Tuesday May 4, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Old Man & the Sea

On this Day:

In 1953, the Pulitzer Prize for Literature was awarded to Ernest Hemingway for “The Old Man & The Sea”.

The Old Man and the Sea is a short novel written by the American author Ernest Hemingway in 1951 in Cayo Blanco (Cuba), and published in 1952. It was the last major work of fiction written by Hemingway that was published during his lifetime. One of his most famous works, it tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba.

In 1953, The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and it was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to their awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.

The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of a battle between an aging, experienced fisherman, Santiago, and a large marlin. The story opens with Santiago having gone 84 days without catching a fish, and now being seen as “salao”, the worst form of unluckiness. He is so unlucky that his young apprentice, Manolin, has been forbidden by his parents to sail with him and has been told instead to fish with successful fishermen. The boy visits Santiago’s shack each night, hauling his fishing gear, preparing food, talking about American baseball and his favorite player, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago tells Manolin that on the next day, he will venture far out into the Gulf Stream, north of Cuba in the Straits of Florida to fish, confident that his unlucky streak is near its end.

On the eighty-fifth day of his unlucky streak, Santiago takes his skiff into the Gulf Stream, sets his lines and by noon, has his bait taken by a big fish that he is sure is a marlin. Unable to haul in the great marlin, Santiago is instead pulled by the marlin, and two days and nights pass with Santiago holding onto the line. Though wounded by the struggle and in pain, Santiago expresses a compassionate appreciation for his adversary, often referring to him as a brother. He also determines that, because of the fish’s great dignity, no one shall deserve to eat the marlin.

On the third day, the fish begins to circle the skiff. Santiago, worn out and almost delirious, uses all his remaining strength to pull the fish onto its side and stab the marlin with a harpoon. Santiago straps the marlin to the side of his skiff and heads home, thinking about the high price the fish will bring him at the market and how many people he will feed.

On his way in to shore, sharks are attracted to the marlin’s blood. Santiago kills a great mako shark with his harpoon, but he loses the weapon. He makes a new harpoon by strapping his knife to the end of an oar to help ward off the next line of sharks; five sharks are slain and many others are driven away. But the sharks keep coming, and by nightfall the sharks have almost devoured the marlin’s entire carcass, leaving a skeleton consisting mostly of its backbone, its tail, and its head. Santiago knows that he is destroyed and tells the sharks of how they have killed his dreams. Upon reaching the shore before dawn on the next day, Santiago struggles to his shack, carrying the heavy mast on his shoulder, leaving the fish head and the bones on the shore. Once home, he slumps onto his bed and falls into a deep sleep.

A group of fishermen gather the next day around the boat where the fish’s skeleton is still attached. One of the fishermen measures it to be 18 feet (5.5 m) from nose to tail. Pedrico is given the head of the fish, and the other fishermen tell Manolin to tell the old man how sorry they are. Tourists at the nearby café mistakenly take it for a shark. Manolin, worried about the old man, cries upon finding him safe asleep and at his injured hands, and brings him newspapers and coffee. When the old man wakes, they promise to fish together once again. Upon his return to sleep, Santiago dreams of his youth—of lions on an African beach.

Written in 1951, The Old Man and the Sea is Hemingway’s final full-length work published during his lifetime. The book, dedicated to Charlie Scribner and to Hemingway’s literary editor Max Perkins, was simultaneously published in book form – featuring a cover illustration by his young muse, Adriana Ivancich,  and black and white illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe and Raymond Sheppard – and featured in Life magazine on September 1, 1952. The first edition print run of the book was 50,000 copies and five million copies of the magazine were sold in two days.

The Old Man and the Sea became a Book of the Month Club selection, and made Hemingway a celebrity. In May 1953, the novel received the Pulitzer Prize and was specifically cited when in 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature which he dedicated to the Cuban people. The success of The Old Man and the Sea made Hemingway an international celebrity. The Old Man and the Sea is taught at schools around the world and continues to earn foreign royalties.

The Old Man and the Sea served to reinvigorate Hemingway’s literary reputation and prompted a reexamination of his entire body of work. The novel was initially received with much popularity; it restored many readers’ confidence in Hemingway’s capability as an author. Its publisher, Scribner’s, on an early dust jacket, called the novel a “new classic”, and many critics favorably compared it with such works as William Faulkner’s 1942 short story The Bear and Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick.

In 1954, Hemingway wanted to donate his Nobel Prize in Literature gold medal to the Cuban people. To avoid giving it to the Batista government, he donated it to the Catholic Church for display at the sanctuary at El Cobre, a small town outside Santiago de Cuba where the Marian image of Our Lady of Charity is located. The Swedish medal was stolen in the mid 1980s, but the police recovered it within a few days.

The Old Man and the Sea has been adapted for the screen three times: a 1958 film starring Spencer Tracy, a 1990 miniseries starring Anthony Quinn, and a 1999 animated short film. It also inspired the 2012 Kazakhstani movie The Old Man, which replaces the fisherman with a shepherd struggling to protect his flock from wolves. It is often taught in high schools as a part of the U.S. literature curriculum. The book was reportedly a favorite of Saddam Hussein.

In 2003, the book was listed at number 173 on the BBC’s The Big Read poll of the UK’s 200 “best-loved novels” (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What did two old fishermen say to the tourists in Cuba? We are just Havana good time on the sea.

Second, a Song:

My name is Rick Graham and I have been an amateur singer/songwriter for many years. This new project is a way for me to share this passion and my songs with a wider audience than my current aggressive “word of mouth” campaign. So every week or two I intend to post a sound file of an original song along with a brief description of the work that went into it and the inspiration behind it’s creation which I hope you’ll find interesting.

Anyway, enjoy! If you like what you hear, please subscribe; tell your friends and share to your hearts content. And don’t forget to let me know what you think. (But gently – my feelings are delicate. Lol. thequarternote81@gmail.com) (per YouTube.com).

Here is Rick Graham performing his song “The Old Man and the Sea”.  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

Further to the Baily’s Beads Smile:

Sandy Weames of Campbell River, BC, Canada writes:

“Thank you David.

Wonderful how our universe works.

I loved the Korean video.”


Pete Roberts of Seattle, Washington, USA writes further to the Rubber Boots Smile:

“Let’s bring back white wall tires!!!”


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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