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10 min / Published
By Renew

The Old Man and the Sea



The old fisherman Santiago ventures to the deep seas to fish. A marlin that is two feet longer than his boat gets caught on his fishing hook. After a stalemate spanning two days and two nights, the old man finally captures the fish. However, on his return trip, he encounters countless attacks from schools of sharks. Although he fights them with all his might, he is still unable to protect the marlin that he caught. The sharks devour it until only the skeleton remains, and in the end, the old man returns home empty-handed.


Overview | Chapter 1

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we will unlock The Old Man and the Sea for you. This is one of the best-known works by acclaimed 20th-century American writer Ernest Hemingway.


Hemingway was born in 1899, in Oak Park, Chicago. During his life, he fought in both World Wars as well as the Spanish Civil War, which inflicted tremendous damage on him both physically and psychologically. The wars opened his eyes to a world filled with violence and bloodshed, giving him a bleak and pessimistic world view. Following the First World War, the works of several American writers depicted characters who are empty, confused, and unable to find their sense of purpose or direction in life, and thus become profoundly dissatisfied with society. These writers have been collectively referred to as the “Lost Generation,” among whom Hemingway was a key representative.


Published in 1952, The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of an old fisherman in Cuba who, after heading out to fish in the deep sea for three days and three nights, returns home empty-handed. The novel is based on real people and events – the protagonist Santiago is modeled after Hemingway’s friend, a fisherman named Gregorio Fuentes. They met in 1928, when Fuentes was fishing at sea; he rescued Hemingway, who had been trapped in a storm. From then on, the pair became close friends. Hemingway lived in Cuba for many years, and during this time, he often went on fishing trips with Fluentes. Their encounter provided Hemingway with plenty of material for his writing, and the plot of this novel was, in fact, inspired by Fuentes’s adventures at sea. Once, Fluentes caught a large fish, but he was attacked by sharks while returning to shore, and only managed to bring back the skeletal remains. Fuentes’s experience moved Hemingway greatly, and in 1936, the latter published an article in a magazine detailing it. After the Christmas of 1950, Hemingway began to write The Old Man and the Sea while still living in Cuba. It only took him eight weeks to finish the first draft.


The novel met with great success after its publication, and Hemingway received the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in 1954. Although the story is relatively short and the plot is simple, it is very rich in meaning and arguably the best work from his later years, the culmination of a lifetime of contemplation and artistic exploration. Hemingway once said, “This is the prose that I have been working for all my life that should read easily and simply and seem short and yet have all the dimensions of the visible world and the world of a man’s spirit. It is as good prose as I can write as of now.”


Fellow American author William Faulkner once said, “The Old Man and the Sea is his best. Time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us, I mean his and my contemporaries.”

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