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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The Old Man and the Sea
Author Ernest Hemingway
Old Man and the Sea is a novella (just over 100 pages in length) by Ernest
Hemingway, written in Cuba in 1951 and published in 1952. It was the last
major work of fiction to be produced by Hemingway and published in his
lifetime. One of his most famous works, it centers upon Santiago, an aging
Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf
Stream. It is noteworthy in twentieth century fiction, reaffirming
Hemingway's worldwide literary prominence as well as being a significant
factor in his selection for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
The Old Man and the Sea Part 1 &
Background and publication
Most people maintain that the years following Hemingway's publication of For
Whom the Bell Tolls in 1940 until 1952 were the bleakest in his literary
career. The novel Across the River and Into the Trees (1950) was almost
unanimously disparaged by critics as self-parody. Evidently his participation
as an Allied correspondent in World War II did not yield fruits equivalent to
those wrought of his experiences in World War I (A Farewell to Arms, 1929) or
the Spanish Civil War (For Whom the Bell Tolls).
Hemingway had initially planned to use Santiago's story, which became The Old
Man and the Sea, as part of a random intimacy between mother and son and also
the fact of relationships that cover most of the book relate to the Bible,
which he referred to as "The Sea Book." (He also referred to the Bible as the
"Sea of Knowledge" and other such things.) Some aspects of it did appear in
the posthumously published Islands in the Stream. Positive feedback he
received for On the Blue Water (Esquire, April 1936) led him to rewrite it as
an independent work. The book is a novella because it has no chapters or parts
and is slightly longer than a short story.
The novella first appeared, in its 26,500-word entirety, as part of the
September 1, 1952 edition of Life magazine. 5.3 million copies of that issue
were sold within two days. The majority of concurrent criticism was positive,
although some dissenting criticism has since emerged. The title was misprinted
on the cover of an early edition as The Old Men and the Sea.
Inspiration for character
Gregorio Fuentes is one possible model for Hemingway's eponymous "Old
Man".While Hemingway was living in Cuba beginning in 1940 with his third wife
Martha Gellhorn, one of his favorite pastimes was to sail and fish in his
boat, named the Pilar. General biographical consensus holds that the model for
Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea was, at least in part, the Cuban fisherman
Fuentes, also known as Goyo to his friends, was born in 1897 on Lanzarote in
the Canary Islands, migrated to Cuba when he was six years old and met
Hemingway there in 1928. In the 1930s, Hemingway hired him to look after his
boat. During Hemingway's Cuban years a strong friendship formed between
Hemingway and Fuentes. For almost thirty years, Fuentes served as the captain
of the Pilar; this included time during which Hemingway did not live in
Fuentes at times would admit that the story was not exactly about him. He
related that the true inspiration of the old man and the boy did exist but
they never knew who they were. The story goes that in the late 1940s, upon
return from an early morning fishing trip, Fuentes and Hemingway saw a small
rowboat 10 miles out to sea. Hemingway asked Fuentes to approach the vessel to
see if they needed help. Inside the boat was an old man and a boy. As the
vessels closed in the old man began yelling at them with insults including
telling them to go to hell, indicating that they had scared away the fish.
According to Fuentes, he and Hemingway looked at each other in surprise. Just
the same, Hemingway asked Fuentes to lower them some food and drinks while the
old man and boy glared at them. Without another word exchanged, the two boats
parted ways. According to Fuentes, Hemingway began immediately to write in his
notebook and later asked him to find the old man. According to Fuentes, he
never was able to find the fisherman that had made such an impression on
Hemingway. Fuentes recounts that this was the real origin of the lore. A few
years after The Old Man and the Sea was published, residents of Cojimar
believed that the old fisherman that Fuentes and Hemingway ran into at sea was
a humble local fisherman they called el viejo Miguel; some described his
physical appearance as a wiry Spencer Tracy.
Fuentes, suffering from cancer, died in 2002; he was 104 years old. Prior to
his death, he donated Hemingway's Pilar to the Cuban government.
The Old Man and the Sea recounts an epic battle between an old, experienced
fisherman and a giant marlin said to be the largest catch of his life. It
opens by explaining that the fisherman, who is named Santiago, has gone 84
days without catching any fish at all. He is apparently so unlucky that his
young apprentice, Manolin, has been forbidden by his parents to sail with the
old man and been ordered to fish with more successful fishermen. Still
dedicated to the old man, however, the boy visits Santiago's shack each night,
hauling back his fishing gear, feeding him and discussing American baseball —
most notably Santiago's idol, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago tells Manolin that on the
next day, he will venture far out into the Gulf to fish, confident that his
unlucky streak is near its end.
