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Old 03-16-2018, 12:48 PM   #46
CRussel
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I found this book very powerful, but almost unbearable to read. While I had sympathy for Santiago's situation, I disliked the whole premise of the heroic man battling and trying to overcome nature.

The real problem for me is that I just don't buy into the whole idea of its being noble to go into the wild to kill animals, especially for sport. Yes, I know that for Santiago this was his livelihood rather than a "sport", but for Hemingway, it was something he chose to do, and so something which he upholds as a virtue. So even though Santiago knew the fish was far too big for him to be able to bring it into the boat, he persisted in continuing the battle.
Yes, Hemingway was a sport fisherman, though I think that's not quite completely fair to him in this case. He's not writing about his experience fishing, he's writing about a subsistence fisherman who fishes to survive. And while I will not read about Hemingway killing animals in Africa, I have to cut him some slack here. This is a fish, not a lion or an elephant, and it's for food, not for sport. Unless we are all going to become vegans, we will always have to kill to eat.

I actually think Santiago's directly killing the fish he will eat (or sell to buy his food) is far better than people who go into a local discount grocery and buy battery chickens that have been raised in inhumane conditions (I can post myriad links if you want) in order to meet the demand for cheap food. They aren't taking responsibility for their killing, or the conditions required to produce it at that price. (But let's NOT turn this into a P&R discussion, please!)

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So for me the story is compelling, but I am not tempted to read anything more by Hemingway because of those underlying themes.
There are a couple of other Hemingway books I might be willing to read, but I admit that there are definitely others I am not willing to read, and for those very reasons.

Thank you for taking on the challenge of reading this and contributing. I think any really powerful book will be difficult for some to read, and good selections for this club will often push some of us out of our comfort zone. That's both the good and the hard about a good book club.
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Old 03-16-2018, 04:48 PM   #47
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Yes, I agree and I acknowledged the difference between a fisherman who is trying to earn his living and one who considers it a sport. But what I dislike is that whole idea of its being heroic to battle and subdue the natural world.
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Old 03-16-2018, 05:12 PM   #48
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Yes, I agree and I acknowledged the difference between a fisherman who is trying to earn his living and one who considers it a sport. But what I dislike is that whole idea of its being heroic to battle and subdue the natural world.
Yup. You did. And I get that dislike. Though I'm not sure I'd say Santiago is trying to subdue the natural world so much as trying to survive it. Hemingway, however, is rather far over on the heroic battle side of the spectrum. WAY over.
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Old 03-16-2018, 07:19 PM   #49
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That’s what I meant and probably didn’t express clearly enough. It’s not Santiago himself but the whole underlying premise, which is Hemingway’s.
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Old 03-16-2018, 07:55 PM   #50
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How many experienced fishermen do you know would willingly give up the catch of a life time?

I understand what you are saying but at what point should one give up? Just because something is hard to do doesn't mean one should quit. [...]
If this was a sports fisherman (like Hemingway himself) then the behaviour might be expected. But this is Santiago's livelihood, that tends to make a person more pragmatic.

To pursue this huge fish he cuts away the other baits. So he does "give up" in the sense that he gives up any chance of catching a fish he he could have landed properly.
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Old 03-16-2018, 10:34 PM   #51
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I hated it. Everything about it.

I will admit I went into this with a bad attitude and extreme reluctance. I am a vegetarian; I don't want to read anything that involves killing animals, either for food or for sport. And I don't like Hemingway, from what little I was forced to read of his in school.

I don't know anything about fishing and didn't like all the details that were meaningless to me, nor did I want to try to learn about an activity I find distasteful. I don't much like the old man; I don't like his talking to the fish and his hand. I don't like his lack of foresight in uselessly killing something that he knew/should have known would become shark food; that makes the killing not for food, but for sport--for the challenge of it--and that makes it additionally cruel.

I could tolerate the baseball references--though I haven't a clue why they were there, and by the time the book was published in 1952, Joe DiMaggio had retired.

The best thing about the book was that it was short, but as short as it was, I resented the time spent reading it.
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Old 03-16-2018, 11:38 PM   #52
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I thought the book was too long and should have been shorter. I liked the writing. I enjoyed the Hemingway short stories that we read in the Literary Club. I just wasn't into the subject matter of this book. I would have preferred more development of the relationship with the boy. Perhaps the short synopsis in the introduction ruined it for me.

I read the book twice. The first time was excruciatingly boring. I abandoned it at 35%. I just couldn't take anymore of it. Then I skimmed the rest of it until the ending. I liked the beginning and the ending which had interaction between Santiago and the boy and the community. I gave it 1 star on Goodreads. I just plain hated it.

Then I read 1 star and 5 star reviews to understand why people love or hate this book. I know nothing about sea fishing, but I do love baseball. So, I decided to research the meaning of all the baseball references to have context. Then I found information and pictures to understand the fishing information. Like others the dolphins perplexed me (that's probably about the point where I gave up!) so then I figured out they were really fish. Then I went to sleep!

