“The Old Man and the Sea” is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and published in 1952. It was the last novel Hemingway wrote during his lifetime; his subsequent novels were published posthumously. It is considered one of his four best novels, along with “A Farewell to Arms,” “The Sun Also Rises,” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” It is a “man versus beast” type of story, much along the lines of William Faulkner’s “The Bear” or Herman Melville’s classic, “Moby-Dick.” The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952, and its success made Hemingway a worldwide literary superstar.
The story centers on the protagonist, Santiago, an old Cuban man and seasoned fisherman who has gone several weeks without catching any fish. His apprentice, Manolin, defies the wishes of his parents and continues to help him, even though they want Manolin to sail with fishermen who actually catch fish. Santiago proclaims that he will go out into the Gulf and catch a fish, therefore breaking his unlucky streak of 80-plus days without any fish. So, Santiago goes out into the Gulf alone, and he eventually catches the attention of a large marlin. In fact, the fish is so big and strong that it ends up pulling Santiago’s boat.
For the next two days, he attempts to pull the marlin in, but to no avail. He’s eventually wounded in the fight with the fish. Santiago begins to consider the fish something of a friend to him. On the third day, he eventually musters up the strength to pull the fish in and kill it. Satisfied with his efforts, he straps the fish down to his boat and begins the journey home. On the way home, sharks pick up the trail of blood left by the dead fish and begin coming after it.
Santiago is able to ward off several of the sharks, but they keep coming. They eventually get to the fish, and by the end of Santiago’s trip back to shore, they had eaten all of the flesh, leaving only the skeleton. The next day, the other fishermen see Santiago’s boat and realize just how big the fish was. Other people mistakenly think it’s a shark. Manolin goes to check on Santiago, who tells him that they will fish together once again very soon. Once Manolin leaves, Santiago returns to sleep and dreams of lions on a sunny African beach, a symbol of his youth.