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In A Nutshell

The Old Man and the Sea is famous for a lot of reasons. There’s that whole Nobel Prize business (awarded to Ernest Hemingway in part for this book), establishing the author’s fame, not to mention the "changing the style of English prose" factor. Oh, and the book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Written in 1952, The Old Man and the Sea is a classic example of Hemingway's short, terse prose, the emotional weight of his works, and the trademark characteristics of his unemotional male protagonists. In other words, this novella about an old man attempting to catch a gigantic fish is the poster child of Hemingway books. He obviously thought so, too, as he said it was the best he could write.


Why Should I Care?

Fight a gigantic marlin in the middle of the Gulf Stream? Been there, done that. Stave off hungry sharks while in a rowboat? Check, check. This book is pretty much the story of our life.

But really, let’s get down to it. We should care about this novella because it 1) teaches us how to successfully catch a 16-foot fish, and 2) it reminds us of our own loneliness and quest for survival. Yes, we get lonely sometimes. We get put into boxes and packed away in the attic, labeled things like “old,” “young,” “uncool,” “proud,” “unadventurous,” “reckless,” “brainy,” “stupid,” and these labels slowly but surely wear away at our confidence. And just when things seem really bad, and when we’ve watched the last Murder She Wrote episode we can stand on day-time TV, we start dreaming again about "what if" and about the part of our self that does not fit in the attic boxes.

Santiago was once the best fisherman ever. He was the big cheese. But then he grew older and couldn’t catch a fish for 84 days. Everyone assumes he is cursed and packs him away in the “old” and “unlucky” boxes. He fights the labels, and so do we. It’s our natural human tendency. What else would compel a man to go out into the Gulf Stream in a tiny rowboat all by himself to fish for nearly three days?

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