Only because it was a book club read did I attempt it a second time the following day with a fresh perspective. Now that I had the extra research and context, I was able to focus more on the main themes of the book and not get distracted by the other items. I upgraded my rating to 3 stars. Anyway, I've checked the box that I read it. I wouldn't read it again. However, I would read other Hemingway novels.

My husband read Islands in the Stream and loved it so he wanted to read more Hemingway. Then he read The Sun Also Rises and hated it - too much love story.
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Early in 1950 Hemingway started work on a "sea trilogy", to consist of three sections: "The Sea When Young" (set in Bimini); "The Sea When Absent" (set in Havana); and "The Sea in Being". The last was published in 1952 as The Old Man and the Sea. He also wrote an unpublished story, "Sea-Chase", which his wife and editor combined with the previous stories about the islands, renamed them as Islands in the Stream, which was published in 1970.

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Old 03-17-2018, 08:03 AM   #53
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I first read this book some decades ago and as it was done in class, I could not really appreciate it properly. This time I was astonished at what a masterpiece it is. The "simple" fisherman is anything but simple. He has a philosophy which informs his entire being and which impels him to great heroism in an unequal struggle with the elements and still simultaneously prompts him to question the validity of that struggle.

The battle with the great fish is genuinely tragic. He knows that one of them must die and yet he loves his opponent. The Old Man hunts not out of hate but to survive. Still, in the end, he wonders whether he was right to seek out the Fish; that he travelled too far out for either. The Fish gives up its life but only the sharks benefit from the sacrifice. The Old Man wrestles with this conundrum but in the end he finds no certain answer.

The pacing of the novel is perfect. There are those great meditative passages alternating with moments of the fury of the hunt and the anguish of the battle with the sharks.

And finally the return home where the we see a kind of rebirth. The Boy knows that he has much to learn from the Old Man. Thus the latter's struggle bears a kind of fruit for the future.

Still, the novel leaves us wondering about basic questions— the true function of a masterpiece.

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Old 03-17-2018, 08:21 AM   #54
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Makes you wonder if we all read the same book.
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Old 03-17-2018, 10:54 AM   #55
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The old man may be tragic, but I don't think he's heroic. He kills a magnificent creature for no reason--he knows he can't possibly get it home. All his supposed love for his "brother" is a lot of hokum. I can accept intellectually that this impoverished man might need to fish to survive, but let him just go do it, without the pretense of loving the fish he's trying to kill, not to mention the collateral damage--the raw fish he eats and the sharks he kills.

The magnificent fish being caught only to be destroyed in the process of getting it home reminded me of something but I couldn't put my finger on it until today--it's the unicorn hunting scene in The Once and Future King. Morgause's sons catch and kill the gentle unicorn and try to drag it home to her, but ruin its beauty and finally only the head is left; instead of being pleased with their gift, Morgause whips them.
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Old 03-17-2018, 01:46 PM   #56
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He kills a magnificent creature for no reason....

The magnificent fish being caught only to be destroyed ...

So, no love for the un-magnificent sharks that he killed? And the marlin provided food for the sharks, so it wasn't useless on a bigger scale.
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Old 03-17-2018, 02:03 PM   #57
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So, no love for the un-magnificent sharks that he killed? And the marlin provided food for the sharks, so it wasn't useless on a bigger scale.
I'm sure the sharks could've managed quite well finding food on their own; they didn't need the old man to provide for them.

One could make a case for the killing of the sharks to be reasonable once the marlin was killed. Killing them is secondary. Frankly, although I had enough awareness of the story to know it didn't happen, I would've been just fine with the sharks overturning the boat and ... karma.

(I'm not really bloodthirsty. But I don't like the glorification of killing animals.)
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Old 03-17-2018, 02:49 PM   #58
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The magnificent fish being caught only to be destroyed in the process of getting it home reminded me of something but I couldn't put my finger on it until today--it's the unicorn hunting scene in The Once and Future King. Morgause's sons catch and kill the gentle unicorn and try to drag it home to her, but ruin its beauty and finally only the head is left; instead of being pleased with their gift, Morgause whips them.
There is a similar idea in “Elidor” by Alan Garner. A unicorn is killed through an act of trust. A friend of mine told me that she would never forgive the author for that ending.

I suppose that Hemingway’s novel will always divide opinion and I can certainly understand why that is so. I felt very uneasy about the relationship between the Great Fish and the Old Man. I finally decided that his awareness of the dignity and beauty of the Fish was real—as was his love for it. He states that God had made him a Fisherman and The Fish was—in the end—a fish.

He felt the same way about that first terrible shark. Its terrifing deadly nature was part of its nobility. He still killed it though it could have killed him. It was—in his mind—the nature of their elemental relationship.

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Old 03-17-2018, 03:18 PM   #59
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The book could have been titled The Old Man and the Boy and we'd have a story of the old man and the boy. That would have been a better story.
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Old 03-17-2018, 04:14 PM   #60
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Considering the that fishing is a lottery of sorts--you don't know what's at the other end of the line until much later--I can't fault the old man for trying to catch the fish initially. A fish one third smaller would have given a similar fight and still been small enough to get into the boat.

As for the rightness or wrongness of the acts of fishing... that reaches over into an entirely different topic.
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