Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway

"No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in. ... I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things".
- Ernest Hemingway -

Then he added, "Blessed Virgin, pray for the death of this fish. Wonderful though he is."
Abstractionism is a powerful thing. I once remember, as a child, visiting an art gallery for a school field trip. The tour guide was a rather tedious middle-aged lady, and I eventually found myself fooling around with some friends instead of paying her any attention. Taking a moment from her less than engaging droning, she called me out in frustration. She said, hey you! what does the red represent in this painting. I responded with something to the effect of "danger?" In a terse and condescending fashion, she immediately shot down my proposition and scolded me for not paying attention. I can safely blame her, and many others like her, for ruining my interest in art early on in my life.
Why an artist would ever want to limit the meaning of their art is beyond me. Some of the greatest artists that have graced the earth have been staunch believers in abstractionism, as am I. They provide their audience the freedom to interpret their work in their own personal way. From Luis Bunuel to Kanye West, they place no definite meanings to their work. Their work may mean one thing to them, but I am beyond grateful that they understand their work can mean a myriad of things to others.
This is the way I approached The Old Man and the Sea. Looking into the mind of this old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, was a fascinating experience. I can only be thankful to Hemingway for making the statement above and not choosing to limit the scope of what his contemporary novella symbolized. It makes art a lot more accessible, and thankfully a lot more relatable.

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