A Whale of a Tale

When people refer to something as a “fish story,” they normally mean that it is clearly exaggerated or simply a figment of the teller’s imagination.  The most recent entry on the literature page, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, however, is based on an actual event on which the author wrote a newspaper article sixteen years before the publication of the book.  The tale he has told goes far beyond the experience of one individual, tapping into universal truths about courage, perseverance, and the relationship between man and nature.  The novelette is full of Christian imagery, highlighting suffering and sacrifice, though sadly its tale of triumph in the face of hardship and failure yields no sense of ultimate redemption.  The book won a Pulitzer Prize and was a major factor in Hemingway receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature two years after its publication.