#interestingliterature Ernest Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea


Ernest Hemingway is the most famous American novelist I know. He appears on the on all the top ten author (English books) lists that I have ever read along with William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, JK Rowling and George Orwell.

The Old Man and the Sea is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. This book is a novella that was written by Hemingway in Cuba in 1951. The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and contributed to Hemingway receiving the Noble Prize in Literature in 1954. 

The Old Man and the Sea is the story of a lengthily battle between an elderly but experienced Cuban fisherman, Santiago, and a huge marlin that takes his bait. Santiago has been on an unlucky streak with his fishing when he decides to take his skiff into the Gulf Stream. His luck appears to have changed when a massive fish takes his bait but Santiago is not able to land the fish and is pulled out to sea by the marlin. Santiago struggles to hold onto the line and his hands are badly injured in the process. The old man develops an affinity and admiration for the fish due to its tenacity and endurance.

Eventually, on the third day, the old man gets an opportunity to use his harpoon on the fish and he kills it. He manages to strap the marlin to his skiff and head home filled with anticipation for the good price he will receive for the fish and all the people it will feed. The journey how, however, is not straight forward and the outcome is not as Santiago desired or intended.

Hemingway’s writing is beautiful and the reader is completely drawn in to the battle between the man and the fish and their attempts to outdo each other and win. I found this book very emotional and have never been able to decide whether the old man was actually very unlucky or whether his spiritual journey over the period of the battle was actually good luck.

Five interesting facts about Ernest Hemingway are as follows:

  1. Hemingway played the cello when he was a boy at the insistence of his forceful mother;
  2. Hemingway and his father both committed suicide;
  3. Hemingway had over 200 shell fragments removed from his legs and body after being wounded during WWI;
  4. Hemingway was married four times and divorced three times;
  5. During his life, Hemingway survived exposure to anthrax, malaria, skin cancer  and pneumonia. He lived through diabetes, two plane crashes, a ruptured kidney, hepatitis, a ruptured spleen, a fractured skull and a crushed vertebra.

The Hemingway quote I find the most interesting is as follows:

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.

I tend to agree. Intelligent people think far to much to be truly happy.

What do you think of Hemingway’s writing?



77 thoughts on “#interestingliterature Ernest Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea

  1. Hemingway is one of the best writers, ever. I have read most of his books and short stories. I love how tight he writes, never wasting a word. A great review of the Old Man and the Sea.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Robbie, you picked one of my favourites. The Old many and the Sea I have read several times and I also love the film with Spencer Tracey in.
    My father who influenced my reading a lot as a girl read all his books so of course I read some and was glad for his influence.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is a great post, Robbie! I am also a huge fan of his unique voice…or, as the joke goes – a teacher gives his student back his writing assignment: “you have a unique writing style.” The student answers “thank you. Then the teacher adds: “Hemingway’s isn’t it?”

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Hemmingway and his contemporaries were such an influence on the generation of writers that followed, making them feel as if they should live their lives as if they were heroes in their own novels and plays. A truly complex and demanding character. Pxx

