The Old Man and The Sea, published in 1952 and often considered Hemingway’s greatest publication, was met with critical acclaim which led to a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and a Nobel Prize in 1954.
The Old Man and The Sea tells the softly written story of Santiago, an aging, but experienced fisherman who has gone 84 days without a catch. Considered “salao” (the worst form of unlucky) by other fishermen, even his young apprentice Manolin is forbidden by his parents to continue fishing with Santiago. This does not deter the old man and he decides on the 85th day he will go further out into deeper waters with the belief that his fortunes will change.
An absolute masterpiece, The Old Man and The Sea best highlights the importance of perseverance and determination along with how it can champion over luck. This theme is consistently demonstrated throughout by Santiago’s relentless fishing method with only his hands and a line (no rod) or how he recounts a foreshadowing story of an arm wrestling match with the strongest man on the docks that “started on a Sunday morning and ended on a Monday morning”.
What makes the story timeless, however, is how Hemingway masterfully blends Santiago’s determination with his gentle and loving respect for the ocean, which is best exemplified in a thought provoking moment of sincerity when Santiago explains why he refers to the Sea as la mar.
“[I] always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her… Some of the younger fisherman, those who use buoys and motorboats, spoke of her as el mar, which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But [I] always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours”.
A story as riveting as it is heartwarming; The Old Man and The Sea is littered with imagery and earthly respect that puts you right into the antiquated skiff with Santiago, cheering for him as he battles his greatest challenges, alone in the deep waters of the Gulf Stream.