Monday, September 16, 2013

The Epic Battle Between Man and Nature

The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
Published by Scribner
4 Out of 5 Stars

While this is not my favorite Hemingway book, I enjoyed it nonetheless. The plot structure is simple: just look at the title and there you have it. What is impressive is what Hemingway does with the plot. As always, Hemingway is a master of capturing the natural world in his often poetic prose. 

In the figure of Santiago, you have the Hemingway code lived to its fullest. It's the knight attempting to slay the dragon, the matador in the bull ring, the big game hunter in Africa. In challenging nature and respecting it, the old man and his fish are locked in the most classic of Hemingway battles--it's the will of man versus nature and, whoever wins, the outcome is always fair because they are equally matched in strength and will. 

Many critics refer to Santiago as a Christ figure and while there are undeniably many echoes of the story of Christ within the text, I see Santiago as representative of something finer and nobler that transcends religion. In his refusal to break down, give into despair, or feel pity for his situation, Santiago is the epitome of true faith (with or without any allegiance to Christianity). It's a simple story, but offers the reader much to think about without lapsing into the didactic. If you read the book, I also strongly recommend that you follow it by reading The Ancient Mariner chapter in Carlos Baker's Hemingway: The Writer as Artist

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