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Old 03-23-2018, 11:58 AM   #91
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:biting my lip to stay out of the hunting discussion:
Signed, a hunter....

I think the book aptly describes the skill vs. luck needed for fishing, and the respect the fisherman has to the fish, who also “hunt” to survive. But it is not “the great hunter” type story, or even a “story” as in one with a lot of things happening. More contemplative, maybe.
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Old 03-23-2018, 08:06 PM   #92
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It is probably unwise to generalise as I have, June, as there are a myriad different forms of hunting, and every hunter is an individual. The hunting and fishing that I've done is pretty small stuff compared to what we've been reading about.

But I do see it as, at least partly, a "great hunter" type story. It is almost an ode to a hunter. I see in Hemingway's writing a great admiration for this struggle of man versus beast. (issybird noted some symmetry between this book and The Sun Also Rises, and that symmetry includes this struggle.) To some extent I share that admiration: the strength and determination required by such fishermen is something admirable - I think.

But that is not the same as admiring the waste that comes from poor decisions; given the situation the poor decisions were understandable, they did not seem unrealistic, but that doesn't make them good decisions. And because I don't see this in the same way that Hemingway did, the entire short story ends up feeling wrong to me. (And the fact that I don't like his writing style, his voice, doesn't help.)
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Old 03-23-2018, 10:15 PM   #93
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I think your interpretation is correct (at least to some extent). I wasn't really suggesting that they meant to use the strong predilection sense of "love" (like "I love ice-cream"). Rather, I was suggesting that they were being lazy/loose in their writing to use "love" where they really mean something else.
That's how I interpreted the word 'love'. I didn't think he meant anything like the affection we might feel for a pet dog or cat. I immediately thought that what was meant was more of a sense of honor and respect for the creature that would provide sustinance for him. Perhaps also admiration for the size and strength of the creature, but that's likely projecting even more of my own thoughts into the story over what was really on the page.

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Old 03-24-2018, 09:36 AM   #94
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That's how I interpreted the word 'love'. I didn't think he meant anything like the affection we might feel for a pet dog or cat. I immediately thought that what was meant was more of a sense of honor and respect for the creature that would provide sustinance for him. Perhaps also admiration for the size and strength of the creature, but that's likely projecting even more of my own thoughts into the story over what was really on the page.
I think you are quite right in your evaluation of the meaning of “love” in the context of the story. Of course, not everyone is going to approve of the way Hemingway treats that idea and I most certainly respect their point of view.

I think, too, that “reading” a work of art (and I regard this novel as such) does not simply mean limiting oneself to the simple physical text. There is a synergy between the text and the imagination of the reader. Wordsworth said that we both “see and half create” and that recreation occurs each time we read a literary work.Certainly The widely differing attitudes to Hemingway’s book on this thread illustrate this.

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Old 03-26-2018, 09:34 PM   #95
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So much great discussion on the novel. It clarified a lot of my reaction to the book.

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But even though the entire story revolves around this struggle, what makes this story work for me is that it is, ultimately, a love story.

...The visuals are as powerful as the writing and so evocative of the daily struggle for survival of fishermen with and against the sea that provides their livelihood.
Yes, if this were just a fishing story, it would have been a good story, but not great. It is the humanity of Santiago and Manolin that elevates it.

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What struck me most was that this is a sustained and quite powerful Christian allegory, although somewhat flawed.
Yes, I wondered about his name, and there are the repeated references to bearing the pain of the rope on his back which suggested the flagellation and crucifixion, although I completely missed Santiago’s carrying the mast, and his maimed hands. Was Santiago’s left hand almost his Judas Iscariot?

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The balance of trying to close with the fish while protecting himself from too much injury, and his accepting and dealing with the injuries he did get, is a lot of the tension of the story.
Yes, Hemingway was at his best as a writer in how he describes that.
He's always most effective when he describes the physical.

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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.
Yes, ultimately, what lessens the novel for me is the macho bs of “If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him.” And then there is the hypocrisy of “"I killed him in self-defense," the old man said aloud. "And I killed him well."”


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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.
A great summation.


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The only thing I did note and then dismissed was the reference to the sound Santiago made when he hurt his hand as being the sound a man would make when a nail was hammered into his hand. I thought that Hemingway was wanting us to see Santiago as Christlike, and I thought it was a bit over the top.
How spot on!

One thing that I did wonder about was how much of himself Hemingway saw in Santiago. When Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in 1949 he had gone a very long time since his last big catch - For Whom The Bell Tolls in 1940. He was 50 - probably in his own mind, old and long past his physical prime. The Old Man and the Sea was his last big fish.

I first read this book fifty years ago in high school as an assigned text. Bits of it have stuck in my mind ever since then, which I suppose is indicative of how well Hemingway could write.
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Old 03-27-2018, 09:13 AM   #96
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Yes, I wondered about his name, and there are the repeated references to bearing the pain of the rope on his back which suggested the flagellation and crucifixion, although I completely missed Santiago’s carrying the mast, and his maimed hands. Was Santiago’s left hand almost his Judas Iscariot?
The left hand/right hand issue was one of those where it seemed biblical, recalling the Sermon on the Mount, but I couldn't figure out what Hemingway meant by it.

I think Santiago was meant to be Christ-like, but not in the sense of representing Christ, but in the sense that all are called to be like Christ and take up their crosses. I also see thinking that's pushing it!

