The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea may very well become one of the true classics of this generation. Certainly, the qualities of Ernest Hemingway's short novel are those which we associate with many great stories of the past: near perfection of form within the limitations of its subject matter, restraint of treatment, regard for the unities of time and place, and evocative simplicity of style. Also, like most great stories, it can be read on more than one level of meaning. On one it is an exciting but tragic adventure story. Sustained by the pride of his calling, the only pride he has left, a broken old fisherman ventures far out into the Gulf Stream and there hooks the biggest marlin ever seen in those waters. Then, alone and exhausted by his struggle to harpoon the giant fish, he is forced into a losing battle with marauding sharks; they leave him nothing but the skeleton of his catch. On another level the book is a fable of the unconquerable spirit of man, a creature capable of snatching spiritual victory from circumstances of disaster and material defeat. On still another it is a parable of religious significance, its theme supported by the writer's unobtrusive handling of Christian symbols and metaphors. Like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, Hemingway's Cuban fisherman is a character allowing the imagination of his creator to operate simultaneously in two different worlds of meaning and value, the one real and dramatic, the other moral and devotionally symbolic.

《老人与海》完全可能成为当代一部名副其实的经典作品。厄纳斯特·海明威的这部短篇小说无疑具有以往许多巨著的共同特点: 在题材所限的范围内几乎达到形式上的完美无缺、处理方法谨严、注意时间和地点的统一,行文简洁而内涵很深。另外,和极大多数巨著一样,海明威的这篇小说读起来可有不止一层的意思。一方面,这是一个激动人心的带有悲剧性的冒险故事。故事讲到一个精神沮丧的老渔人,在他对职业的自豪感(他留下的唯一自豪感)的支持之下,冒险远航至墨西哥湾流并在那里钓住了一条该水域中从未见过的最大的马林鱼。故事接着说到他孤零零地、在因奋力叉住这条大鱼而耗尽了力气之后,被迫投入一场和一群海盗似的鲨鱼的绝望的搏斗之中,结果是那些鲨鱼只给他留下了猎获物的一具骨架。另一方面,这又是一个寓言,它描述了人所具有的不可征服的精神力量——一个人如何从灾难和实际失败的环境中攫取精神上的胜利。再一方面,这是带有宗教意义的一种隐喻,作者不引人注目地给这一主题添加了基督教的一些象征和比喻。和柯勒律治笔下的“老水手”一样,海明威笔下的古巴渔民是这样一个角色,他容许作者的想象力同时在两个领域中活动,这两个领域具有不同的意义和价值,一个注意写实,有着动人的情节;另一个则侧重道德说教,充满象征的意义。

For eighty four days old Santiago had not caught a single fish. At first a young boy, Manolin, had shared his bad fortune, but after the fortieth luckless day the boy's father told his son to go in another boat. From that time on Santiago worked alone. Each morning he rowed his skiff out into the Gulf Stream where the big fish were. Each evening he came in empty-handed.


The boy loved the old fisherman and pitied him. If Manolin had no money of his own, he begged or stole to make sure that Santiago had enough to eat and fresh baits for his lines. The old man accepted his kindness with humility that was like a quiet kind of pride. Over their evening meals of rice or black beans they would talk about the fish they had taken in luckier times or about American baseball and the great DiMaggio. At night, alone in his shack, Santiago dreamed of lions on the beaches of Africa, where he had gone on a sailing ship years before. He no longer dreamed of his dead wife.


On the eighty-fifth day Santiago rowed out of the harbor in the cool dark before dawn. After leaving the smell of land behind him, he set his lines. Two of his baits were fresh tunas the boy had given him, as well as sardines to cover his hooks. The lines went straight down into deep dark water.


As the sun rose he saw other boats in toward shore, which was only a low green line on the sea. A hovering man-of-war bird showed him where dolphin were chasing some flying fish, but the school was moving too fast and too far away. The bird circled again. This time Santiago saw tuna leaping in the sunlight. A small one took the hook on his stern line. Hauling the quivering fish aboard, the old man thought it a good omen.