Thus on the eighty-fifth day, Santiago sets out alone, taking his skiff far
into the Gulf. He sets his lines and, by noon of the first day, a big fish
that he is sure is a marlin takes his bait. Unable to pull in the great
marlin, Santiago instead finds the fish pulling his skiff. Two days and two
nights pass in this manner, during which the old man bears the tension of the
line with his body. Though he is wounded by the struggle and in pain, Santiago
expresses a compassionate appreciation for his adversary, often referring to
him as a brother. He also determines that because of the fish's great dignity,
no one will be worthy of eating the marlin.
On the third day of the ordeal, the fish begins to circle the skiff,
indicating his tiredness to the old man. Santiago, now completely worn out and
almost in delirium, uses all the strength he has left in him to pull the fish
onto its side and stab the marlin with a harpoon, thereby ending the long
battle between the old man and the tenacious fish.
Santiago straps the marlin to his skiff and heads home, thinking about the
high price the fish will bring him at the market and how many people he will
While Santiago continues his journey back to the shore, sharks are attracted
to the trail of blood left by the marlin in the water. The first, a great mako
shark, Santiago kills with his harpoon, losing that weapon in the process. He
makes a new harpoon by strapping his knife to the end of an oar to help ward
off the next line of sharks; in total, five sharks are slain and many others
are driven away. But by night, the sharks have almost devoured the marlin's
entire carcass, leaving a skeleton consisting mostly of its backbone, its tail
and its head, the latter still bearing the giant spear. The old man castigates
himself for sacrificing the marlin. Finally reaching the shore before dawn on
the next day, he struggles on the way to his shack, carrying the heavy mast on
his shoulder. Once home, he slumps onto his bed and enters a very deep sleep.
A group of fishermen gathers the next day around the boat where the fish's
skeleton is still attached. One of the fishermen measures it to be eighteen
feet from nose to tail. Tourists at the nearby café mistakenly take it for a
shark. Manolin, worried during the old man's endeavor, cries upon finding him
safe asleep. The boy brings him newspapers and coffee. When the old man wakes,
they promise to fish together once again. Upon his return to sleep, Santiago
dreams of lions on the African beach.
Symbolism of character
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The Old Man and the Sea allows various interpretations. Hemingway emphasizes
No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at
beforehand and stuck in. ... I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a
real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true
enough they would mean many things.
The style of the work, the simplicity and the concreteness of its
descriptions, provides a rich opportunity for symbolic interpretations. Some
Santiago represents Christ suffering. Hemingway compares him to Jesus Christ
on several occasions. He describes Santiago's cry as a "...a noise such as a
man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hand and into
the wood" (107). Santiago also "...picked the mast up and put it on his
shoulder and started up the road. He...[sat] down five times before he reached
his shack" (121) much like Jesus did on the journey to his crucifixion,
carrying the cross. Later Santiago sleeps "...face down ... with his arms out
straight and the palms of his hands up" (122), the position of Jesus on the
cross. All throughout the book the old man wishes for salt, a staple seasoning
in the human diet. He is a fisherman, similar to Christ's disciples. It is
also quite ironic that he is longing for salt in the environment that abounds
in besides open space, salty sea water. Quite like the predicament of man, he
feels he is surrounded by "it" yet it is precisely "it" that he longs for. He
wishes the dissolved salt (it) could crystallize and be intelligible to him.
The marlin represents what man is searching for whether it may be good or bad.
Some men love their gods, but he hates the fish as men hate their gods. The
fish was very beautiful and huge and Santiago felt a connection with it,
considering it his brother. Hemingway says that Santiago is not a religious
man, but he seems to have some faith as shown by his offers to say his "Hail
Marys" and praises if he catches the marlin.
Literary significance and criticism
The Old Man and the Sea served to reinvigorate Hemingway's literary reputation
and prompted a reexamination of his entire body of work. The novella was
initially received with much popularity; it restored many readers' confidence
in Hemingway's capability as an author. Its publisher, Scribner's, on an early
dust jacket, called the novella a "new classic," and many critics favorably
compared it with such works as William Faulkner's "The Bear" and Herman
Following such acclaim, however, a school of critics emerged that interpreted
the novella as a disappointing minor work. For example, critic Philip Young
provided an admiring review in 1952, just following The Old Man and the Sea's
publication, in which he stated that it was the book "in which Hemingway said
the finest single thing he ever had to say as well as he could ever hope to
say it." However, in 1966, Young claimed that the "failed novel" too often
"went way out." These self-contradictory views show that critical reaction
ranged from adoration of the book's mythical, pseudo-religious intonations to
flippant dismissal as pure fakery. The latter is founded in the notion that
Hemingway, once a devoted student of realism, failed in his depiction of
Santiago as a supernatural, clairvoyant impossibility.
