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Writer's Reviews - The Old Man And The Sea: Ernest Hemingway

The critical-literary analyses offered by WriTribe are a thousand words long. Each has been compiled with the intention of providing writers not only with a general introduction to the works presented, but also to reveal the added value inherent in each of them.

1,000 words go far beyond mere criticism or superficial praise; they are intended to point you to one or more secret elements, showing you what narrative techniques are masterfully employed by the author of the work in question.

Written with the unique perspective of an author for authors, reviews aim to point out to you what added value you can glean from twenty literary classics. With this in mind, choosing the reading best suited to your need will prove much easier.


Cover of The Old Man and the Sea by E. Hemingway

The Old Man And The Sea

Ernest Hemingway

The work at a glance

The Old Man and the Sea, one of Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway's most famous novels, tells the story of Santiago, an elderly Cuban fisherman, and his epic struggle to catch a huge fish in the Gulf of Mexico. At first, the poor and lonely old fisherman goes out to sea for several days but fails to catch anything.

Even his young apprentice Manolin, with whom he has had a long friendship, has been forced by his parents to work with another fisherman because they believe Santiago's misfortune has fallen on him. Determined, however, to prove his skills, Santiago decides to go out into the open sea by pushing across the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to find a marlin fish, a large animal similar to a swordfish. After days of vain search Santiago finally manages to hook a huge one: it is a majestic creature of great strength and power.

From this moment begins a long and strenuous struggle between Santiago and the fish. The old fisherman demonstrates all his determination, skill, and endurance as he wrestles with the animal, tying it to his boat and chasing it for days. Despite the daunting challenge and physical exertions Santiago shows courage, dignity and determination and develops a deep respect as he enters into a relationship with the marlin whom he considers a true adversary. However, on the return trip to the coast, the marlin tied to the old fisherman's boat attracts sharks that feed on the big fish.

Despite his efforts to protect his prey eventually the sharks destroy the marlin's body leaving only its skull. Santiago returns home exhausted and disappointed that he has lost his great trophy, won in that tough challenge that had seen them compete. The elderly fisherman immediately goes to sleep and does so for almost a full day dreaming of his past experiences. Awakened by Manolin, Santiago feels depressed about his defeat but the young man manages to lift his spirits by telling him that he will go back to fishing with him because the man still has much to teach him.


What you can learn from reading this work

  1. Essential style

  2. Narrative of the man's struggles

  3. Use of metaphors and symbols


By reading The Old Man and the Sea it is possible to analyze what are the main features of Hemingway's prose. First of all, the American writer is famous for his essential and simple, but no less evocative style.

His prose appears essential, free of frills, excesses and superfluous elements, a style, however, that does not detract from the narration of events, the emotional plane that characterizes the characters, the capacity for deep reflection. This means that even the use of simple and straightforward writing does not deprive the narrative of intensity and involvement, it simply allows for the creation of images of immediate impact and easily understood, but no less intense.

Even in characterizing the main character, the elderly fisherman Santiago, Hemingway managed to outline all his complexity through precise storytelling techniques in which both the protagonist's emotions and thoughts emerge, thus making him a memorable character. In his struggle to conquer his prey, the marlin fish, the old fisherman is essentially alone in facing adversity and hardship.

This is to signify that it is also in the dimension of loneliness that the man comes to terms with his innermost and deepest side, investigating within himself deeply with respect even to what nature around him poses as imaginary: all of which lead the reader to empathize, recognize and reflect on what he feels and what is happening around him.

The novel's real strength lies in putting into prose one of the universal themes that has always distinguished literature: man's struggle with nature, the power relations between these elements, but also the perseverance, dignity and courage that distinguish this everlasting challenge.

In doing so, Hemingway employs powerful metaphors precisely to explore deeper themes: not only life and death, the spirit of survival, the human dimension and its relationship with nature-which does not necessarily become overwhelming-but the very meaning of victory or defeat at the end of a battle, and he does so through the use of symbols and figurations to enrich the whole narrative affair with suggestions and depth (such as the dreamlike dimension that closes the novel).

These narrative mechanisms can serve as an example and inspiration for those who intend not only to explore important themes but to give greater depth and meaning, again in a simple and figurative style, to their story thus making it more usable to a wide readership.



The Old Man and the Sea was a truly successful work that was also enthusiastically received by literary critics. In fact, for this novel, Hemingway received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and in 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, prestigious awards that testify to the importance of the work in the history of world literature, thus counting the American writer among the greats of all time.

The Old Man and the Sea for its inherent innovations in writing style - simple language, use of metaphors and symbols - but above all for putting into prose the challenge between man and nature is to this day a work that is by far analyzed and studied even by young people in schools, as well as being an inspiration for numerous later authors because it represents a milestone of realism and narrative modernism.

As with other masterpieces of literature The Old Man and the Sea has had a far-reaching cultural impact influencing, as we have seen, not only later forms of the novel but also other artistic fields. It is worth mentioning, for example, the famous and award-winning film adaptation of it in 1958 by director John Sturges with a poignant, intense and unforgettable Spencer Tracy as the old fisherman Santiago.


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