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Old 03-17-2018, 05:12 PM   #61
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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.
I don't expect everyone to agree with me about killing and eating animals. But I object to the romanticization of it. I object to the framing of it as an epic struggle between man and nature--some struggle, when it's the predatory man who has the hook and the harpoon, and all the prey can ever win is its escape. I object to the notion that a man somehow gains heroic stature by killing another creature that's bigger than he is.
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Old 03-17-2018, 05:46 PM   #62
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I agree, and as I said up the thread, that is what I really don’t like about the book.

Having said that, I do think it is a gripping story, and I like Hemingway’s (mostly) plain style of writing.
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Old 03-17-2018, 07:12 PM   #63
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Every day go back to the beginning and rewrite the whole thing and when it gets too long, read at least two or three chapters before you start to write and at least once a week go back to the start. That way you make it one piece. And when you go over it, cut out everything you can. The main thing is to know what to leave out. The way you tell whether you’re going good is by what you can throw away. If you can throw away stuff that would make a high point of interest in somebody else’s story, you know you’re going good.
Writing advice from Hemingway in Arnold Samuelson's With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba
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Old 03-17-2018, 07:23 PM   #64
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I agree, and as I said up the thread, that is what I really don’t like about the book.

Having said that, I do think it is a gripping story, and I like Hemingway’s (mostly) plain style of writing.
I can't/don't want to get past the specific elements that make up the story. I can't be gripped by a story like this because I'm too busy feeling disgusted, sickened, and angry. I can't appreciate writing that romanticizes something I find abhorrent.
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Old 03-17-2018, 08:02 PM   #65
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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.
Yes, that is how I see it too.
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Old 03-17-2018, 09:32 PM   #66
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Yes, that is how I see it too.
But suppose the old man showed his love for the boy the same way he showed his love for the fish?
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Old 03-17-2018, 10:11 PM   #67
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But suppose the old man showed his love for the boy the same way he showed his love for the fish?
It would only be fair, since the boy had already shown his love for the man in much the same way (let him go out on his own and just about kill himself).

Most of the reaction from the boy and villagers at the end can seen as guilt, and the half-life of guilt can be very short. It seems likely that things will soon return to the way they were at the start.

And the more I think about it the more serious I am about that last sentence: nothing has changed. The old man is still old. The young boy is still taking care of him. For all anyone knows it might be another 85 days before the old man hooks another fish.
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Old 03-18-2018, 11:21 AM   #68
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And the more I think about it the more serious I am about that last sentence: nothing has changed. The old man is still old. The young boy is still taking care of him. For all anyone knows it might be another 85 days before the old man hooks another fish.
There's a mention in the beginning of the old man's previous 87-day dry spell--so maybe he has them frequently. I don't recall if there's anything about how that earlier one ended.
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Old 03-18-2018, 11:59 AM   #69
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But suppose the old man showed his love for the boy the same way he showed his love for the fish?


In my first post I did allude to the tainted image of the heroic hunter. In my early teens (living in Africa) I decided killing animals for sport was not for me, and I still feel that way. However, I have some sympathy for the plight of the old man, whose only means income is through fishing (quite how he has survived through an 87 dry spell I'm not sure).
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Old 03-18-2018, 02:55 PM   #70
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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.

There was the epic struggle with the huge fish and its long fight against death. Then there were the sharks which came for the dead fish tied to the side of the boat, which in turn were killed or injured by Santiago in his desperation to keep at least some of the fish from them.

(And I just have to ask: if only the skeleton was left, how come it stayed attached to the boat? Surely it would have fallen through the ropes. But that's just nitpicking on my part.)

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.

So much death and destruction, and for what? Why am I reminded of the stubborn butchery of the Great War? Maybe because it might be seen as unmanly to take a step back from the precipice and acknowledge that the battle is pointless.

So for me the story is compelling, but I am not tempted to read anything more by Hemingway because of those underlying themes.

Thanks for the link to the article, Bookworm_Girl. It was interesting to read.
I finally read the book, I'm glad it was short.

I didn't find his battle with the fish to be at all heroic, more desperate and even stupid. He doesn't know at first just how large the fish is, but once he does it seems like pure stubbornness to keep battling it.

I also found it incredibly sad that the fish he loves, and I think I can see it as love, gets destroyed for no purpose but satisfiying his stubbornness and pride.

It seems like we're supposed to see him as heroic, in that the village gets to see him as a great fisherman bringing home the skeleton. But the trip is a failure, destroying the fish and very nearly himself.
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Old 03-21-2018, 10:07 AM   #71
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I delayed a bit on posting to see if anyone else shared my reaction and then was busy. But I'm caught up now and see no one's weighed in yet.

What struck me most was that this is a sustained and quite powerful Christian allegory, although somewhat flawed. From the start, there's a fisherman named Santiago. James, son of Zebedee, was one of the fishermen called by Christ to be an apostle and the first to be martyred. And then Manolin, a diminutive of Manuel/Emmanuel, was the source of abiding love and endless succor.

The language of the book is replete with religious symbolism, affirmations of faith and hope and love, references to relics, Christ as a fisher of men and fish as a symbol of Christianity, the number of people to be fed by the marlin, the vow of a pilgrimage to the Virgen de Cobre, Our Lady of Charity, thus invoking the pilgrimage of St. James, and I could go on. Hemingway converted to Catholicism when he married his second wife and while it's dubious he was ever a practicing Catholic, the motifs of the religion pervade several of his novels.

