As a result of reading shortish books over lunch breaks I am becoming a great fan of those books, like this one by Ernest Hemingway, that can pack a great deal of deep thought into something just shy of 100 pages long. It takes a real talent to squeeze in some big issues into something of that length and one of the best example I have come across so far is The Old Man and the Sea.
The story revolves around an old fisherman who has gone 85 days without a catch who used to be accompanied by a boy who has since been moved to another boat by his parents who want him to fish with someone luckier. He loves and supports the old man and helps him prepare for what turns out to be a gruelling fight between a large fish, the sea and them the sharks. The old man returns home exhausted, defeated and damaged and the boy, who was missed by his friend and no doubt feels partly responsible cries as he sees the old man who has probably fished for the last time.
Is it well written?
There is much more going on here beyond just a story of an old man fishing and there are references to baseball and the great players in a search to define heroic masculinity as well as lots of thoughts on the generation gap. The old man is seen as unlucky despite all he can teach the boy and is too proud to share his true poverty and loneliness. The story grips you because for the first half of the tale you are wondering if he can catch a fish and then for the final third hoping and praying having done so will not destroy him.
Should it be reead?
As a tale of persistance and bravery it is gripping and a tale of loss and loneliness it is hard to find anything else that can move you as much. It is powerful and deserves to be read by those both at the age spectrum of the boy, inbetween and at the old man’s age where no doubt there is an even deeper understanding of the risks to the individual of pushing it to the limit.