As you start to increase your kindle collection, it is wise to download a variety of things to read. And sure, the latest serial novel is a great addition to the collection, but sometimes you need a literary classic. Luckily, there is a plethora of classics to choose from.
When it comes to literary classics, there are few authors with a better reputation than Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway, sometimes referred to as “Papa,” has penned some of the greatest novels in modern history. With such a vast bibliography, it can hard to know where to start when it comes to Hemingway.
The Old Man and the Sea is a great entry point for approaching Hemingway. The novella, around 120 pages long, contains all of the qualities that make Hemingway great: simplistic, no nonsense prose, plot with clear signs of personal experience, and themes revealing great truths of humanity.
The story, set on the Gulf Stream, follows the life of an old, poor Cuban fisherman. Without a notable catch in years, the old man seems all but past his prime. The only personal relationship he has left is with a young boy who used to fish on his boat with him.
The old man’s relationship with the boy is a running theme throughout the relationship. While the old man is adamant about fishing on his own, the boy wants to accompany him and take care of him. The old man refuses, but often regrets his decision after he departs. Hemingway uses the relationship to comment on the nature of man, and the desire for independence and refusal to admit defeat.
Courage in the face of defeat is a running theme throughout the story. As the old man ventures out to sea, he lands a great marlin. Quickly, he realizes that he is underprepared and ill-equipped to deal with a fish of such great size and strength. But, he refuses to admit defeat. Instead, he fights the fish for days, ignoring the fact that he is traveling out too far to safely return.
Hemingway’s brilliance shows in his handling of the old man’s courage. Never once does he have the old man seem delusional about his deteriorated state; instead he portrays a man regretting his foolishness. The man constantly curses his weakened state, his stubbornness in not allowing the boy to accompany him, and his decision to pursue the fish no matter the consequences. And still, he paints a character who refuses to give up in the face of seemingly certain defeat.
Dialogue is sparse throughout The Old Man and the Sea. Aside from the brief interactions between the old man and the boy, most of it occurs in the form of the old man talking to his self. Despite this, the story never drags along and the narrative is never overwhelming. This is due to Hemingway’s brevity and his excellent sense of pacing.
For example, after the old man has had the fish hooked for days and the narrative begins to feel monotonous, Hemingway flashes back to an earlier time in the man’s life. The old man reminisces about a time he became the arm wrestling champion of Havana. The championship match, featuring the old man pitted against the strongest negro on the island, lasts an astonishing 24 hours. This scene written by a lesser writer may feel contrived and unbelievable, but Hemingway’s character building makes it anything but.
When the old man conquers his arm-wrestling foe, the reader is left with a new respect and a better understanding of the man’s character. He is a man with an iron will, who rises to the occasion when the outcome looks bleak. When the story returns to the present, readers are left feeling like the old man may have one more conquest left in him.
Hemingway paints the setting in an authentic way only he can. Using simple, yet vivid imagery, Hemingway makes the Gulf Stream come alive with flying fish, phosphorescent sea weed, and golden dolphins. When he describes the taste of raw tuna, readers are left with the taste in their own mouths. The details of the purple marlin fins paints a vivid image in the mind of readers. Hemingway’s genius when it comes to scene setting and imagery-laden description is on full display in Old Man and The Sea.
I will not go into detail about the climax and resolution for the sake of robbing readers of a beautiful literary experience. All I will say is this, readers will be left with a newfound understanding of courage, defeat, and the human condition.
The Old Man and the Sea may have been written over 65 years ago, but it is a must for your kindle collection. No matter if you are a fan of good storytelling, strong characters, or vivid imagery, this story has something for you. Download and read it on a sunny summer afternoon or during a trip to the beach. Whatever situation you read it in, you will be in for Hemingway at his best, which is truly a treat to experience.
Get The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway for your Kindle.