Skip to main content

3rd December 2013

Classics digested: The Old Man and the Sea

A tale of passion, perseverance and faith, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a gem of American literature, says Shanda Moorghen

WHO is the author?

A war veteran, Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was one of the finest writers of the 20th century. As a reporter, he was the most prominent advocate of the Iceberg Theory, and he maintained his minimalistic approach in his fiction. He believed strongly that the value of a story resides in the beauty of its depth rather than the luster of its surface. The Old Man and the Sea was published in 1952 and was Hemingway’s most celebrated work, with a Pulitzer Prize (1953) and a Nobel Prize (1954) attesting to that fact. It was also the last novel published before his suicide in 1961.

WHAT is it about?

Santiago is an old fisherman who has gone 84 days without catching a fish. His luck is considered so abysmal that even his young protégé, Manolin, is forbidden by his parents to continue seeing the old man. On the 85th day, Santiago decides to go even further out at sea, determined to break his unlucky streak. Soon enough, a fish takes to his bait. Santiago immediately realises that he is dealing with no small or ordinary fish. It is a majestic marlin. The Old Man and the Sea is the story of the days Santiago spends at sea trying to catch this worthy adversary and the events that unfold thereafter.

WHY should you read it?

A tale of passion, perseverance and faith, The Old Man and the Sea is a gem of American literature. Aside from the fact that it is a well crafted and beautifully written book, Hemingway’s novel will give you hope on the somber days. There will be a time, a darker time, where nothing will seem to be going your way. In this realm of despair you will close your eyes and think of a simpler time, a time where an old man on his boat carried you through the ignominy of previous setbacks to the lights of glory.

Classic quote

“ ‘But man is not made for defeat,’ he said. ‘A man can be destroyed but not defeated.’ ”

More Coverage

The ultimate Gift Guide: Books edition

Books are the ideal present for anyone, but faced with the overwhelming amount of choice, we offer a few suggestions from the most popular genres.

The Irish literature renaissance: The need for women’s writing

With the emergence of Sally Rooney, the popularity of Irish literature has only increased. We explore why there is now an urgent necessity for contemporary Irish women’s voices in literature.

The best short books you can read in one sitting

If you’re looking to get back into reading during the busyness of term time, here are some recommendations for brilliant short books you could finish in one sitting

Financial boost for northern creative industries under government’s Create Growth programme

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer led the WeCreate Conference on November 13, launching the ‘Create Growth’ programme to support technological and financial development of the creative sector