Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea

I went shopping and bought The Old Man and the Sea, and read it for the first time in many years, and had this conversation.

June 13, 2007

10:30 p.m. Mr. Hemingway — Mr. phenomenal writer Hemingway — talk to me about The Old Man and the Sea.

It is a love story, of course. The old man loved the world, and his life, and everything in his life, and he particularly loved the boy who loved him. He loved the fish he caught, and God who had put him there, and even certain things about the sharks.

He was a tough old man of great unconscious pride and no arrogance.

Yes, that is right. He would have seemed arrogant in his strength in his middle years but he had learned humility and not by being beaten down or humiliated by anyone or by anything or circumstances, but just in the way a man at night in the ocean would see his size and the size of all around him and know that he is not nothing, but he is not the be-all and end-all either. Only those who get close enough to the source of living get to understand that, though perhaps some people are born knowing.

Somehow “he was dreaming of lions” makes it clear that he was not defeated in what he was, but just in one thing that he had tried to do.

It is a matter of perspective, merely. He had had a full life and it had come down to a few symbols that came to him when he dreamed. He didn’t know what caused them to come and not other things, he just knew that in a way this is what he had left. He didn’t dream of his wife, or of women he had known, or the Negro he had beaten at arm wrestling. He did not dream of triumphs or defeats, but of lions as he had seen them and heard them on a far-off shore long before when he was a boy, and when he was a young man.

The symbols – the lions — didn’t go away or change to something else just because he had triumphed and then been defeated.

No. They were beyond being taken away by anything that could happen to him. He could break the connection by being unworthy, but no external event could break the connection.

What else about el viejo or the boy or anything?

If you could have found it in Spanish or if you find it now and spend the time with it, you will see things you cannot see so easily in English. It is short enough that with the dictionary you can make your way through it without great trouble, and with pleasure, and you may absorb it through the skin.

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