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Hemingway's The Old Man And The Sea's...Meaning?

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posted on Oct, 9 2006 @ 01:07 AM
Hi this summer I just finished Ernest Hemingway's, The Old Man And The Sea Now I knew that old drunkard of an author had symbolism in this storie, Just a feeling...But i wasnt sure on what. Ive read books with similiar "symbolic" meanings eg. Of Mice And Men, Animal Farm But I couldnt quite place it on Hemingway's. My step dad said there was symbolism in it too, but i just can't see it. Maybe Hemingway tried but was just drunk?:w:

So If Anyone Know's, Plz Explain. Cuz I'd Love To Know.

posted on Oct, 17 2006 @ 03:47 AM
This question has been sitting around for some time and no-one seems to be interested in answering it, so I'll have a go. Before I begin, I'd like to state that I went through my Hemingway phase many years ago and I've only read The Old Man & the Sea once. Take what I have to say as provisional, no more.

TOMATS (as I'll abbreviate the title for convenience) is a story about what it means to be a man. Humanity (more accurately, manhood -- see below) is understood as a struggle against nature, which is also a struggle against the natural elements of the self. Man is a part of nature because he is, of course, an animal, one whose relationship to the natural world is that of predator and prey. A substantial portion of TOMATS is given over to illustrating these opposed aspects of the relationship and the balance between them -- old Manolo is both predator and prey. But man is also set apart from nature by his rationality and self-consciousness. This separation causes him grief and pain (old Manolo is starving, but what really bothers him is his shame at not having been able to catch a fish for twelve weeks). Yet this painful disconnect from nature is also the source of man's greatest glory, the true core of what it means to be human, and this is illustrated in the book through Manolo's struggle with the marlin.

Hemingway's obsession, which runs through all his books, is the question of what it means to be human. He saw it a bit differently, though, being an extreme male chauvinist in a male-dominated age -- he saw it as the question of what it means to be a man. He understood this question in terms of the opposition of body (physical limitations, needs, instincts) and spirit (ego, duty, ambition, love). These concerns were expressed in their purest form in The Old Man & the Sea, which is probably why it tipped the scale with the Nobel judges and led them to award Hemingway the prize for literature in 1954.

Having said all that, I should like to add something more. Whatever your teachers or others may have told you, it is foolish to read a work of literature for its 'symbolism' and its 'message'. These are the least important things in literature.

A great novel is not a bible or textbook. Literature is not written to instruct or uplift; it is written to entertain. Literature written by and for intelligent people sometimes entertains by making us think, but it is far more concerned with raising questions than answering them. This is true of TOMATS and just about every great book ever written.

Furthermore, when it comes to great literature, the first person it is written to entertain is the author. The reader comes a definite second, though of course the author hopes for as wide a readership as possible. This is important to bear in mind when reading good books -- part of the pleasure is trying to put yourself into the place of the person writing the book.

There are many pleasures to be gained from reading good literature -- you can enjoy the plot, the characters, the quality of the writing, the humour, the psychological insight, the philosophical exegesis, the erotic content, the crafty little tricks the writer pulls to keep you guessing or to surprise you and, oh, any of a dozen other things. Symbol-spotting is part of the fun, but remember, good writers are rarely concerned with sending 'messages' to their readers. 'Message' writing is generally humourless, clumsy and all-round bad. Animal Farm is one of the great exceptions, but please note, it is not symbolism that Orwell deploys in that book, but metaphor. There is a distinct difference between the two.

That's enough from me.

Happy reading!

[edit on 17-10-2006 by Astyanax]

posted on Oct, 17 2006 @ 07:17 PM
I read "The Old Man and the Sea" maybe forty-five years ago and saw the movie with Spencer Tracy, too. Both were powerful works.

I somewhat agree that symbolism should not be the first reason you read a novel, but, let's face it, great literature, is great because it satisfies on so many levels.

Maybe the term symbolism is throwing you off and you are looking for too much or too little.

Perhaps, if you break the story down into themes, you might be able to extrapolate from the manifest content to the latent content, which is where you are likely to encounter how a man fighting a fish symbolizes universal and eternal realities.

Maybe, you just haven't lived long enough or survived enough struggles.

posted on Oct, 17 2006 @ 09:23 PM
COWboy, would'nt it make sense to give us your understanding of the text?
Or are you just looking material for a 'summer reading book report' in school?

posted on Oct, 21 2006 @ 01:23 AM
Well I read it on my own time to be honest. I rarely read the book's they give us in school. I don't like them much. Not because I'm to stupid or anything, I actually think im a pretty well smart guy, not book smart though. A different kind. But that's not important and I also hate boasting haha.

But I think I got that it was about pride and determination, and when the shark's come and bite at the marlin and such. He goe's on, because even though he is being beat down. his pride won't let him go, and even though he looses most of that fish. He pushes on. It was a story about a stubborn stubborn man. And reminded me of some of the people ive met in my own life. So i got that out of it, I also thought it might have had a relation to some Of his alchohal problems. But I don't know enough about the man his self to get that out of it.

But I think your right Grady philpott, Maybe I just havn't gone threw enough. Something's I know I have, but alot of thing's I know I havn't.

posted on Oct, 21 2006 @ 12:30 PM
There are several themes present in the work. Man's struggle against nature. The obvious one of the character against the big fish. The other is Man against himself. The character contemplating giving up and cutting the line. another might be mans empathy with nature, his trying to protect the fish from sharks, I'm reaching for that one, but maybe.

Hemingway has never been a favorite of mine, so "old man and the sea" was a story I read back in high school, some 20 plus years ago. Spencer Tracy was the man, though...he brought the character to life like no one could.

posted on Oct, 22 2006 @ 01:36 AM
Im not a big Hemigway fan either to be honest, I think his best stuff was the Nick Adam's stories. I always find his writing to be kind of dull. But I realy liked the Nick Adam's stories, I related to the main character a whole hell of alot.


posted on Oct, 22 2006 @ 02:28 PM
Cowboy, sounds good then, I just wanted to make sure that someone wasn't trying to get other people to do their work, but it looks like you have a good healthy interest.

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