success and the victory.
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LibraryThing member edgeworth
This is Hemingway's most famous book, a short novella that reinvigorated his literary career and won him the Nobel Prize for Literature. It's also the last book he ever wrote. The Old Man and the Sea follows the plight of an aging Cuban fisherman who has not caught a fish in eight-four days, losing hope and pride, his apprentice forbidden to work with him because he is now considered bad luck.

And I didn't really like it that much, which is annoying, because I really wanted to. A lot of people talk about how his simplistic style of prose draws the reader into the tale, makes it more intense and passionate, but I felt exactly the opposite. It was tedious and it never really engaged me. Reading passages about hooks and fish and bait and the ocean, I couldn't help but keep comparing it to Life of Pi, a book which features far more atmospheric renderings of the same topics.

Maybe I wasn't in the mood to be reading today, or maybe it's just not my kind of fiction, but this one was a miss.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
Every time I read a Hemingway novel, I am reminded that I am not a man. Hemingway describes a macho world whose rules I really don’t understand. This is probably his most accessible book, primarily because it’s pretty short, and he won the Pulitzer for it. On the surface, it’s a simple story of an old fisherman who struggles to defeat the biggest catch of his life, and then loses it anyway. But even though it is a simple story — and simply told, in Hemingway’s trademark style, it is also a story about life and how to live it.

The problem is that, while I get that, I don’t really understand it in my gut, which I think is what Hemingway wanted. There is a point in Santiago’s struggle when he wonders why he chased the fish out so far. Why didn’t he turn back? Well, I had this exact same thought, except I had it several pages before, when the fish first started towing him out to sea. And that is why I can’t relate to Hemingway’s characters or the heroic code they espouse — because I would have just cut the line.

That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate this story. I enjoy Hemingway’s style, his descriptions of the sea and the marlin and the sharks, which are so precise and evocative. I’m glad I finally got around to reading this, even if it’s likely the last Hemingway novel I will attempt to read.
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LibraryThing member jq09cn
The story begins in a little village near the sea. A village lives a few people who depend on catch fish for life. This story main setting is sea. A old man who lives in that village has no food to eat, so he go fishing. He goes to a place very far from village. And then after he catchs the fish D:Maggio he drives his boat from deep sea to coastal waters. At last he comes back to village.… (more)
LibraryThing member lakesidemusing
On Saturday I posted about the sixtieth anniversary of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Originally published in Life magazine, it sold more than five million copies in two days, went on to become a best-seller in book form, and is now considered a classic. It is a perennial fixture on high school reading lists all over the country.

Confession time: I disliked The Old Man and the Sea when I read it in high school. An old man and a big fish? Come on. Neither could possibly be considered interesting subject matter for a fourteen or fifteen year old girl. In the end though, I did the required reading, complained bitterly about being bored, wrote the requisite essay, and promptly forgot all about it.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate Hemingway - a handful of novels, some short stories, and, of course, A Moveable Feast - but never returned to The Old Man and the Sea. Saturday's anniversary seemed to be a sign. I pulled the book from the shelf and read,

" He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy's parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat."

Wait a minute. Is this really the same book I read in high school? How did I totally ignore the beauty in the simplicity of Hemingway's prose? Was I not touched by the boy's devotion to the old man? Did I miss the old man's respect for the fish, or have I simply forgotten? And what about the old man and his struggles to overcome physical limitations?

Yes, The Old Man and the Sea is more than just a fishing story. And while it will never be considered a personal favorite, I have a newfound appreciation for this classic Hemingway novel.
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LibraryThing member sadiebooks
the most boring book i have ever read. i don't know why i keep trying to give hemingway a chance. he's really just a cure for insomnia.
LibraryThing member shofichoudhury
I can re-read the book anytime that kind of interesting it is.It inspired me a lot...!!!
LibraryThing member jd234512
While I definitely did not hate this book by any means, it just seems extremely simplistic without much reward. Yes, I understand all the different interpretations people have taken with it and it does seem to have merit, I just feel like it's been done better and with a better story. This is my second Hemingway book I've read(the first being A Farewell to Arms), and I can't help but wonder that this is an exception to most of his books.… (more)
LibraryThing member jpsnow
Hemingway's genius at simplicity is even more evident by way of a simple tale. In about a hundred short pages, you'll enjoy an adventure, ponder the meaning of age for men, and want to visit the sea.
LibraryThing member cm37107
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.
LibraryThing member hqk
This is a great book. You should read this book, more than once, though save one of your readings for a special time.

