Friday, 17 December 2010
The Old Man and the Sea
I am relatively new to Ernest Hemingway's work. This was the third of his books I have read and I must say it was my least favourite of the three.
The Old Man and the Sea, arguably, has only one character; Santiago. A down-on-his-luck fisherman who rows out one day and hooks an enormous Marlin on his line. What follows is a desperate battle, fought over several days, during which the Marlin drags Santiago and his little boat further out to sea whilst Santiago stubbornly holds onto the line and refuses to let the fish go.
There were several positive aspects to the book; I felt Hemingway portrayed the self doubt and struggle of Santiago well throughout the book, the pace was good and the actions and thoughts of Santiago were shown well albeit in Hemingway's usually sparse and direct style and initially I found the simpleness of the story very appealing.
Ultimately I didn't like this book which saddened me as it is generally considered one of his best works. Although I initially liked the sparse nature of the story and the fast pace, by the end of the book I felt very strongly that the story needed more meat on its bones. I never felt as if I got to know much about Santiago, the story became very repetitive after a while and frankly too much time was spent in the boat with Santiago when other characters could have been introduced and developed. I found the wholesale, haphazard slaughter of sea creatures uncomfortable reading however I did expect it knowing what a fan of big game hunting Hemingway was. As for Santiago repeatedly eating sea creatures raw (including a dolphin and several flying fish from inside the dolphin's stomach) I felt Hemingway had gone a little too far with his obsession with macho behaviour. For most of the book I was actually rooting for the Marlin rather than Santiago which I'm not sure I was supposed to do.
According to critics and literary experts the novella is full of hidden meaning and some religious significance. Personally I did not see any of this but rather the idea of Man against Beast which has been done to death.
Perhaps I am missing the point of it, who knows? All I can say for certain is that I didn't really enjoy it.
Overall rating 2/5