The Sharks Are All Sharks

A little over a year ago I wrote about Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (here’s a link if you want a reminder) and it’s a great story. It’s a novella about an old man who is out fishing, which is slow and thoughtful until quite near the end when a bunch of sharks turn up and it gets jolly exciting.

Were those sharks a metaphor? Was he crafting an important lesson to us all about life, age, humanity?

Er, no. To quote Ernest himself:

[T]here is no other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm [sic]. 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.

Well, that’s us told.

It turns out, if you read his letters, that he’s a really down-to-earth guy, often much funnier than you’d expect from reading his novels. I am quite tempted to get that quote printed, framed, and hung over my bookshelves.

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9 thoughts on “The Sharks Are All Sharks

  1. I’m a big Hemingway fan anyway, but this is the third time I’ve seen ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ get a mention – it is a great novella, even better when read while overlooking the Florida Straits! I’m reading ‘Hemingway’s Boat’ by Paul Hendrickson at the moment and it contains extracts from his letters, postcards and telegrams. Fascinating.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Why won’t this allow me to comment? I am hoping it now just did.
    Everyone has an opinion on what the words do and say. The English language along with so many others is beautiful and it is these things that make it that way. I do agree some people don’t see beyond what is in front of them but once it is out there we can’t dictate what other people see. Even if, dare I say, we don’t like it. Symbolism is great for teaching and learning and making us think. It’s all there even if he doesn’t like it.

    Liked by 2 people

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