Wait for a night that stretches wide and empty before you. Wait for a night when your senses and emotions are at the surface and crackling. Wait for a night when the image of an African seashore at evening where lions come to the long white beaches and "play like young cats in the dusk and he loved them," sings to your heart. Treat yourself to this book on a night like this.

Then hide away from interruptions and read the book, slowly. Hold each image in your mind for a moment. Feel the sway of the skiff and think of the immense depth of dark water below you. Feel the salt stinging in the cuts in ancient hands as the line is pulled along. Contemplate the struggle that occurs and lay your hopes where you dare.

The story? Simply, an old man and the sea, and so much more.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
When reviewing a classic like The Old Man and the Sea, it's difficult to find something to say that hasn't already been said. This concise novella packs a punch in 128 short pages. Santiago is the old man in the title, a Cuban fisherman who has gone more than 80 days without a catch. He's a lonely man, ridiculed by other fishermen and forced to fish alone after losing his assistant (forced by his parents to fish with another, luckier, fisherman). Santiago decides to go further out into the sea than the other fishermen and, sure enough, snags a marlin larger than his boat.

The rest of the book recounts Santiago's efforts to reel in the fish (this task alone takes more than a day), and then bring the fish back to port. He demonstrates powerful mental and physical strength as he combats the marlin, sharks, hunger, fatigue, and loneliness. Much has been written about this work's themes of pride and redemption, and comparisons to Hemingway's late career. And while there are certainly symbols and messages in this book, it's also a great story that holds your attention the entire way through.
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LibraryThing member LovingLit
I like to read the favourite books of other people, in doing so I always look for what they saw in it. It was easy for me to find greatness in this short classic.

The writing is simple, deceptively simple. There is very little personal feeling explained, but actions and comments slyly placed give us what we need to create a full picture of the old man of the title. The absence of explanation allows the reader to use the character's actions and statements to form their opinions of the characters, rather than relying on the author telling us that they are kind, subtle, humble, hardworking or whatever it is that they area.

Anything said about the plot, including the one word I have to describe the entire thing, would give it all away, so avert your eyes now as I say what this novel is about.

Futility. Beautiful, gentle and very real futility.
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LibraryThing member JLSmither
Like Moby Dick, The Old Man and The Sea clearly isn't for everyone. But I loved it. You don't pick this one up for the plot, you pick it up for what it says about the human condition. About each one of us, more so the older we get. Life is a struggle. Sometimes we get lucky and something amazing happens. But even then, does it really matter? We can feel proud and we can feel shame, we can face the world as an impoverished Cuban fisherman or as the great Joe DiMaggio, we can feel energy or exhaustion, and we can put up brilliant and incredible fights… but in the end, does it matter? We all die. We all struggle and die and then are eaten.

That sounds horribly depressing, I realize, but it's not! Truly! How freeing to know that no matter what you count as your personal successes and failures in life, we all end up the same way. The trick is just to keep fighting. Just keep striving for better, for stronger, for longer. Be content with what you have and what you've achieved, yes, and allow others their own choices, but strive, always strive.

Santiago is like some kind of Zen master, never begrudging the other fishermen for their success, still loving the boy even though he has had to join a more successful boat, and deeply respecting the marlin who struggles so epically and forms such a worthy adversary. The sharks finally snap the calm, peaceful thread through this story, the sharks that defeat the old man.