Toward noon a marlin started nibbling at the bait which was one hundred fathoms down. Gently the old man played the fish, a big one, as he knew from the weight on the line. At last he struck to settle the hook. The fish did not surface. Instead, it began to tow the skiff to the northwest. The old man braced himself, the line taut across his shoulders. Although he was alone and no longer strong, he had his skill and knew many tricks. He waited patiently for the fish to tire.


The old man shivered in the cold that came after sunset. When something took one of his remaining baits, he cut the line with his sheath knife. Once the fish lurched suddenly, pulling Santiago forward on his face and cutting his cheek. By dawn his left hand was stiff and cramped. The fish had headed northward; there was no land in sight. Another strong tug on the line sliced Santiago's right hand. Hungry, he cut strips from the tuna and chewed them slowly while he waited for the sun to warm him and ease his cramped fingers.


That morning the fish jumped. Seeing it leap, Santiago knew he had hooked the biggest marlin he had even seen. Then the fish went under and turned toward the east. Santiago drank sparingly from his water bottle during the hot afternoon. Trying to forget his cut hand and aching back, he remembered the days when men had called him Campeon and he had wrestled with a giant Negro in the tavern at Cienfuegos. Once an airplane droned overhead on its way to Miami.


Close to nightfall a dolphin took the small hook he had rebaited. He lifted the fish aboard, careful not to jerk the line over his shoulder. After he had rested, he cut fillets from the dolphin and kept also the two flying fish he found in its maw. That night he slept. He awoke to feel the line running through his fingers as the fish jumped. Feeding line slowly, he tried to tire the marlin. After the fish slowed its run. he washed his cut hands in sea water and ate one of the flying fish. At sunrise the marlin began to circle. Faint and dizzy, he worked to bring the big fish nearer with each turn. Almost exhausted, he finally drew his catch alongside and drove in the harpoon. He drank a little water before he lashed the marlin to bow and stern of his skiff. The fish was two feet longer than the boat. No catch like it had ever been seen in Havana harbor. It would make his fortune, he thought, as he hoisted his patched sails and set his course toward the southwest.


An hour later he sighted the first shark. It was a fierce Mako, and it came in fast to slash with raking teeth at the dead marlin. With failing might the old man struck the shark with his harpoon. The Mako rolled and sank, carrying the harpoon with it and leaving the marlin mutilated and bloody. Santiago knew the scent would spread. Watching, he saw two shovel nosed sharks closing in. He struck at one with his knife lashed to the end of an oar and watched the scavenger sliding down into deep water. The other he killed while it tore at the flesh of the marlin. When the third appeared, he thrust at it with the knife, only to feel the blade snap as the fish rolled. The other sharks came at sunset. At first he tried to club them with the tiller from the skiff, but his hands were raw and bleeding and there were too many in the pack. In the darkness, as he steered toward the faint glow of Havana against the sky, he heard them hitting the carcass again and again. But the old man thought only of his steering and his great tiredness. He had gone out too far and the sharks had beaten him. He knew they would leave him nothing but the stripped skeleton of his great catch.


All lights were out when he sailed into the little harbor and beached his skiff. In the gloom he could just make out the white backbone and the upstanding tail of the fish. he started up the shore with the mast and furled sail of his boat. Once he fell under their weight and lay patiently until he could gather his strength. In his shack he fell on his bed and went to sleep.


There the boy found him later that morning. Meanwhile other fishermen, gathered about the skiff, marveled at the giant marlin, eighteen feet long from nose to tail. When Manolin returned to Santiago's shack with hot coffee, the old man awoke. The boy, he said, could have the spear of his fish. Manolin told him to rest, to make himself fit for the days of fishing they would have together. All that afternoon the old man slept, the boy sitting by his bed. Santiago was dreaming of lions.


— Excerpts from Masterpieces of World Literature in Digest