The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

Book - 1996
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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.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, [1996]
ISBN: 9780684830490
Branch Call Number: CF HEMINGWAY
Characteristics: 93 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


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Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Cicero (now Oak Park), Illinois. He is considered one of the greatest American novelist of the 20th century and won both the Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea in 1953 and the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature.  For every story and tale he created, there are an equal number of myths and legends surrounding the man himself. The World War I… (more)

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A classic novel is reflective of the time is was written. That may mean unusual language, words that have changed meaning, societal rules that don't apply to today's reader, historical context and anachronisms you may not know. Never fear, the library is here to help! Take some time to read about the author, their works and their life when you search for an author or a novel in  an Arts &… (more)

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From Library Staff

This short classic is a great choice to read aloud with older kids, partners or just dial a random number and start reading. Best prank call ever. ArapahoeTina

A 93 page classic you've probably always wanted to read. Let this be the summer!

One of the first books that introduced me to classic literature. A story accessible to children but that may reveal more upon every subsequent read.

Hemingway is sometimes quoted as writing the world's shortest story. "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn." He's a little more wordy in the 127-page "The Old Man and the Sea" which won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

During WWII, Ernest Hemingway patrolled the waters off Cuba looking for German submarines. Known as the "Hooligan Navy," civilian volunteers patrolled the coast in their private yachts. Only Hemingway was armed with sub-machine guns and grenades.

From the critics

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Jul 21, 2020

The Old Man and the Sea describes the harsh and brutal elements that Santiago, a fisherman, must endure to continue doing the thing he loves the most, fishing. Santiago is an old fisherman who longs to catch a fish as he had failed to catch one for eighty-four days which results in Manolin, a young boy, to leave him for another boat per his father’s request. On the eighty-fifth day, an epic battle takes place between the old, seasoned fisherman and what would be the greatest catch of his life. Throughout the battle, Santiago’s determination and faith are put to the test.

This novel is definitely one that I enjoyed reading because of the emotional turmoil that Santiago goes through throughout the classic novella. It is a drastic change from the typical fiction novel that is common today as it tells of a one-of-a-kind relationship between a fisherman and a young boy. My main critique is the advanced comprehension that the reader must have in order to fully understand the entire plot. Because of this, I would not recommend this to the average reader, but I would definitely advise an avid reader to read the book from cover to cover.
- Age Rating: 10+

Jul 12, 2020

1954 nobel prize literature

Mar 16, 2020

I realize this book is a classic and all that jazz, but to be quite frank it was boring. I wouldn't recommend it to the average person.

Jan 21, 2020

A classic novella that tells one specific story very well. The detail is gripping and emotional. You really root for the old man and feel sympathy when he is in pain. Bittersweet and just. The ending raised the rating for me.

Jul 20, 2019

In the beginning and towards the end the unique relationship between the old man and the boy is great. But this kind of style is not for me, I find parts in the book a bit boring.

Mar 12, 2019

S, you don’t have any luck fishing for 84 days… so when you finally hook a big fish, you let it pull you three days out into the blue wilderness, though you keep getting scraped up and don’t have a lot of food and get really sore. Crazy right? I would have let go as soon as I couldn’t see my town anymore. But Santiago was desperate, or determined. But anyway, I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected to. Don’t let its simple writing style make you think that it IS simple; it has a lot of symbolism- the most common being that Santiago is a Christ-figure: BELIEVE ME, ONE DOES NOT ACCIDENTALLY PLACE SO MANY LOGICAL SYMBOLS INTO THE SAME LITTLE BOOK!
I mean, Hemingway was contradictory. Take these examples:
“My training was never to drink after dinner nor before I wrote nor while I was writing.” But he also says, “Write drunk; edit sober.”
“The first draft of anything is s***” “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof s*** detector.” “”There isn’t any symbolism… All the symbolism that people say is s***.” But he also says “All our words from loose usage have lost their edge.”
So, there is my argument that there IS symbolism in The Old Man and The Sea. Now, on to the analysis:

Nov 29, 2018

I read this as a child growing up in Southern California. We went deep sea fishing most weekends for albacore, swordfish, and sailfish. This may be the most powerfully moving book of the sea I’d ever read. Now, 50 years later, it’s just as moving. Read the book then watch Spencer Tracy in the movie. It’ll change your life!

