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old man and the sea
The Old Man and the Sea is beautifully written, easy to read, contains
exciting action, keen observation, an epic struggle, and an endearing
protagonist. The story of a humble old fisherman\'s endurance, conquest, and
subsequent loss is told with a mesmerizing simplicity, control, and pace. The
measured language and careful attention to rhythm and repetition invites
comparisons to poetry—and speculation about an undercurrent of deeper meaning.
It was an immediate commercial success, and initially a critical one as well.
Over the years, however, a good deal of criticism has turned against it. Still,
the book has entered into the unofficial register of popular modern classics.
Upon closer inspection, critics have had a hard time agreeing what to make of
Santiago\'s adventure. Is it just a good fish tale? One brave man, one big fish—sounds
Biblical, but is it? Are we dealing with allegory, or parable, or fable? If so,
what is the parallel narrative, or message, or moral? Different readers have
arrived at markedly different answers. Even this basic question lingers: is it a
tale of triumph or tragedy?
Such critical disagreement and uncertainty might speak to the rich complexity
of a work, or to the presence of a universal quality that resonates with many
approaches to a text. In the case of The Old Man and the Sea, some critics claim
that the confusion is due, instead, to an incoherent set of symbols sown by the
author throughout the text, or even dangled, as one critic has irritably
suggested, as "professor-bait." Other readers believe that the book
simultaneously works well on many different levels and from many different
angles, accommodating diverse interpretations simply because it\'s all in there.
Whatever one might feel about the deeper significance of the book, few would
disagree that The Old Man and the Sea is a well-told tale. Hemingway\'s great
knowledge of deep-sea fishing and of the waters around Cuba brings the action to
life and a vivid clarity to the world of the story. The rendering of Spanish
speech is stilted at times, but such instances detract little. He treats his
simple protagonist with sympathy and without condescension. Whether or not it\'s
"meaning" is resolvable, Hemingway fashions an engaging and enduring
novel from unassuming material: a lone old man in a boat with his memories, his
knowledge, his compassion, and a piece of string stuck in a fish\'s mouth six
hundred feet below.
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The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
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