Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Thank goodness for the book closet of Independence School Local 1. I have borrowed so many books that otherwise I wouldn't have read. 

The Old Man and the Sea is one of those books. When I was first year teacher, one of the science teachers I worked with selected this book to read with his advisory. At first it was a desperate solution to the broken down air conditioner in the room (yaaaay Baltimore City), but then the students continued to read the book. When the teacher told me they finished, he said they got into the book. Now, that teacher has a Ph.D in Chemistry and spoke fluent Spanish. He was wicked smart but on another planet, "I can't relate to normal people" smart. Would this recommendation be solid? 

It is a classic, but I never had to read this book when I was in high school. Before reading, I wondered why. It would tie into Latin American culture and it was a novella. It was by a famous author. 

After reading it, I can totally see why English teachers didn't choose this book, or rather, why the curriculum veered from it. It's kind of, sort of... 

ALRIGHT, I'LL SAY IT. IT'S PRETTY BORING. IT'S LITERALLY ABOUT AN OLD MAN, AND THE SEA. I probably should have taken Dr. Young's recommendation with a grain of salt. 

So, in the book, There is also an apprentice who is forbidden to fish with him because the old man has not caught a fish for a long while. One day, the old man decides to travel out further than he normally does to catch a fish. 

And oh man, he catches the biggest fish of all. The big fish is apparently a legend, and the old man and the fish lock horns to see who has the biggest dick of all. The Old man holds the line for like, a week, it seems, and finally, he is able to kill the fish. 

It doesn't stop there. The sharks smell the blood and go after the fish who is strapped to the boat. I guess I don't know anything about fishing, but wouldn't it make sense to just pull the fish into the boat? Is the fish that big that the boat would sink? 

Sadly, the dirty moochers eat the entire fish before the old man could make it back. He comes back to his sleepy town exhausted and his apprentice takes him to bed. The town admires the skeleton that was once the big fish. 

As I perused some reviews of the book, big claims were made like allegories of the evils of capitalism (or is it good?) and themes like death and dying and the race against time. Whereas I cannot see the allegory, I can see the theme of "racing against time." 

I was going argue why that would be a good theme towards the book. HOWEVER, it's quite possible that we should take this book literally. 

HEAR ME OUT. (Stop screaming at your computer.) 

What if it's simply a story about the old man and the sea and... that's it? Hemingway simply chose an old man for the protagonist because he likes to mix it up a little? What if he wrote the sad ending because he felt gloomy? 

Upon further searching, I found this quote!

"There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know." 

-Ernest Hemingway

I knew it! 

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