78 years after it was published, Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is more relevant now than it has ever been. It is a feast for the senses as we lie limited in the hands of the pandemic. This story cuts right through the bone, delivering a strong yet minimalistic and heart-wrenching narrative. You can’t help but shed a tear or two.
On the surface, it seems like a simple enough tale about a fisherman who catches a massive fish after 84 days of a dry spell only to lose it to a shark attack. But it is more than that. It is a tale of desire, pride, bravery, and life. It’s a tiny book (a little over 100 pages) that you can finish in a sitting or two. If you’re still doubtful about the book, here are some quotes to get you started:
“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
It’s a story about rising up even after being destroyed because when you rise back up, you can never be defeated. It gives you the strength to overcome all that the year 2020 has in store for you.
“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
It’s a story about persistence. The old man goes 84 days without catching a fish. For some, it may seem like a task of Sisyphus, but he does not give up. He believes he will, and he does. But…
“You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?”
It’s a story about complicated emotions that are based on duty, reason, and pride. It reminds you that not everything is black and white. We exist in a world that is filled with grey.
“Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.”
It’s a story that sheds light on the importance of proving your merit. That failure of yesterday means a new opportunity to turn things around today. And while 2020 has pushed us over the edge, there’s still a lot that you can do to make it a memorable one. This novella is about how death can help you embrace life completely. The act of killing the fish makes you more aware of the mortality that is looming over us constantly. The power struggle, the pride, death, life, and everything that comes in between. Which is why, today, on its 78th Anniversary, would make for a perfect (re)read.
Feature image by Guy Harvey via Pinterest