Analyzing The Old Man and the Sea

The first time I read The Old Man and the Sea was freshman year of high school. I recently won a free e-ARC from NetGalley, which is why I chose to revisit it. But I am always happy to do re-readings because I like comparing and contrasting my notes*. You can read a book one way, and have a completely different experience reading it again. There are so many different ways to read a book, and each reader has a different perspective and interpretation of it. You may even have multiple perspectives of a book you have read before, because you may be a different person than you were the first time you read it. This is true for me, because I was so young and have grown so much from the first time I read The Old Man and the Sea.

“A man is never lost at sea…”

The Old Man and the Sea” Book Review | Ernest Hemingway BooksThe Old Man and the Sea tells the story of a battle between an aging, experienced fisherman, Santiago, and a large marlin. Classically, this is a book about pride, struggle, death, and mans place within nature.

“Man is not made for defeat . . . [a] man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

What stood out to me on this reading was the dichotomy of male versus female. Like other great nautical fiction (think The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Melville‘s Moby-Dick, Jules Verne‘s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaDaniel Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), themes of water and emotions are touched on: the male figure struggling against the female powers of Mother Nature, the masculine (man) dealing with ‘feminine’ emotions (water). The emotion of pride motivates Santiago’s entire journey as he grapples with the inevitability of death. Santiago, though destroyed at the end of the novella, is never defeated. Instead, he emerges as a hero. Santiago’s struggle does not enable him to change man’s place in the world. Rather, it enables him to meet his most dignified destiny.

“To hell with luck. I’ll bring the luck with me.”

And the important books, the good ones, are the ones that people keep discussing. As long as a book is relevant, it remains important. The Old Man and the Sea remains relevant and relatable, which is why it is such an important classic.

*I used to write directly into the margins, and a lot of my books still have fading highlights and notes. But now I try to use sticky notes and highlighter tape!

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