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Why You Should Read The Old Man And The Sea By Ernest Hemingway

Updated on March 21, 2016

I have planned to write a series of hubs encasing why you should read a novel or a book of short stories by any writer. This is the first installment. And I have focused it on my all time favorite writer Ernest Hemingway. This hub will discuss why you should read The old man and the sea, a novella that fetched him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953 and cited when he got Nobel Prize in literature in 1954.

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The old man the sea:

Written in his signature terse and direct prose, The old man and the sea is considered a timeless classic and the most significant work of Ernest Hemingway. And it is the last major work of fiction by the author.

An overview of the plot:

The old man and the sea is the epic struggle of an old man in the sea when he catches a big marlin. After having been unlucky for 84 days, Santiago, the old Cuban fisherman gets lucky on the 85th day in the sea when he catches a big marlin. But his young apprentice is not with him this time as the boy, Manolin, is forced by his parents to leave the old man. Though the boy continues to come to his ramshackle hut and care the old man.

The fish caught by the old man is so big and powerful that he cannot put it in the skiff. Instead, the fish begins to pull the skiff.

The old man struggles and bears the strain of the line through hands, shoulders, and back. The fish pulls the skiff all through the day, night, another day, and through another night. Entire time, the old man endures the pain from the fishing line that has cut him badly. Though Santiago is weary and wounded, he feels admiration for the marlin.

On the third day, he is able to pull the fish close enough to kill it with a harpoon thrust.

When Santiago returns with fish, sharks attack the fish. His struggles begin again. He kills several sharks. But, in the fight, he loses a big part of the fish.

He arrives home before daybreak, and falls in deep sleep.

The next morning, fishermen crowd around the skeletal carcass. The boy, Manolin has tears in his eyes finding the old man alive. Santiago falls in sleep again.

Spencer Tracy in The Old Man and sea movie
Spencer Tracy in The Old Man and sea movie
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The old man and the sea was adapted for both a feature film and TV series. Warner Brothers 1958 movie, starred Spencer Tracy as old Santiago and Felipe Pazos as the boy, was praised for visual effects. Spencer Tracy was nominated for the best actor Oscar.

The old man and the sea served a source for TV-production in 1990 starring Anthony Quinn, Alexis Cruz, Gary Cole, Francesco Quinn, and Patricia Clarkson.

Both adaptations are memorable for the manner they filmed Santiago's struggle to catch the marlin.

It was also adapted to radio drama on BBC radio 4 by Pauline Harris.

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Famous quotes from The Old Man and the sea

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

"But man is not made for defeat," he said. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

“Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so.”

“If the others heard me talking out loud they would think that I am crazy. But since I am not, I do not care.”

“Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her?”

“Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.”

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”

“Pain does not matter to a man.”

“First you borrow, then you beg.”

“It is silly not to hope, he thought.”

“He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy. He never dreamed about the boy. He simply woke, looked out the open door at the moon and unrolled his trousers and put them on.”

Watch animated movie The old man and the sea

Why you should read The old man and the sea

If you are a fan of ‘Papa’, this novel is a must for you. Penned in his signature minimalist style, this novel provides its readers with thrill, adventure, and motivation simultaneously. The old man and the sea is a short novel, just 2700 words. And you can finish it in one read. I myself read it in one read, not because it is short, but for its being engaging and gripping. Apart from being a good classic read, this novel offers many life lessons. The most significant lesson this novel teaches is never quit as quoted in The old man and the sea,

“But a man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

The old man and the sea states that we should do it alone as written in the novel,

“My choice was to go there and find him beyond all people in the world. Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either of us.”

Hemingway direct and terse prose in this novel puts the reader in the midst of the whole action. Readers can feel the hot sun on the old man’s brow. Also, they can feel the line wounding the hands as the heavy marlin runs faster. This novel is a reminder of the hard work. And at the end, the old man won and got the respect of the villagers. The old man and the sea is written beautifully. It is Hemingway’s one of the most favored works.

Throughout the novel, you will be finding the old man’s wisdom. Most of us have already read The old man and the sea in the syllabus. But very few are lucky to have good English teachers. So, why not to read it again through your eyes without any worry of making assignments. I’m certain you will rediscover this slender classic again.