There will always be sharks. There will be 85-day stretches without a fish. There will be giant marlins who fight for 3 days. There will be times you have to eat dolphin without lime or salt. The nobility of these struggles comes not from the struggle themselves, but out of how we react to them. Each of us has a choice at every moment to get angry, bitter, and frightened. Or, we can choose to recognize the ultimate meaninglessness of these tiny battles and accept life for what it is.

This story could very well be the defining one of Santiago's life. But who will know about it outside his village? How much will he even tell the boy? This is just one small story in the course of one small life, the kind of thing that gets quickly forgotten by everyone else. But what is a life but a series of small stories--accomplishments mixed with failures? And what can a story from another small life contribute to mine?
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LibraryThing member adamallen
This book is a quick read and the one that earned Hemingway his Pulitzer. Supposedly this is Hemingway's development of a true story that he heard about an old fisherman who makes the catch of his life.

I must admit, this is my first Hemingway and I wanted to read a short one to whet my whistle before investing time in one of his larger works. I was pleasantly surprised. It's interesting to note that on several occassions, I noticed the slow pace of the story (not much was really happening with Santiago, our main character or the fish). However, this was never a problem. I came to realize that it was necessary to build the story appropriately. Fishing is not an activity that is action-packed from start to finish. This book isn't either.

Hemingway takes time to describe the scenes well. He does a nice job of painting the story in your mind. His writing follows the flow of a fishing trip such as this one. It has its exciting moments (particulary with the sharks) but they build and in-between there are quiet periods of reflection for our character. This is the same as it would be if you, the reader, were the one fishing. It was lovely.

Hemingway made you care about Santiago. He showed you his wisdom and his almost super-human strength. The only thing about the book that I didn't care for was the number of baseball and Joe Dimaggio references. To me, they just seemed out of place and unnecessary.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book. It's well worth anyone's investment of 3 or so hours. I look forward to reading A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Sun Also Rises.
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LibraryThing member dracopet
Arguably the most boring book I have ever had the misfortune of reading. Great if you like books where absolutely nothing happens.
LibraryThing member dczapka
Hemingway's celebrated novella is the kind of story I imagine grows on you, since it's told in such a simple, stark style that it invites all types of interpretation.

The old man, Santiago, is, like all other elements of the book, simple but enthralling. His resilience and persistence, even as we get small hints of his mental waverings (such as his increasing persistence in talking to himself), adds interest to the prolonged attempt to catch a giant marlin that is the centerpiece of the book. All told, the fight, though lengthy, features long lulls, and it's the interest Hemingway builds in Santiago that sustains interest throughout.

Hemingway is not, however, for everyone, and those looking for extensive description or language that is not tough and terse won't find it here -- though I wonder why anyone would look to Hemingway for that. At times, the simplistic style can feel constraining: the repeated circling of the marlin late in the fight, for instance, feels repetitive and uninteresting after a short time. However, when Hemingway casually alludes to "the first shark" during the return trip, the simplicity of sentence builds far more suspense more quickly than a long, drawn-out passage would have.

So, like most of the Hemingway I've read, the story is generally hit or miss. But it does work well as a casual read, as a parable, as a fable, as an allegory, and in almost any other way you can imagine, and you have to give credit for its wide-ranging appeal.

You need not know much about fishing to appreciate the humanity of the struggle, and it is this timeless, placeless quality that elevates The Old Man and the Sea to the classic status it holds today.
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LibraryThing member abhidd1687
reading the book was like i was reading my school English literature books...its a simple story with few characters, an old fisherman being the main protagonist...
its a book about hope, positive attitude, resilience and enduring faith in oneself...loved the chemistry between the old fisherman and d boy and also the fisherman talking to himself "get clear, head" "don't get crammed,hand"...
it tells us how an old man after a long streak of bad luck, finally got lucky and den saw his luck turning again to unlucky in front of his eyes and yet he sustained...
its a book about HOPE and FAITH
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LibraryThing member bplma
The old man, Santiago, is at the end of his life. He is a fisherman, a hard life, and now he is old and poor and unable to catch the fish he could in his heyday. Thinking to change his luck, he sets out --too far and all alone-- to richer but more dangerous fishing grounds and has the battle of his life with an enourmous marlin-- 3 days and 3 nights. A very short and thrilling read-- truely-- i am not making this up. Full of symbolism and irony -- and so well written-- a sparseness to the text--in few, well chosen words-- this is hemenway at his best. I will not spoil the story by saying more. A great book for all readers...especially good for book groups and guided reading because there is so much to talk about. A Classic.… (more)
LibraryThing member CBJames
I teach two sets of 7th grade English to GATE students this year, so when I found a partial class set of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea in the back of the book room, I thought why not give it a go. See what happens. What follows is my advice for anyone considering using The Old Man and the Sea with 7th grade students.

