The Old Man and the Sea is short and phosphorescent

Varadero beach, Cuba.

It’s impossible to say anything really bad about Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 literary classic The Old Man and the Sea.

In the first place, it’s awfully short—I read it standing up at the local laundromat while my clothes sloshed and tumbled. A book that short doesn’t really give you much to not like.

If short isn’t enough, it’s also simple.

The characters are simple: an old man and a fish.

The plot is simple: man catches fish, man loses fish.

The dialog is simple, too: the old man has all the lines.

Even the vocabulary is simple, if you ignore phosphorescence, which Hemingway likes to throw into the story every so often, just to show he knows some big words.

Probably the worst thing you can say about The Old Man and the Sea is that it’s Literature, with a capital L. That means there is deep significance to the story. The old man isn’t just an old man, he’s All Men; and the fish isn’t just a fish, it’s human aspiration; and sharks aren’t sharks, but adversity with fins.

If you aren’t into Literature with a capital L, just watch the laundry tumble: it’s more interesting than this novel.

The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway
Scribner’s, 1952
140 pages
1952 Bestseller #7
My grade: C
Photo credit: Varadero beach, uploaded by ZaNuDa
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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