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Old 02-11-2018, 10:03 AM   #1
issybird
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March 2018 Discussion • The Old Man & the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is the March selection for the New Leaf Book Club.



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The Old Man and the Sea is a short novel written by the American author Ernest Hemingway in 1951 in Bimini, Bahamas, and published in 1952. It was the last major work of fiction by Hemingway that was published during his lifetime. One of his most famous works, it tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba.

In 1953, The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and it was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to their awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.[2]
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Old 03-14-2018, 11:49 AM   #2
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The Old Man and the Sea

I undoubtedly first read this book in my teens, though I have no memory of it at all, so I'm not counting it. Certainly, I saw the original movie, with Spencer Tracy as Santiago, though again, my memories of that are mostly visual snatches, without context or content. So the reality is that my first real reading of it came a few years ago when it moved into the public domain in Canada, and I downloaded it from FadedPage. I then re-read it over the last couple of days to prepare for this discussion.

This was not an 'easy' read, even the first time, but even less so for this re-read. The powerful struggle of the old man with the sun, the sea, the marlin and his own age is both compelling and disturbing, and that before we even get to the final result. 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 quiet love of the boy and the old man, and the obvious love of the village for the old man are powerful, and fairly straightforward. But the love of the old man for the sea, and the fish in it, is more of a mixed relationship. As is the old man's love for his strong right hand, and more fallible left hand, and for the strength of his failing body.

I see some have given this as low as one star on GoodReads, but for me this remains a solid 5 star read. 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.
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Old 03-14-2018, 11:57 AM   #3
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What I don't get is why the old man used fishing line without a rod or something to attach the line to? The line would bite into him as it did and that's not a proper way to fish. That's the part that took me out of the story. The struggle wasn't as compelling as it should have been because of the incorrect way he was fishing.
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:17 PM   #4
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All of his equipment has been sold to allow him to live, Jon. That's clear from the discussion between Santiago and the boy. This is a poor, subsistence fisherman, who hasn't caught a fish for 84 days. And the kinds of rods and reels that can handle a large marlin are in the hundreds of dollars even in those days. Hardly something a poor fisherman in the rural Cuba of Batista could afford, is it?
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:21 PM   #5
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All of his equipment has been sold to allow him to live, Jon. That's clear from the discussion between Santiago and the boy. This is a poor, subsistence fisherman, who hasn't caught a fish for 84 days. And the kinds of rods and reels that can handle a large marlin are in the hundreds of dollars even in those days. Hardly something a poor fisherman in the rural Cuba of Batista could afford, is it?
But why not even something as simple as a heavy tree branch to tie the line to? I can understand that he's poor and cannot afford a proper rod/reel. But a tree branch is not expensive.
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:25 PM   #6
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The fishing technique is a product of the time and location of the story. It isn't "incorrect", just different. Exactly how much line do you think would fit on a hand-held pole in a single man rowed skiff when the line is "as thick around as a big pencil"? Heavy duty, very fine fishing line hasn't been available forever and the creation of the very heavy duty but thin line is what allows someone to use a rod and reel for big game fishing.
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:27 PM   #7
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But why not even something as simple as a heavy tree branch to tie the line to? I can understand that he's poor and cannot afford a proper rod/reel. But a tree branch is not expensive.
He did have a stick at the beginning for tension but it was very clearly explained that he had to be able to reel out line under tension when the fish was fighting so that the line didn't break. If he didn't have to worry about that he would have just tied it to the boat.
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:28 PM   #8
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Jon, it's not my job to teach fishing, but tree branches don't 'give'. They don't flex and react, they don't give the fisherman the "feel" of the fish and what it's doing. Please, read what is being said and thought by Santiago. He even mentions not being able to tie it directly to the boat. He does, finally, on the third night, use the rudder to provide additional drag, but he doesn't dare do that while the marlin is fresh. A marlin is the ultimate game fish, one of the hardest to actually land. And Santiago is in a skiff for goodness sakes. And really, whatever the reasons, it's IRRELEVANT to the story!
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:34 PM   #9
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I thought the discussion wasn't supposed to start till tomorrow--the 15th.
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:36 PM   #10
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And really, whatever the reasons, it's IRRELEVANT to the story!
I'm not sure I agree with that. It is relevant to the story that Santiago used older hand fishing techniques; if Santiago had a rod and reel he would not have had as intimate of a connection with the fish and the danger to him wouldn't have been as distinct. 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. This would have been a much different story if Santiago had a modern rod and reel system.
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:41 PM   #11
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I thought the discussion wasn't supposed to start till tomorrow--the 15th.
It's tomorrow in Australia? I'm not sure, but I saw it was open, and since I nominated it, I thought I'd start off the discussion. Especially since I'm presenting to a couple of user groups tonight and wouldn't be able to post until mid-day tomorrow (PST), at the earliest.
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Old 03-14-2018, 12:43 PM   #12
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I'm not sure I agree with that. It is relevant to the story that Santiago used older hand fishing techniques; if Santiago had a rod and reel he would not have had as intimate of a connection with the fish and the danger to him wouldn't have been as distinct. 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. This would have been a much different story if Santiago had a modern rod and reel system.
True. But to phrase it as fishing incorrectly is missing the whole point. Plus, to me, while the struggle is the plot device, it's the love that is the story.
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Old 03-14-2018, 01:13 PM   #13
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The thing is, the branch would have given leverage should he have come to the end of the line. Also, you can use a thinner branch to wind the line around and unwind as needed. It's not that difficult to smooth out the thinner branch so it's not hard to hold.

It's all about improvising and not having to hold the line and get hurt.
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Old 03-14-2018, 01:14 PM   #14
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True. But to phrase it as fishing incorrectly is missing the whole point. Plus, to me, while the struggle is the plot device, it's the love that is the story.
To me, it's way he fished that blew the story. There was no real tension. There was no real struggle. It was just not well written.
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Old 03-14-2018, 01:16 PM   #15
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I thought the discussion wasn't supposed to start till tomorrow--the 15th.
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It's tomorrow in Australia? I'm not sure, but I saw it was open, and since I nominated it, I thought I'd start off the discussion. Especially since I'm presenting to a couple of user groups tonight and wouldn't be able to post until mid-day tomorrow (PST), at the earliest.
I unlocked the thread (because I feared a power outage) and gave Charlie a heads up (because of his timing), so he could get first crack at it.
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