The Old Man and the Sea was Hemingway's last book published in his lifetime. It is much different than his earlier works and details an old fisherman's three-day battle against a giant marlin. Hemingway's simple language and plot make this novella accessible. On the surface it's almost too simple, but after considering its ideas for a bit, themes of man vs. nature, humanity and compassion, allegories about the animals that live in the sea, and biblical imagery make this novel more complex.
After the old man hooks the giant marlin that is larger than his boat, it's a great struggle to bring the fish close enough to harpoon. The feat suggests the ability of man to overcome hardship and suffering in order to triumph. Hemingway also emphasizes the moral implications of killing or destroying nature, and whether or not the idea of the survival of the fittest holds it's weight:
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?This isn't my favorite Hemingway, but I can appreciate the importance of the novel. Hemingway might be the only writer who can hold my interest through a chapter-less book about fishing.
The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952. Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954.
Publisher: Scribner, 1951