Joseph Waldmeir's essay entitled "Confiteor Hominem: Ernest Hemingway's
Religion of Man" is one of the most famed favorable critical readings of the
novella—and one which has defined analytical considerations since. Perhaps the
most memorable claim therein is Waldmeir's answer to the rhetorical question,
Just what is the book's message?
The answer assumes a third level on which The Old Man and the Sea must be
read—as a sort of allegorical commentary on all his previous work, by means of
which it may be established that the religious overtones of The Old Man and
the Sea are not peculiar to that book among Hemingway's works, and that
Hemingway has finally taken the decisive step in elevating what might be
called his philosophy of Manhood to the level of a religion.
As of 2006, the current cover for the Charles Scribner's Sons edition of the
novellaWaldmeir was one of the most prominent critics to wholly consider the
function of the novella's Christian imagery, made most evident through
Santiago's blatant reference to the crucifixion following his sighting of the
sharks that reads:
Ay, he said aloud. There is no translation for this word and perhaps it is
just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go
through his hands and into the wood.
Waldmeir's analysis of this line,
supplemented with other instances of similar symbolism, caused him to claim
that The Old Man and the Sea was a seminal work in raising Hemingway's
"philosophy of Manhood" to a religious level. This hallmark criticism
stands as one of the most durable, positive treatments of the novella.
On the other hand, one of the most outspoken critics of The Old Man and the
Sea is Robert P. Weeks. His 1962 piece "Fakery in The Old Man and the Sea"
presents his claim that the novella is a weak and unexpected divergence from
the typical, realistic Hemingway (referring to the rest of Hemingway's body of
work as "earlier glories"). In juxtaposing this novella against Hemingway's
previous works, Weeks explains that
The difference, however, in the effectiveness with which Hemingway employs
this characteristic device in his best work and in The Old Man and the Sea is
illuminating. The work of fiction in which Hemingway devoted the most
attention to natural objects, The Old Man and the Sea, is pieced out with an
extraordinary quantity of fakery, extraordinary because one would expect to
find no inexactness, no romanticizing of natural objects in a writer who
loathed W.H. Hudson, could not read Thoreau, deplored Melville's rhetoric in
Moby Dick, and who was himself criticized by other writers, notably Faulkner,
for his devotion to the facts and his unwillingness to "invent." 
Awards and nominations
The Old Man and the Sea led to numerous accolades for Hemingway, including the
1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He also earned the Award of Merit Medal for
the Novel from the American Academy of Letters that same year. Most
prestigiously, the Nobel Prize in Literature came in 1954, "for his mastery of
the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea,
and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style."
Pop culture references
This article or section contains too many minor or trivial fictional
Mere trivia, or references unimportant to the overall plot of a work of
fiction, should be deleted. See also what Wikipedia is.
The Old Man and the Sea was referenced in an episode of South Park named
"D-Yikes!", where an angry Mr. Garrison assigns his class a homework
assignment of reading the book and writing an essay about it over a weekend.
The boys then pay a group of Mexicans to do it for them.
It was also featured in the episode of Arrested Development where Maeby tries
to adapt it into a feature film. Due to being skewed for younger audiences,
the film is changed to "The Young Man and the Beach", starring Jude Law.
The character Peter Griffin appears reading this book in an episode of Family
Guy named "The Thin White Line".
The video game World of Warcraft features a fishing trainer with a name that
is presumably a reference to "The Old Man and the Sea".
The titles of three episodes of The Simpsons reference the book, those being
The Old Man and the Lisa, "The Old Man and the Key" and "The Old Man and the
Sage Francis' song Black Out on White Night from the album Human the Death
Dance samples the lines "It was too good to last, he thought" and "Might as
well have been a dream, he thought".
It was referenced by Sol in Notes from the Midnight Driver.
The Old Man and the Sea was a main plot of an episode of Case Closed special
^ a b Hemingway, Ernest (0000). The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons. hardcover: ISBN 0-684-83049-3, paperback: ISBN 0-684-80122-1
^ a b "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1954". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved on
January 31, 2005.
^ a b c "Hemingway's 'Old Man' dies in Cuba", BBC News (January 14, 2002).
^ "An American Storyteller", Time, July 7, 1999
^ the "hail marys" are in the nature of trade off or concession, and do not in
my view reflect an act of faith
^ a b *Joseph Waldmeir (1957). "Confiteor Hominem: Ernest Hemingway's Religion
of Man". Papers of the Michigan Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters XLII:
^ a b Robert P. Weeks (1962). "Fakery in The Old Man and the Sea". College
English XXIV: 188–192.
Young, Philip (1952). Ernest Hemingway. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Jobes, Katharine T., ed (1968). Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Old
Man and the Sea. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. ISBN
"Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure: Cuba". PBS. Retrieved on January 21,
Ivan Kashkin (1959). Commentary (in Ernest Hemingway - Selected works in two
volumes). Moscow: State publisher for literature.