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I think that is what attracted him and his ilk to young up and coming writers. In his generation, shaped by two world wars, they saw that men of ideas were not incompatible with men of action. They could be the heroes and victims of their own lives and novels…. and in the end many of them by embracing Hemmingway’s raison d’etre were destroyed, like him, not by blind uncaring fate, but by the consequences of their own compulsions.
        This is what makes the Old man and the Sea so enigmatic. In many ways Hemmingway used it as an excuse: a denial his own actions caused a lot of what he suffered. Instead he firmly placed the blame on indifferent fate.
        The Old man and the Sea is a metaphor for the condition of life for ‘everyman’, who work back-breakingly hard simply to make ends meet; always dreaming of the one big thing, the golden ticket, that will change everything. Only to find, when it comes, their hopes and dreams snatched by invincible unconcerned forces, so in the end they cannot even rail against a malicious or unjust god, for it is simply the world that crushes the spirit of man.
        This was an idea that resonated in the post war cold-war world where the actions of leaders, and the ordinary people whipped up by those leaders, were driving towards global nuclear holocaust. Yet the overwhelming idea was that war was inevitable, and not caused by posturing politicians, caught in a dance of death with their own citizens.
        This is powerful stuff indeed and grand-eloquently expressed by Hemmingway as only he knew how. A man whose life was the very model of the struggle the old man faces against fate: knowing the days of his life were numbered; his relevance as a writer fading; a man who had spent his whole life declaring I AM, and was now looking at extinction.
        His message is clear for all of us. This is the fate of man. I am not surprised you weep buckets Robbie. The spirit of the book touches with each and every one of us at a primal level, and as such we should all weep buckets.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Thank you for this amazing comment, Paul. I am a bit of a fatalist and do believe that many things are out of our individual hands. We can control selected parts of our lives only. You have put into words what I think but can’t express as eloquently.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. He was a very troubled man. His mother was a very strong character and it is alleged she dressed him as a girl until he was four years old because she didn’t want a boy. She also compelled him to play the cello which he hated. His own father committed suicide so possibly it was genetic depression.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I haven’t read Hemingway I am loathe to say…The film was a tear jerker and he is on my TRL I somehow never seem to make any headway on that I add many more than I read :)x Great review I think it is about time he moved up my list 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Robbie, this is a book I always felt I should have read but never got round to. Your thoughtful review moves this to the top of my list and I’m off to a bookshop later today so must buy a copy. In a coincidence, I’m reading a fiction book about Hemmingway called the ‘The Paris Wife’ by Paula McLain … it is in the 20s before he has set off to Europe and is involved with a woman called Hadley. I assume she becomes his first wife. The book gives a great feel of the era and also his single minded perseverance to becoming a writer. As for the final quote… I think it’s true too! There is a downside with thinking to it much. Great post, Robbie.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I loved The Paris Wife, about his early years and his first marriage. I thought it was well written with a lot of research. I also love A Moveable Feast, written by Hemingway and published after his death.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I nearly bought a Moveable Feast to day as well as The Old Man and the Sea … another day. Good to have the recommendation and I am enjoying The Paris Wife…he’s just made a sudden and unglamorous proposal!

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Thanks, Robbie. I read The Sun Also Rises as part of my American Literature degree and Farewell to the Arms, and have read some of his stories, A Moveable Feast and some of his writings on writing. I did read a fair amount about the Paris of the 1920s and the many modernist writers who lived there at the time. I don’t always like Hemingway’s outlook on things and, perhaps in part due to his mental health issues, I guess he could be pretty nasty towards some of the people he knew, but he could write, for sure. I have always found the relationship between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway fascinating and enjoyed reading Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, where she talks about the many visitors to her Paris apartment, although The Old Man and the Sea is a much later novel. I guess not all intelligent people are insightful, and that is perhaps what helps find balance and contentment in life… A great post.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for your comment, Olga. I think that highly intelligent people often think to much and find solutions which cannot be implemented for practical reasons. It can make them very frustrated. Sometimes they also can’t relate to other people as they think so differently. I don’t subscribe to Hemingway’s outlook on life either but I do admire his writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Robbie I loved this, especially your 5 facts. Wow, escaping death so many times then to take his own life is sad. Also, his grand daughter ( I think Margo?) also committed suicide. So very sad . Definitely a pattern of mental health disorder running through the lineage. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Robbie, I’m glad I stumbled upon this marvelous post and the conversations it generated.
    I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never truly read Hemingway, because I’m always needing something happy to help me cope.
    I believe I read a short story from him in school and enjoyed it.
    He is however, a fascinating person. I’ve read more *about* him than by him.
    Wishing you a happy weekend. Enjoy the rest of your break. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Teagan. I agree that it is nice to read uplifting books which make you feel happy. I go through patches of reading different types of books and I read Hemingway during one of them.


  10. I think every writer can learn something from Hemingway. He lived a real adventurer’s life in many ways and his prose is beautifully streamlined and effective. This was a great read. Really fun to engage with and the five facts at the end were great; didn’t know any of them. Great quote selection too.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have only recently started to read EH and can’t believe how much pathos he conveys in so few words. Such clean but powerful prose. I started with some short stories but The old mans the Sea is now definitely next on my list. Thanks for a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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