What did you Catch?

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway

18681755

Constantino Casasbuenas‘s review

Dec 17, 2016  ·  edit
Read from December 15 to 17, 2016


It was great getting advice from Mario about reading this book. I started to read it two days ago and I couldn’t stop. Though this is a short book, it pulled me hard because of three main reasons:

1. It is very well written.
2. It brought to mind my discovery of the sea – and of fishing – when I was just a boy, and,
3. It gave me a good grasp about my present age, when elder people need my support.

Hemingway wrote this short book towards the end of his career as a writer, just before he won the Nobel price, after living in Cuba from 1939 until 1941. His life in the Caribbean gave him the sense of being an old fisherman in the region, when your are alone, on your own and most of the world means his relations with the sea and with the young boy who takes care of him.

When I was reading the book, in reality I was like rowing or sailing or fishing in Puerto Obaldía, in Urabá, when I was 7 years old. I could remember the feeling of trowing the nylon with the bait, and the precious feeling that you get in your fingers when you know that a fish is about to eat the bait. I could remember when my brother Javier fished a beautiful 12 kg Jurel. And I could remember well what happened when you fished a bigger fish that could be easily eaten by the sharks! You couldn´t see the sharks, but just the fish head that was left by the sharks.

Many parts of the book gave me the feeling that I have now, when I meet older people who feel (it’s my assessment) like the old fisherman: “The ocean is very big and a skiff is small and hard to see,” the old man said. He noticed how pleasant it was to have someone to talk to instead of speaking only to himself and to the sea. “I missed you,” he said. “What did you catch?”35

The most interesting part was to see that the stories told by the old man were really interesting and important for the young boy, and it was the young boy who really took care of the old fisherman.

The last lines are real magic. After having caught the biggest fish in his live, after having killed many sharks who ate the valuable fish, he survived and after coming back to his room, he considered that the most important thing is to go to sleep: “Up the road, in his shack, the old man was sleeping again. He was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about the lions”.36

Some of the quotes which I loved follow now:

“I would like to go. If I cannot fish with you. I would like to serve in some way.”2

“Thank you,” the old man said. He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he [13] knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.2

“Have faith in the Yankees my son. Think of the great DiMaggio.”3

“Keep the blanket around you,” the boy said. “You’ll not fish without eating while I’m alive.”4

I must have water here for him, the boy thought, and soap and a good towel. Why am I so thoughtless? I must get him another shirt and a jacket for the winter and some sort of shoes and another blanket.5

“Que Va,” the boy said. “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.”5

But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.7

No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. But it is unavoidable. I must remember to eat the tuna before he spoils in order to keep strong. Remember, no matter how little you want to, that you must eat him in the morning. Remember, he said to himself.12

Aloud he said, “I wish I had the boy.” [51] But you haven’t got the boy, he thought. You have only yourself and you had better work back to the last line now, in the dark or not in the dark, and cut it away and hook up the two reserve coils.14

Then the negro, after the rum, would try for a tremendous [69] effort and once he had the old man, who was not an old man then but was Santiago El Campeon, nearly three inches off balance. But the old man had raised his hand up to dead even again.19

The old man looked carefully in the glimpse of vision that he had. Then he took two turns of the harpoon [94] line around the bitt in the bow and hid his head on his hands. “Keep my head dear,” he said against the wood of the bow. “I am a tired old man. But I have killed this fish which is my brother and now I must do the slave work.”26

“Get to work, old man,” he said. He took a very [95] small drink of the water. “There is very much slave work to be done now that the fight is over.”27

Besides, he thought, everything kills everything else in some way. Fishing kills me exactly as it keeps me alive. The boy keeps me alive, he thought. I must not deceive myself too much.30

“The ocean is very big and a skiff is small and hard to see,” the old man said. He noticed how pleasant it was to have someone to talk to instead of speaking only to himself and to the sea. “I missed you,” he said. “What did you catch?”35

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