Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

The Old Man and the Sea ()

Nobel Prize Winners (1954)

If he had been able to deal with his desire for men, instead of eating a shotgun (either oblivious to, or beyond caring about, the obvious symbolism of his act), Ernest Hemingway might be celebrating his 100th birthday today, July 21, 1999.  While one has to acknowledge that stylistically he was one of the most influential authors of the Century, it seems to me that his literary reputation really rests on Old Man and the Sea and the Nick Adams stories, everything else is just psychosexual, faux macho, posturing.  That said, you could do a hell of a lot worse careerwise than produce one of the best novellas and several of the best short stories ever written.

The Old Man and the Sea is another one of those texts that you were assigned in 8th or 9th grade, largely as a function of the author's stature and the brevity of the book (see also Of Mice and Men, Orrin's Grade: A+).   And, of course, your teacher analyzed all the Christian symbolism, from the bleeding palms to the marlin carcass as Cross.  Allow me to take a little different tack.

I recently had the great displeasure of reading The Affluent Society (John Kenneth Galbraith)(Grade: F).  Mr. Galbraith argued that as Western society reached the novel stage of being affluent, that is producing enough goods to meet the subsistence needs of every member of society, we would inevitably rebel against the notion of work, our work hours would dwindle, people would demand four or even three day weeks and many would opt out of the workplace all together.  We now realize of course that this was the idle prattle of an effete twit.  Instead, the past fifty years have seen the massive entry of women into the workplace (as a form of liberation no less) and folks working well past retirement age and the past five years have seen the government demand that even the chronic unemployed get jobs or lose benefits.  How could Karl Marx and Galbraith and all those liberal thinkers have been so wrong about what motivates people?  It is quite simply a function of their dependence on materialism.  This blinded them to cultural and spiritual influences on mankind and they failed to reckon with these forces.

Hopefully, nobody who has ever read The Old Man and the Sea could possibly fail to understand that, for most people, doing a job well, even, or especially, a physically taxing job, provides an abiding sense of gratification and self worth.  Most of us are not alienated from our labor, we are challenged by it.  Because of the dignity and grace that the old fisherman, Santiago, demonstrates in rising to face the challenge--his exhibition of hard won skill and his determination in the face of overwhelming odds--this book reaffirms the indomitable human spirit and reminds us of the possibility of encountering the sublime in every day life and in the most lowly of labors and laborers.

There is more insight to the soul of man in the scant 127 pages of this book, than in all the volumes of Marxist/Socialist pablum spewed forth in the past 100 years.  It is a fitting tribute, on the Centennial of Hemingway's birth, that we remember him for this great tale.


Grade: (A+)


Ernest Hemingway Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Ernest Hemingway
-ESSAY: “My Life in the Bull Ring with Donald Ogden Stewart” (Ernest Hemingway on October 25, 2013, Vanity Fair)
    -ESSAY: Executing the Ministers: the young Hemingway and a Greek tragedy (Jeffrey Meyers, 10/31/21, The Article)
    -ESSAY: The Old Writer and the Sea of Words: Hemingway’s Ultimate Metaphor (Robert Kmita, 6/11/24, Voegelin View)
-REVIEW ESSAY: Hemingway’s Consolations: It’s preposterous to think of Hemingway, with his best sellers and personal celebrity, as a writer’s writer. But is it possible that this might be the best description of his status today? (Elaine Blair, September 23, 2021 issue, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: HEMINGWAY'S POLITICS WERE NO SECRET—JUST READ HIS ONLY CRIME NOVEL: To Have and Have Not, Hemingway's patchwork Depression-era crime novel, was the story of one man's radicalization (DAVID MASCIOTRA, JANUARY 5, 2021, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: A Death in the Afternoon (Tobias Wolff, February 20, 2021, The New Yorker)
    -ESSAY: When Ernest Hemingway Hunted Nazi U-Boats in the Caribbean: Hemingway the novelist got the story he wanted, even if Hemingway the sub chaser failed to net his prey. (Warfare History Network, 2/05/21)
    -INTERVIEW: Ken Burns Talks to Jacobin About the Radical Ernest Hemingway: From fighting alongside communists in the Spanish Civil War to backing revolutionaries in Cuba, documentarian Ken Burns shows us the radical side of writer Ernest Hemingway in the new PBS docuseries Hemingway. Burns talks to Jacobin about Hemingway’s forgotten left-wing politics and why the writer still matters. (Ed Rampell, 3/23/21, Jacobin)
    -REVIEW: of Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises & Other Writings, 1918–1926, Edited by Robert W. Trogdon (Frank Freeman, University Bookman)
    -REVIEW: How to Tackle a Bullying, Alcoholic, Racist Named Hemingway: Ken Burns and Lynn Novick portray an insecure, vain, depressed, unfaithful, visionary modernist in PBS’s “Hemingway”, and reframe his complicated place in the literary canon. (Scott Porch, Daily Beast)
    -REVIEW: How Much Do We Still Owe to Ernest Hemingway?: He changed American fiction, and then America moved on. (LAURA MILLER, APRIL 05, 2021, Slate)
    -REVIEW: The Many Paradoxes of Ernest Hemingway (KYLE SMITH, National Review)
    -REVIEW: Finding Hemingway: Seeing the Self Behind the Self-Mythologizer: Alex Thomas on Lynn Novick and Ken Burns’s New Documentary (Alex Thomas, April 14, 2021, Lit Hub)
    -REVIEW: Hemingway’s American Life And Death: Ken Burns’s six-hour PBS documentary on the master of sparing prose misreads his relation to the nation and the world. (Declan Leary, American Conservative)
    -REVIEW: Busting the Hemingway myth: A new documentary breaks new ground by exploring the American writer’s mental health and gender fluidity—but it still doesn’t go far enough (Lucinda Smyth, June 29, 2021, Prospect)

Book-related and General Links:
-Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, IL
    -The Hemingway Resource Center, v2.0
    -ESSAY: Edmund Wilson, "Ernest Hemingway" (The Atlantic, July 1939)
    -Literary Research Guide: Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
    -G Files: Subject: Ernest Miller Hemingway (APB Online)
    -Michigan In Hemingway: A Sense of Place
    -Hemingway Sites on the Net
    -The Hemingway Collection
    -Kansas City Star Stories by Ernest Hemingway
    -The Papa Page
    -Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center
    -Hemingway Society
    -INTERVIEW: At Lunch with Ernest Hemingway (The Atlantic)
    -Tracking Hemingway: Atlantic articles from 1939 to 1983 -- by Edmund Wilson, Malcolm Cowley, Alfred Kazin, and others (The Atlantic)
    -ONLINE STUDY GUIDE : A Farewell to Arms  by Ernest Hemingway (SparkNote by Brian Phillips)

Other recommended books by Ernest Hemingway:
    -A Moveable Feast
    -The Nick Adams Stories