Jul 30, 2018

I love this novel. Brought it with me on a fishing trip this time. There are a lot of themes in this story - aging, pride, the value of one's guile, simple pleasures, etc. But ultimately it is also about "catching the big one." Everyone who loves to fish should read this novel.

Apr 27, 2018

This is a reread. Sometimes I have to come back to the classics to not only visit old friends but to remind myself how the masters did it. What can I possibly say about this iconic novel that hasn't already been said before? It's more a short story than a novel. The protagonist is an old man and the antagonist is life itself, or the sea as its metaphor. The protagonists struggle was real, yet there was beauty in how he kept going on. It's as if his struggle with the marlin was the manifestation of his struggle with life and more widely of our own struggle with life and death.

It's hard not to think of "Moby Dick" because every tale of a guy at sea and a quest for a fish makes one think of Melville, though Melville was likely influenced by Shakespeare.

On the surface, the story is simple enough for any five year old to grasp. But beneath the surface is a protagonist raging at the abyss. Or perhaps one could say he was accepting the abyss.

The language that Hemingway uses is simple, it masterfully doesn't call attention to itself. There is something so matter of fact about the prose - just as there is about the old man. One has the feeling as one reads this tale that this is what the gods do, they watch us live our little lives with keen attention but nothing more, no rooting or lamenting, just witnessing it all.

Something about the old mans dance with the marlin and then the sharks is so primal. This is the stuff of life, as if there is an ocean all around us where things surface and we are thrown into dealing with them or succumbing to them. And to have this juxtaposed against the old man doing that for the marlin who is likely minding his own business down there as the old man is what the marlin must deal with.

There were these moments in the prose where whatever is currently happening is visited by an eloquent side street to illuminate a truth. These moments don't interrupt the narrative, they rather flow along giving the current action layers upon layers.

The story seems to end where it began. There is a sense of the days we spent with the old man as being representative of his life, the keeping on in the face of whatever life brings, the moxie to live and show up another day.

Thinking about Hemingway, there seems to have been something he saw in that life and death struggle of hunting and fishing. Putting aside my personal feelings about such things, it seems Hemingway or papa as some called him, had an affinity for the life and death struggle. It's too easy to say it was a reflection of his demons, having taken his own life. It's ironic how someone that full of life fought life so hard. It's as if he wanted to soak up every minute in case he decided tomorrow he was going to throw it all away.

The old man could be seen as a manifestation of Hemingway's battle with the will to live or die.

In the end there is something so earthly and so ethereal about this tale. It seems to break life down to its bare bones. I think all stories that pit man against nature or human nature against all of nature make naked all it is to be human. Because of that, this tale is so poignant. None of us knows what lurks beneath our next moment, what surprises it or we might hold. It's constantly astonishing how unique we all are and yet so damn the same. There is something poetic in this and damn Hemingway for not being here to tell us what it is.

Apr 01, 2018

I read this book cover to cover in one evening. Such a beautiful story. I love finding books that remind me why I love to read

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trevordunfordswife May 29, 2016

trevordunfordswife thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

green_tiger_1714 Mar 24, 2016

green_tiger_1714 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Nov 05, 2013

blue_bison_106 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Dec 01, 2012

tuslik thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Jian Feng Wang
Aug 08, 2012

Jian Feng Wang thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 99


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siammarino Apr 24, 2016

an incredibly courageous old man hooks a swordfish while fishing alone, but must battle sharks all the way home. There is little left of the fish by the time arrives exhausted and dehydrated, but at least his young friend is there to comfort him.

FavouriteFiction Sep 30, 2009

An old Cuban fisherman faces the battle of his life when he goes against a fantastic marlin.


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Oct 01, 2016

"'But a man is not made for defeat', he said. 'A man can be destroyed but not defeated.'"


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