A fantastic short novel (or novella – there doesn’t seem to be consensus) of Hemingway’s. I do truly love Hemingway’s economical writing style so much, it’s music to my ears. Or eyes, rather. In any case, I greatly enjoy this story.
Even setting all subtext and thematics aside, it’s a very strong work. Hemingway’s prose is as brilliant as ever. The old man is a potent, relatable protagonist. His adventure at sea is tense and thrilling. His grapples with age, survival, his place in the world, they’re all compelling.
When not setting subtext and thematics aside, there’s plenty to mull over. Under another writer, this could be a a tragic tale of hubris, the old man’s wounded pride leading him to journey beyond the threshold could go disastrously. Or it could even go exactly the same, and the ending of the story would be positioned as a tragedy, the fish’s skeleton a sign of failure. As Hemingway tells it, I feel it’s instead a story of success, self-actualisation, and reclamation of one’s place in the world.
The old man’s thoughts on being sort of cosmic brothers with fish were compelling to me, and I personally prefer that sort of philosophy to the very pro-hunting classical masculinity Hemingway exemplified, but in the end the old mean does ultimately “succeed”, he survives his adventure, conquers the sharks…he acts on his pride, but rather than being punished by fate, he seems to succeed in asserting his place in the world, even in his advanced age. It’s curious thematically, but feels entirely in keeping with Hemingway’s predilections.
I give it four mako sharks, and a giant marlin.