This was a re-read for me, though I honestly can’t recall much from my first time reading it. I was in late elementary school at the time (sixth grade, I believe) and it was the theme for my Odyssey of the Mind team. We created a play that, I’m pretty sure, had pretty little to do with the book. However, that play won us the Rantra Fusca award at the local competition (the award given for “exceptional creativity.”) so… that’s a win 🙂 Anyhow.. that’s about what I remember from my first read….
Re-reading it this time I found myself being drawn into the work as a writer. The majority of this story takes place when the old man (Santiago) is out on the sea. As far as human characters go, it’s just him out there. But he is far from the only character in the story. Hemingway crafts a story where there are characters everywhere — the fish the old man spears, the ocean itself, sharks, the wind, even his own hands become their own unique characters.
His left hand was still cramped, but he was unknotting it slowly.
I hate a cramp, he thought. It is a treachery of one’s own body….
Then, with his right hand he felt the difference in the pull of the line before he saw the slant change in the water. Then, as he leaned against the lin and slapped his left hand hard and fast against his thigh he saw the line slanting slowly upward.
“He’s coming up,” he said. “Come on hand. Please come on.” (Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Scribner ebook edition, 2002. Page 38 -39)
What Hemingway manages to do in this story is to create real tension, he reminds me (as a writer) that if the character feels strongly about a matter it can make the readers feel the same. Never before had I felt so much anxiety about if a hand would be able to un-cramp. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the book was when his own hand becomes the antagonist.
This book is so full of bits and pieces to reflect on, I found myself making all sorts of notes. But one of the things that sticks with me is this: though he is hunting for this fish, and he intends to kill the fish, the fish remains his “friend” throughout. Other things become the enemy, but always the fish is his friend. They are on this journey together.
Though it took me a while longer to read this than it really should for a book that is so short (hovering around 100 pages, depending on the edition), I really enjoyed the read. The descriptions of the ocean, of fishing life, the way that that Santiago’s past is presented in bits and pieces to us… I loved it all.
I recommend giving it a read (or a re-read if the last you read it was for a school-related assignment). I just… don’t recommend reading it the early morning when you’re only half-awake.