Listen The old man and the sea audio book

What say you

Have you read this novel?

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Tom Alter's Play - The Old Man & the Sea


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    • Rose McCoy profile image

      Rose McCoy 

      6 months ago from West Virginia

      This is definitely one of Hemingway’s more intriguing stories... it takes a talented author to be able to write an entire novella based on one short event!

    • DreamerMeg profile image


      4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Great review, in depth and very interesting. I have read the book several times. There is always something new to discover.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      4 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, WinterRea!

    • WinterRea profile image


      4 years ago

      WOW!!! I haven't read any of his book. However, after reading your hub this is the first one I will read, thank you beautifully written hub.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      4 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Frank!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 years ago from Shelton

      a very good hub my friend.. I read that book in High school it was a required reading.. again in a Capstone class in college..

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      5 years ago from New Delhi

      Surabhi, it's a great novel.

    • profile image

      Surabhi Kaura 

      5 years ago


      One of my friends recommended me this novel a few weeks back. After reading your hub, I am curious to read it. Thanks for sharing this. Peace.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      5 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks sunil, for reading and sharing thoughts.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      I am yet to read him. You have beautifully narrated things in an orderly manner. Your post is a motivation to read the work of this legendary writer and I will do so soon and ay be I will get one copy of his works today itself on my Kindle e-Reader. Thank you for this wonderful hub. Keep on writing more and more. All the best dear.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      5 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Hazel for stopping by and sharing thoughts.

    • Hazel Abee profile image

      Hazel Abee 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Interesting book, should pick up reading again ... have stopped for some time now ...

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      5 years ago from New Delhi

      Gaddie, I insist you on reading it. You will never regeret reading it.

    • gaddie profile image

      Alex Gadd 

      5 years ago from Great Missenden

      A very interesting hub sandeep15r. I must confess to never having read Ernest Hemingway before but this post has inspired me to look into reading more of his.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      5 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Frida, for reading and sharing thoughts.

    • Frida Rose profile image

      Frida Rose 

      5 years ago from Maryland

      I haven't gotten chance to read this book, but I definitely will after reading your hub. I'm ready to see how the story unfolds.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 

      5 years ago from Shimla, India

      I'd read more of your posts and then get back to you.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      5 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Akriti for such a lovely comment.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 

      5 years ago from Shimla, India

      I love this post and i love Ernest Hemingway.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      5 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Laurel Johnson, for reading it and sharing your thought.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      5 years ago from Washington KS

      It's been many years since I read The Old Man and the Sea so I enjoyed your retrospective, especially the quotes. Well done.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      5 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Mel Carriere, for reading the hub and sharing a thought. Much appreciated!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      5 years ago from San Diego California

      I like the first paragraph of then novel, where it says that the sail of his boat looked like the flag of permanent defeat. I am actually more of a Steinbeck fan now, because I think Hemingway is a little too pretentious, but I did read both this work and For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I loved, when I was in High School. Great hub!

    • profile image

      John Crawford 

      5 years ago

      Indeed, Hemingway enjoyed and advocated for individual independence. But I do think there's importance in the boy there.

    • profile image

      Kamalika De 

      5 years ago

      Nicely written. Certainly it's useful for them who are still deprived from reading The Old Man and The Sea. Also it has awakened my love for Hemingway and made me remember the feeling that I got when I first read it.

      Apart from the amazing quotes that you have mentioned here, I would like to add a few more. There were few simple lines through which Hemingway drew a beautiful connection between the old man and the boy -

      The old man said " I know u didn't leave me because you doubted."

      And once the boy said in some other context that "You'll not fish without eating while I'm alive."

      Also Sandeep I agree with what you said that The Old Man and The Sea states that we should fight our own struggles and be undefeated alone. But I think it also says that after everything we need somebody...because as Hemingway said "he noticed how pleasant it was to have someone to talk to instead of speaking only to himself and to the sea."

      Thanks for the article. Hope to read more of your writings that will enrich our knowledge, thoughts and views.


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