The depth provided by this allegory in conjunction with the evocations of the emotions experienced by Santiago and the heart-pounding physicality of the catch made this unputdownable for me. I read this decades ago when it was clearly over my head; it's on my ten best list for this year.

I did think Hemingway's metaphors got a bit confused toward the end, when Santiago is more of a Christ figure, carrying his mast like a cross to his shack and then lying as if crucified, hands with their stigmata palms up. Ultimately, I'm not sure what Hemingway was driving at with this shift unless I read it wrong from the start, although the names seem pretty indicative to me.

There is an unintended symmetry between Hemingway's first novel, The Sun Also Rises and his last in his lifetime, The Old Man. A significant portion of Sun was set along the ancient pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela, where St. James's body is supposed to have ended up after floating from Israel where he was martyred, and the names of the protagonists in both books, Jake Barnes and Santiago, are variants of James.

Last edited by issybird; 03-21-2018 at 12:11 PM. Reason: Typos.
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Old 03-21-2018, 11:07 AM   #72
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Now THAT is a connection I would never have made, being a practicing atheist. And yet, quite compelling. Very interesting. The mast to the shack as a cross? Perfect.

Which brings me back to the continual references to baseball. True, it's a sport that was (and is) very much part of Cuba, but I'm still trying to understand it's place in the story.
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Old 03-21-2018, 12:10 PM   #73
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Which brings me back to the continual references to baseball. True, it's a sport that was (and is) very much part of Cuba, but I'm still trying to understand it's place in the story.
The single funniest bit in the book (granted, there's not a lot of competition) was when Santiago said in effect, "I fear the Tigers and the Indians." I There was some irony in his faith in the Yankees, as the Yankees (the nationality, not the team) were to traduce Cuba majorly before the end of the decade; perhaps Hemingway was being prescient. I thought Joe DiMaggio functioned as something like a false god or golden idol.
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Old 03-21-2018, 01:26 PM   #74
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I delayed a bit on posting to see if anyone else shared my reaction and then was busy. But I'm caught up now and see no one's weighed in yet.

What struck me most was that this is a sustained and quite powerful Christian allegory, although somewhat flawed. From the start, there's a fisherman named Santiago. James, son of Zebedee, was one of the fishermen called by Christ to be an apostle and the first to be martyred. And then Manolin, a diminutive of Manuel/Emmanuel, was the source of abiding love and endless succor.

The language of the book is replete with religious symbolism, affirmations of faith and hope and love, references to relics, Christ as a fisher of men and fish as a symbol of Christianity, the number of people to be fed by the marlin, the vow of a pilgrimage to the Virgen de Cobre, Our Lady of Charity, thus invoking the pilgrimage of St. James, and I could go on. Hemingway converted to Catholicism when he married his second wife and while it's dubious he was ever a practicing Catholic, the motifs of the religion pervade several of his novels.

The depth provided by this allegory in conjunction with the evocations of the emotions experienced by Santiago and the heart-pounding physicality of the catch made this unputdownable for me. I read this decades ago when it was clearly over my head; it's on my ten best list for this year.

I did think Hemingway's metaphors got a bit confused toward the end, when Santiago is more of a Christ figure, carrying his mast like a cross to his shack and then lying as if crucified, hands with their stigmata palms up. Ultimately, I'm not sure what Hemingway was driving at with this shift unless I read it wrong from the start, although the names seem pretty indicative to me.

There is an unintended symmetry between Hemingway's first novel, The Sun Also Rises and his last in his lifetime, The Old Man. A significant portion of Sun was set along the ancient pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela, where St. James's body is supposed to have ended up after floating from Israel where he was martyred, and the names of the protagonists in both books, Jake Barnes and Santiago, are variants of James.
I can see the symbolism that elevates Santiago to a Christ-figure, and read a little bit about that in some online guides I looked at before reading the book, but I don't know what to do with it.

I didn't catch anything about the names--I barely registered what the characters' names were since they're used only a few times each. If we disregard your point about the name meanings, the boy seems to be not the Christ-figure but the devoted disciple throughout.

But the fish. What do you do with the killing of the fish? The fish has traditionally been the symbol of Christianity, and it's the thing the apparent Christ-figure here kills. How does that compute?

One could probably make a case for the marlin being a symbol of Christ and the old man being a symbol of Pilate/Romans putting him to death (and remember Santiago's dreams of lions--and how Romans supposedly threw Christians to the lions). The days-long journey of the marlin before it was killed could echo the time between Christ's entry into Jerusalem and execution. The harpoon in the marlin could symbolize the spear in Christ's side.

There are other things that bug me about the old man as a Christ-figure, one being his age. Another is his motive--you mention how many people will be fed by the marlin, but he thinks first about how much money he will make from selling it; he's not going to provide fish for the poor. It's not an ignoble motive for this poor guy to think about the money, but neither is it a selfless, Christ-like motive.

Whatever the symbolism, I still don't have a clue what the sharks and Joe DiMaggio represent.
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Old 03-21-2018, 01:35 PM   #75
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I delayed a bit on posting to see if anyone else shared my reaction and then was busy. But I'm caught up now and see no one's weighed in yet.<snip>
Great post. The Christian allegory passed me by completely - like Charlie I'm an atheist. I'm going to have to reread at some point with your interpretation in mind.
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