Ernest Hemingway: brief comments on The old man and the sea

Guilherme Mazzeo / GvCult - Uol

20/08/2019 06h31

Photo by Earl Theisen

Por Bernardo Buarque de Hollanda

"…it looked as though he was moving into a great canyon of clouds"


The short novel The old man and the sea (1952), written by the North American Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), is a book about a fisherman, whose name is omitted as in the classic myths, fables and folk tales. The story takes place in the gulf of Havana, Cuban capital, where there are many beach colonies along the shore. Despite his successful youth, when he was considerate the strongest man of the docks, the old man is now a tired and unlucky person, that isn't able to piscatorial activities anymore. After eighty-four days without catching a single fish, he decides to stay in the ocean until he gets a very big fish, a truly and heavy fish, so enormous that can feed "all the fishes in the sea".

He goes to his enduring adventure alone, without his best friend, Manolin, a boy who enjoys him a lot. But, he isn't properly in solitude. In his skiff, in the ocean between Havan and Miami, the old man meets his "friends": a tune, a small delicate tern and a man-of-war bird. It's natural for him talking with birds. During all of his life, he has done it. Everyday, since the sun rises till the sun sets, he just does it. It's also common to talk with the maritime species: the schools of bonito and albacore, the fresh sardines and turtles, the dolphins, flippers and shrimps. They are like good friends, although he is obliged from time to time to kill some of them.

Unfortunately, in the first day, the old man got only one little fish. Unless, it is a positive sign for him. In the lonely night, he listens to radio, where he gets notices about baseball, his favorite sports, its grand leagues, as well as the game between the Yankees of New York and the Tigers of Detroit. The character is fascinated by this modality, which is popular not only in United States, but also in Caribbean islands, and he admires the great sportsman Joseph Paul "Joe" DiMaggio (1914-1999), whose father was a fisherman too.

In the second day, the old man isn't able to catch the big and expected fish again. He got only another poor and little fish in the afternoon. In this day, there are many currents in the dark blue water. During the night, pleased with the fresh breeze, he starts to remind his life. He usually sleeps a few hours. But, when he sleeps, he uses to dream about lions in the sea.

In the third day, he woke up before the sunshine. Despite the fact he isn't religious, he prays ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys. He promises that if he catches the great fish, he will do a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre. He also mentions San Pedro, the saint of the fishermen. Unexpectedly, the old man sees a club of sharks around his boat and, after many hours, he was able to finally fish the bigger one with his harpoon. In his small sailing, beaten by the shark, he tries to come back, but with a lot of difficulty. In the end, almost at evening, the "hero" could see the glare of Havana again and is received as a star by his friend, the boy Manolin.

Undoubtedly, it is a beautiful book that surprised and touched me much. Hemingway, author of classical contemporary romans, as The sun also rises and For whom the bell tolls, this one that awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, offers us a remarkable story about human being feelings and nature. Using a simple and pure style of narrative, as the ancient story tellers described by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), this extraordinary US writer presents a poetic fiction environment. Against all kinds of frameworks, the reader identifies himself with the role of the main character of the novel and is, from the first to the final page, encapsulated by a naturalistic atmosphere of birds, seas, skies and unforgettable landscapes.

P.S. Hemingway's many hearted Fox River

In the end of 1990', National Geographic magazine published a delicate and nostalgic article about a special place in a remote Michigan river. The text was written by Nick Lions and the photography, which specially called my attention, was signed by Jay Dickman, a marvelous photographer, who won the Pulitzer award in 1983.

Along one week, Lions and Dickman reconstituted the pilgrimage of the American writer, Hemingway, through the Fox River road in 1919. The main purpose of the young writer at that time was simply enjoying his holidays in a place where he could go fishing and camping. However, when he got in contact with the place, something different touched his soul: the sunrise, the sweet water, the trouts, the coloured flowers, the beautiful trees, the spring, everything excited him to tell the story of such a region.

Four years later, in Paris, his new tale Big two-hearted river "was born". It's a fiction about a young man who gets of the a train and goes to a small city called Seney. In this town, the character begins a new life in which he provides himself food, by fishing on a lake.

As a way of exposing his own ideas, in this tale, Hemingway endorses how good the life in the countryside is. Describing a peaceful and picturesque area, the American author focuses on the possibility of the human-beings discovering many other ways of life and recognizing that nature is priceless.

Edição Final: Guilherme Mazzeo

Sobre o editor

Guilherme Mazzeo é coordenador institucional do GvCult, graduando em Administração Pública pela FGV-EAESP. Um paulista criado em Salvador, um ser humano que acredita na cultura e na arte como a direção e o sentido para tudo e para todos. A arte é a mais bela expressão de um ser humano, é a natureza viva das coisas, a melhor tradução de tudo. Só a cultura soluciona de maneira sabia e inteligente tudo, a cultura é a chave para um mundo melhor, mais justo, livre e próspero! Devemos enaltecer e viver nossas culturas de forma que sejamos protagonistas, numa sociedade invasiva e carente de: vida, justiça, alegria e força.

Sobre o Blog

O GV Cult – Núcleo de Criatividade e Cultura da FGV desenvolve atividades de criação, fruição, gerenciamento, produção e execução de projetos culturais e de exercícios em criatividade.