Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea

 Title: The Old Man and the Sea

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Genre: Classics, Adventure

Publication date: 1952

Pages: 128 (Paperback)

Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5


The Old Man and the Sea was my first experience of reading Ernest Hemingway and this one was a re-read. I was hoping I would change my mind of what I thought about the book the first time I read it. Nonetheless, my original opinion of this book is still intact. This book was astoundingly dull just like the first time I read it. The only reason why I re-read it was because I was trying to understand what the symbolism- if there is any; however still to no avail. Though it is a good thing that it only took me under an hour to read this book since it’s very short.

The story is about an old man, Santiago and how he is stranded in the sea for eighty-four days. He was having a difficult time catching fish which is considered “salao” or unlucky form for fishermen. By the eighty-fifth day he gets lucky and catches a big fish. However, due to its big size, he is unable to pull it in, thus he holds the line for two days. As a result he becomes exhausted and encounters sharks which he has to kill.

As much as I want to write a deep and profound review for this book because I have no intention of bashing a book just because I disliked it; however, there is nothing to say rather than it’s tediously un-inspirational. It was repetitive and predictable. This one hundred page something story could have honestly been just cut down to maybe thirty pages.  For me, this book was just a direct and literal story. I know others somehow found some more philosophical meaning when they read this book, but I don’t see any symbolism behind it other than that there is an old man and the sea.  There are no colorful details, no deep elaborations to make me interpret it any other way or give me the notion that Mr. Hemingway was trying to convey a message. My other issue is that we don’t have much information about Santiago except he is old, poor, and is friends with a young boy Manolin. If he had a backstory then maybe I would probably be more invested. All in all it was just a story that my grandpa would probably tell in a bland monotone voice and put me to sleep. And surprisingly I found this quote by Mr. Hemingway himself in regards to this book:

“There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks, no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.”

This quote by the author himself explains a lot and sums up what my overall review in regards to this book. Ernest Hemingway is a brilliant and honorable author, though, this book is definitely not his best. I feel that The Old Man and the Sea would probably appeal to older or more patient people. Or if you like fishing then this book may interest you. Nevertheless, it’s a book that I am definitely hesitant on recommending because it would most likely bore people to tears.


17 thoughts on “Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea

  1. I was curious about what you would rate this book.
    I gave it 3/5 but your rating is understandable.There were elements of really writing in it.
    However it was so….dull.I mean,I didn’t expect that the entire story would be based on the man and the fish.Some people say there is an allegory between the Christ and the fish,but there’s a limit to metaphors I think: you can’t write a dull story,and then just say ”Oh it’s just an allegory”,though Hemingway never said the fish represented anything else.

    Hemingway won the Nobel Prize particular because of that book.He was praised for being able to write a story filled with so much pathos in few words and pages,so I guess I should reread it one day.

    Try A Farewell to Arms for your next Hemingway.I can’t promise you that you will fall in love with it,but more things happen in it; the ending is brutally realistic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find that readers who read this book have different interpretations. But for some reason I just couldn’t find an allegory. I found it to be just a literal story of a man and a fish.

      I am currently reading The Sun Also Rises; however I am not enjoying it as much. But I am definitely going to read his more famous works A Farewell to Arms and For Whom The Bell Tolls. Hopefully those two will be good reads!


  2. I had to read this for a class and don’t recall enjoying it much. I have to commend Hemingway for calling out all the people who say it’s full of symbolism. I’ve never seen that quote before, so thanks for sharing it! I just wish that more teachers agreed with him. 🙂

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh. My. G. Thank you so much for posting this! I feel so much better knowing I am not the only one who found this book so dull. You are a better person than I for rereading it to try to find the symbolism. I just can’t do it. But that quote from Hemingway… priceless! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I tried reading Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls a while back and just couldn’t get into it. I did like it better than The Old Man and the Sea, but that might just be because of the Donne inspired title =P Good to hear it’s not just me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read that one yet but I probably will read it just because. LOL Just like in previous comments it seems that this book wasn’t much of a favorite either. I think Hemingway is a hit or miss and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.


    1. What a coincidence that you mentioned The Sun Also Rises because I will be reading that next! It definitely looks more interesting than this one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is the only Hemingway I’ve read – I read it a few years ago and was not that impressed either. I wouldn’t read it again. However, I did appreciate the straightforward way in which the story was told. No elaboration or decoration for the sake of ‘storytelling’ made it more truthful in a way. It reminded me of some of the old men I’ve known in my life and the way they just tell it like it is and get on with whatever work they have to do, which I admire. Instead of over overanalysing everything… as I do 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hemingway is not everyone’s cup of tea. His books are definitely not the most entertaining and can be a hit or miss. Unfortunately this one was just awful. HAHA

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I read this book back in high school, and I can’t remember liking it then. I never really took any depth away from this book, either…I found it somewhat boring, to be honest. Everyone else I know who has read this book really seemed to enjoy it, so it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who disliked it =P


    1. Yes I’ve heard many people praising this book and how there is a meaningful message behind it but I don’t see it. I often questioned why people enjoyed it–maybe it’s inspirational for them; however, as I mentioned in my review it really is just about a man in the sea. Like what else is there to it?!HAHA

      Liked by 1 person

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