The Old Man and the Sea

In Ernest Hemingway's 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea, the main character struggles with which animal?

And the answer is: marlin.

Ernest Hemingway (right) with Joe Russell (raising a glass), an unidentified young man, and a marlin, Havana Harbor, 1932. Photo courtesy: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who has gone months without a catch, and then begins an epic struggle with a giant marlin. The book received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953.

At the time of its release, The Old Man and the Sea brought international acclaim to Hemingway. Within the first two days, some 5 million copies of the book had been sold. Its popularity spurred a reinvigoration of Hemingway's literary reputation as well as a reexamination of his entire body of work. It is said to have restored many readers' and critics' confidence in Hemingway's capability as an author – some going so far as to call the novel a "new classic," while favorably comparing it with such works as William Faulkner's 1942 short story The Bear and Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick.

Hemingway began his career as a journalist, famously coining his declarative, stripped-down prose style. After serving overseas in World War I as an ambulance driver for the Italian army (and a brief stint involving a marriage rejection), Hemingway turned his attention to fiction, producing his first great work: A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway then moved to Paris and became part of what Gertrude Stein would famously call "The Lost Generation." With Stein as his mentor, Hemingway made the acquaintance of many of the great writers and artists of his generation, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. It was in this era of the author's life that he produced the popular work The Sun Also Rises.

As an adventure lover and author always in search of a good story, Hemingway was continuously uprooting and moving his life around the world. At the time of his passing in 1961, the author had published seven novels, six short-story collections, and two nonfiction works. Today, many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

To learn more about the life and legacy of this great American author, check out the video below.


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