THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man And The Sea is a little story with Zen-like power. I’ve read the novel four times and have never skimmed or skipped a word. I often reread phrases, sentences and paragraphs in awe of the simplicity and accuracy of the moment portrayed.

He was shivering with the morning cold. But he knew he would shiver himself warm and that soon he would be rowing.

The first time I returned to this story, I did so because I longed for the relationship between Santiago—the old man, and Manolin—the boy. The old man and the boy have only three scenes in the book, but Santiago reinforces the closeness of their bond throughout with fourteen one-line references.

If the boy was here he would wet the coils of line, he thought. Yes. If the boy were here. If the boy were here.

The lines yield little detail. But the appreciation and love the old man has for the boy is unmistakable and is amplified in our own hearts with each refrain.

Relationships tell us a lot about a protagonist. Hemingway’s old man may have the biggest heart in literature, for he doesn’t only care for the boy he also cares for the giant marlin he hunts.

I had better keep the fish quiet now and not disturb him too much at sunset. The setting of the sun is a difficult time for all fish.

The old man risks his life to break his eighty-four days of bad luck and when he’s on the verge, when hunger, thirst and injury could push him towards cruelty his overriding thoughts are of kindness—kindness and the great DiMaggio.

Everyone idolizes someone. And the old man’s fascination with baseball and the great DiMaggio, whose father was also a fisherman, is one way Hemingway universalizes the story for us. And he does so with simple brush strokes.

Do you believe the great DiMaggio would stay with a fish as long as I will stay with this one?

Much has been written about the lack of flash and flurry in Hemingway’s style and The Old Man And The Sea illustrates this point best. It is the reason I return to the story again and again. Each sentence allows a true connection to form between character and reader because the writer had the courage to get out of the way.

Catch the Pulitzer Prize of 1953 The Old Man And The Sea.