I’ll admit that my knowledge of Ernest Hemingway before reading this book was excruciatingly limited. As in, I saw the portrayal of him in Midnight in Paris and was struck with a serious case of the giggles, and I wasn’t really sure why. So hey, why not actually read something by the guy? He is a “classic” American author, right?
The problem I often find when I read “classic” novels is that I typically end up either frustrated by everything and slamming the book shut for forever, or painfully trudging through something totally disconnected from myself just because of the beauty of the language… However, in this case I was surprisingly fortunate, as The Old Man and the Sea was absolutely stunning to read.
The novel focuses on an old, poor fisherman in Cuba, whose boat is pulled further and further out to sea for days on end by a massive fish that the man is too proud to let go of. From here, we follow the man’s decisive actions while fishing, and his thoughts regarding his life, baseball, and the strange bond of brotherhood he feels forming between himself and the fish. The straight-forward nature of the plot could be seen at face-value as slightly naïve, but it turns out to be quite beautiful in its simplicity: it’s the character of the old man which we are concerned about, and by letting the action unfold in such a minimal and effortless manner, we are able to understand more and more about who the old man really is and what drives him; after being somewhat put-off by his stubbornness at the beginning of the novel, I truly started to care for the him by the end, which is a mark of some truly great character development in my books.
What’s great about Hemingway is that he seems like he doesn’t want to make a big fuss with his writing. He is precise in his use of language and the pace of his prose, which almost parallels the meticulously strict fishing actions of the novel’s protagonist. Not a single word is wasted or unnecessary, yet the scene that unfolds remains rich and vivid, leading me to absolutely adore The Old Man and the Sea, despite some uncertainties when I first picked it up.