The book tells of a few days in the life of a fisherman and the range of emotions and experiences he undergoes. Santiago is an old and experienced fisherman who has now gone eighty four days without a successful catch. As a result his financial situation is worsening each day and he is facing silent sympathy and even contempt from the rest of the fishing community. His former assistant and companion, Manolin, the boy he has mentored, has been forced to leave him and fish with more fortunate fishermen. The tale chronicles Santiago's venture into the farthest reaches of the ocean, with the aim of bagging a successful catch. He manages to find and hook the biggest fish he has ever seen; however the fish turns out to be strong beyond his expectations. This leads him to a three day struggle culminating in its eventual capture by the fisherman. The three days chronicle the old man’s struggle for life and livelihood, for pride and a contest to retain clarity and even sanity of mind in the face of the implacable elements of nature. The struggle seems to end in the old man’s favor, but he is about to realize the cost of overstretching one’s boundaries in a brutal fashion...
The book was written in 1951 and published a year later and it is the last work published during the author’s lifetime. It is the author’s view on many questions that hover in the background of human thought. The value of relationships, contrast between past glory and present status, dealing with the demons in one’s own mind and finally, the difference between man's reach and his grasp.
The author writes in the third person with the central character being explored from different perspectives. The plot is paced according to the events being depicted, changing from a gently rolling pace to a tight and gripping one in the more action-packed portions. The author chooses to narrate rather than expound and thus it is devoid of any opinions or rhetoric, letting the reader from his own assumptions.
I had heard of this book long ago when I was all of twelve years old. I had resolved myself not to touch Hemmingway before I had the maturity to completely grasp all connotations of his work. The simplicity of the book simply blew me away. Extremely gripping, yet it retains the aura of a gently melancholic, yet startlingly accurate viewpoint of the author's perspective on the human nature. It can be taken as the summation of Hemmingway’s ultimate weltanschauung. Over all- excellent.
Book Reviewed by Sayan Mukherjee
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