On another and perhaps personal front, while I tend not to like "manly men doing manly things" novels, I didn't read this like that. Perversely, I think the absence of female characters helped in that respect. I don't care for Heminway's women overall, Catherine Barkley being the exemplar for most of them. She's entirely subjective to Frederic Henry's needs and desires even at great cost to herself; Hemingway's projection of the ideal woman, it seems to me. But since Santiago is post-sexual and Manolin is pre-sexual there's no need for the pesky creatures.
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Old 03-27-2018, 10:16 AM   #97
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On another and perhaps personal front, while I tend not to like "manly men doing manly things" novels, I didn't read this like that. Perversely, I think the absence of female characters helped in that respect. I don't care for Heminway's women overall, Catherine Barkley being the exemplar for most of them. She's entirely subjective to Frederic Henry's needs and desires even at great cost to herself; Hemingway's projection of the ideal woman, it seems to me. But since Santiago is post-sexual and Manolin is pre-sexual there's no need for the pesky creatures.
There was a female marlin in the story: the old man recalled killing her while her companion male marlin watched.
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Old 03-27-2018, 12:47 PM   #98
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It's a fish. Let's not carry it too far!
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Old 03-27-2018, 02:49 PM   #99
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It's a fish. Let's not carry it too far!
A Good reminder! (though many of the perspectives are amazingly perceptive)

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Old 03-27-2018, 03:50 PM   #100
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It's a fish. Let's not carry it too far!
Why not? Why can't it be seen as significant that in the almost completely masculine milieu of the novel, a female creature is clubbed to death? If the point of the recalled scene was merely to show the two fish being bonded and devoted to each other, why is it that of the two, the female became the victim and the male got to be the courageously loyal one? Why include that terrible story at all?
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Old 03-27-2018, 04:20 PM   #101
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Old 03-27-2018, 07:21 PM   #102
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[...] On another and perhaps personal front, while I tend not to like "manly men doing manly things" novels, I didn't read this like that. Perversely, I think the absence of female characters helped in that respect. I don't care for Heminway's women overall, Catherine Barkley being the exemplar for most of them. She's entirely subjective to Frederic Henry's needs and desires even at great cost to herself; Hemingway's projection of the ideal woman, it seems to me. But since Santiago is post-sexual and Manolin is pre-sexual there's no need for the pesky creatures.
That Hemingway wrote so close to his own life is one of the things I find slightly disturbing about his work: always begging the question is that really the way he saw the people/things around him?

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There was a female marlin in the story: the old man recalled killing her while her companion male marlin watched.
I certainly don't find this any more of stretch than some of the other things that have been drawn from the story in this thread so far - although I read this scene as intending to humanise the marlin: if they bond like this then they are creatures we can relate to. I did wonder if the reader was supposed to think that maybe this new catch was that earlier male, returned to fulfil his fate next to that his mate (or some such allegorical rubbish - whoops! Oh dear, my cynicism slipped ).
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Old 03-27-2018, 10:41 PM   #103
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That Hemingway wrote so close to his own life is one of the things I find slightly disturbing about his work: always begging the question is that really the way he saw the people/things around him?

I certainly don't find this any more of stretch than some of the other things that have been drawn from the story in this thread so far - although I read this scene as intending to humanise the marlin: if they bond like this then they are creatures we can relate to. I did wonder if the reader was supposed to think that maybe this new catch was that earlier male, returned to fulfil his fate next to that his mate (or some such allegorical rubbish - whoops! Oh dear, my cynicism slipped ).
I think that just might be a bit too much of a stretch!

I do agree with you about Hemingway’s view of the world being rather disturbing, but he was by no means extraordinary - and I fear still is not. Lots of he-men out there at the moment in Australia, blasting waterfowl out of the skies, including of course many native species which are vulnerable and supposed to be protected.
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Old 03-27-2018, 11:57 PM   #104
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I was thinking of other aspects, as much as hunting, of Hemingway's view of the world. As issybird referred to his, his portrayal of women, but also in his portrayal of other nationalities and beliefs, there is a condescension in his manner which, while not unexpected for a man of his generation, is a rather unsettling now. Unlike many writers who might be described as ahead of their time, Hemingway appears (to me) to be a man firmly entrenched in his time.

As to hunting, I grew up on a farm and all that goes with that: fishing, duck-shooting, vermin hunting, helping my father to kill and butcher beasts for the freezer. (There was, of course, some farm work as well. ) But my father also encouraged us to watch and admire wildlife, and not with the intention of killing what we'd grown to love, but with an eye to conservation. So I grew up somewhere in the middle ground between avid hunters and steadfast vegetarians: I do see a place for hunting, but I get dismayed when I see it done badly and with inappropriate targets.

Where I live now we see quite a lot folk that leave their comfortable city homes for the holidays and come out to the country to blast away at anything that moves. (They have their gun licences to allow them to hunt vermin on properties they rarely bother to visit at other times, so the guns are legal, but that doesn't make the shooters any more sensible.) Some of these holiday visitors also bring their cats down with them and I see them roaming our block at night looking for birds and sugar gliders and who knows what else. Christmas and Easter are especially bad times for wildlife in this area.
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:50 AM   #105
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Oh dear - good luck to your wildlife during this coming long weekend.

Sadly, I think the other aspects you mention - attitude to women, to other nationalities and beliefs, tends to "go with the territory" as they say.
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