Stress how they are acting like real college students, reading and discussing a college level book. Stress how reading it now will give them an advantage over other students in high school and college.

Mean it.

It's true.

Read the book aloud to them. Tell them this is because there are not enough copies for everyone to take the book home, which was true for me. Don't let them take turns reading it until at least halfway through and then only if they beg. The Old Man and the Sea looks easy to read, but you're still a better reader than they are, and they know it and appreciate it.

Always stop for the day at a key point in the story. If no one goes "Awww" when you stop for the day, you're not at a key point.

Read no more than 15 minutes a day. This will mean you'll have to read the book for 8 or 9 days, that fish takes a long time to die, but too much time on any given day dealing with the details of how to fish and you'll lose the students. Explain to the students that whenever Hemingway writes about how to fish, he is really writing about how to write.

Don't assign nightly homework activities. They do not have these in college. They just read and discuss in college. And they write two papers.

Be brave and present as many high level interpretations to the students as you can. My students we able to understand them all and to come up with a few interesting ones of their own. When I told them some professors read the fish as a work of art and Santiago as an artist, they knew right away that the sharks were critics. When I told them some professors see the fish as a mythical creature, they made all sorts of connections linking Santiago to Heracles performing his labors, his harpoon to the spear Odysseus used to blind the cyclops, the strange creatures Santiago meets like the flying fish and the Portuguese Man-o-war with the fantastic creatures in Greek myths. One came up with Scylla and Charbidis on his own. When we talked about how some professors see the fish as Santiago himself, they remembered the times he called the fish brother and were able to figure out that the fish stood for Santiago when he was young and strong and that the sharks stood for all the hard times Santiago faced in his life. They even got the Christ figure references in the end once I stopped and re-read them. The idea that was new to me that they came up with was that if the fish is a great work of art, Santiago is an art thief who ends up destroying the artwork he worked so hard to get. I'm still thinking about that one.

Don't give them a big project or essay to do at the end. Just a quick worksheet with a serious set of questions, all college level but not so involved that they need write more than one page to answer them.

Be sure you're working with a high-level group of motivated students. I'm not sure any of this would fly with a regular class though I'd love to hear from you if you've tried it. My district is phasing out the GATE English classes in the middle schools starting next fall, so Hemingway's days may be numbered.

But it sure was cool.
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LibraryThing member Renzomalo
Having nothing to read I picked up my copy of Hemingway's "The Old Man and The Sea" to see how much I remembered of it from my speed-reading class in 1968. Not much, as it turns out.

At the end of the 90 minute class, we took a test on the text and I passed with something like a 95% score on what I knew then to be baby simple questions. Still, I did absorb something. What I have learned since is that my so-called "speed-reading" garnered me some superficial facts while rendering the beauty of the narrative a fast passing blur. It was not unlike riding a bike through the Louvre. You can say you were there and saw the Mona Lisa, but that's it. No time to mull over her beauty or diminutive size – nothing. You saw it in passing.

An enjoyable read and one that I will suggest to my grandson for his summer reading program. But now as an old man myself, I have to wonder if the exhausted and beaten Santiago wasn't Hemingway foreshadowing his own demise? Did Papa just go out too far? Have to wonder. Four stars.
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