© 2017 by Andrea L. Hackbarth. Proudly created with Wix.com

Week 2: The Old Man and The Sea, Hemingway

September 7, 2018

Switching gears completely, I read an old novella by an old white male giant of literature. It's one of those books I "should" have read years ago, but I went to a crappy small town high school where they didn't make us read real literature (we read Romeo and Juliet "in translation," i.e. from English to more accessible English...). Then in college I read some other Hemingway but it was assumed everyone had already read The Old Man and it was referred to sometimes but I still never picked it up even though I got the idea I should have. 

 

So, at 37 years old I found myself on equal footing with my 11 and 13 year old stepsons. That is, until their father instigated a summer book club amongst the three of them, in which they read said old man novella while I was on a months-long midwestern sojourn with our toddler. One evening a few days after my return, they set about discussing their final thoughts and impressions of the book. I won't go into details, as they are not mine to tell, except to report that two of the three were in tears at various points and the other seemed close. The point is, this book had an effect, a big one, on boys who generally are considered a bit too young to read it.

 (I suggest a slightly tattered copy for maximum effect.)

 

Those tears and the surrounding (real, literary, emotional) conversation spurred me to finally pick up the book. There's not much more I can say about it than has already been said by a billion English teachers and students the world over, except, perhaps, the following. Its moral quandaries and personal revelations may be a bit too on-the-nose for many modern readers. But maybe, just maybe, if the audience is young enough, it might be the most moving, sophisticated thing they've ever read, and so it can retain its original relevance. So, that's my suggestion, read The Old Man and The Sea with pre-teens, boys and girls alike, then have real, literary, emotional conversations with them. 

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