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96 pages, Hardcover
First published September 1, 1950
I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars. Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. . . . Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. . . . There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity. I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.
'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?'
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky.So opens The Old Man and the Sea, the book, we hear tell, that convinced the Nobel committee to reel in EGH with the biggest literary hook of them all. Santiago is an old, unlucky, but skilled Cuban fisherman. He has an able assistant, the young Manolin. The lad is not a blood relation, but he sees a father figure in the old man, and he may be a younger reflection of the old man himself. Maybe Santiago sees himself in the young man and takes some strength from that. Like the best sort of father, he teaches the boy to fish rather than fishing for him. But Santiago’s ill fortune has marked him as someone to be avoided and Manolin’s parents have put the kibosh on their professional association. The old man is determined to salvage his reputation, and his honor, and bring in some money by going farther out than the other fishermen are willing to sail, in search of redemption. No herald calls him to action. No dramatic event sparks him to excessive risk. It is an internal challenge that powers his engines. But it is a quest nonetheless on which Santiago embarks.
Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. How many people will he feed, he thought. But are they worthy to eat him? No, of course not. There is not one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behaviour and his great dignity.One might be forgiven for seeing here a possible reference to catholic communion and the relative merit of so many of those who receive. Is the fish (a Christian symbol if there ever was one) meant to be Jesus or some other form of deity, as Moby was?
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.
“They beat me, Manolin,” he said. “They truly beat me.”
“He didn’t beat you. Not the fish.”
“No. Truly. It was afterwards.”
The sun was rising for the third time since he had put to sea when the fish started to circle. He could not see by the slant of the line that the fish was circling. It was too early for that. He just felt a faint slackening of the pressure of the line and he commenced to pull on it gently with his right hand. It tightened, as always, but just when he reached the point where it would break, line began to come in. He slipped his shoulders and head from under the line and began to pull in line steadily and gently. He used both of his hands in a swinging motion and tried to do the pulling as much as he could with his body and his legs. His old legs and shoulders pivoted with the swinging of the pulling.