The Monster of Cojimar: a meditation on Hemingway, sharks, and war.
The essay concerns a tremendous white shark called the Monster of Cojimar, captured in spring 1945, when a traumatized Hemingway returned to Cuba from World War II. In a letter about the Monster, he draws disturbing parallels between sharks and men, suggesting that Cojimars wartime shark industry and the horrifying role played by sharks in the war at sea made a profound impression on him. His postwar experiments with writing about sharks, killing, and sin suggest that his late masterwork, The Old Man and the Sea, may be a story about the war in which "the war is never mentioned" (SL 798).
As the year 1945 began, the fishermen of Cojimar became aware that an enormous predator was prowling their customary waters off the north coast of Cuba. Whole sets of floating fishing rigs were disappearing, and at times fishermen pulled in only the hooked heads of sharks and marlin that would have weighed more than five hundred pounds each if their bodies hadn't been snapped off as though they were sardines. In the village, "la gente de marl' the people of the sea, began to say "ahi afuerita tenia que vivir tremendo monstruo marino"--there has to be a tremendous sea monster living out there. Then fishermen Jose Hernandez and Juan Yuca saw an enormous shadow in the water and a huge wake following their line--and decided to try to catch the monster (Guitart and Milera 10-11). (1)
The Monster of Cojimar would prove to be a great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, the largest predatory fish in the sea and the species made infamous in Peter Benchley's novel Jaws. In 1945, the great whites other English common name was "maneater," while the Cubans too called it "devorador de hombres," as well as "jaqueton verdadero',' evoking the biggest swaggering bully of them all (Bigelow and Schroeder 134; Guitart and Milera 11). When eventually captured, the Cojimar specimen had an estimated weight of 7,100 pounds, or 3 Vi tons, and measured 21 feet in length (Bigelow and Schroeder 137-38). For perspective, the traditional rowboats with removable masts used by Cuban fishermen of this era were 15 to 18 feet long, while Ernest Hemingway's cabin cruiser Pilar was 38 feet long (Martinez 4; SL 404). At the time, the Cojimar shark was considered the largest reliably measured example of Carcharodon carcharias in the world (Bigelow and Schroeder 137-38).
Among scientists, fishermen, and shark aficionados, this great white shark is Cojimar's best-known claim to fame after its association with Hemingway, who kept Pilar moored there and used the fishing village as the setting for his 1952 novella The Old Man and the Sea. Although I have not been able to locate a source with an exact date for the landing of the shark, we do know that it happened in 1945 sometime before 9 April, when Hemingway--newly returned from the battlefields of World War II--wrote a troubled letter about it to Mary Welsh, soon to be his fourth wife (SL 581-84). The letter suggests that Hemingway did not actually see this legendary shark, but learned about it on the Cojimar waterfront quite soon after its capture, when local excitement was still running high (SL 581-82).
More than a simple fish story, the story of Hemingway's response to the Monster is the story of a time, a place, a state of mind, and of shadowy forms lurking beneath the surface of his postwar fiction. Hemingway's "Monster letter" to Mary draws disturbing parallels between sharks and men, suggesting that the tremendous great white shark, the shark industry of wartime Cojimar, and the horrifying role played by sharks in World War II at sea made a profound impression on a man badly shaken by the military slaughter on land in Europe. In 1945, Hemingway began experiments with writing about sharks, killing, and sin in Islands in the Stream that would evolve into the enduring shark passages of his late masterwork, The Old Man and the Sea (1952). Understanding the relationship between sharks and war in Hemingway's imagination further suggests that The Old Man and the Sea, like his early short story "Big Two-Hearted River," may be a story about war in which "the war is never mentioned" (SL 798).
The Monster of Cojimar
In 1945, when the two fishermen set out to capture the monster, the majority of fishermen from Cojimar still fished as Hemingway's Santiago fishes, hand-lining from skiffs (Martinez 3-4). Hernandez and Yuca were going to need a bigger boat--and a different method. Together with a patron representing the fishing vessel's owners, Hernandez and Yuca set sail on the Adolfina, a 35-foot schooner with a gasoline-powered winch (Guitart and Milera 10). A little more than a tenth of a mile offshore, near the shipping channel to Havana, they deployed the Cuban fishing rig known as a palangre, a buoyed line that floats freely in the water, dangling baited hooks on wire leaders at different depths (Martinez 4; Farrington, Fishing 28-30). In deference to their enormous prey, they used a 55-gallon oil drum as a buoy (Guitart and Milera 10).
Patrolling their lines early the next morning, the men of the Adolfina saw the oil drum bounce, sink, and shake repeatedly and knew they had hooked something huge. Lifting the buoy and attaching the line to the schooner's motorized winch, they began the mechanized struggle to bring in the shark. Although the gasoline engine coughed and threatened to stall against the weight and resistance of the great white, it was not an equal contest. After two hours of fighting the winch, the exhausted, half-dead animal was brought alongside the vessel. "Todavia me eriza los pelos," Jose Hernandez later remarked. The sight of it made his hair stand on end. Somehow the three men managed to secure the shark and sail with it back to Cojimar, (2) where several trucks helped haul the great white up onto the beach (Guitart and Milera 1011).
Half the village turned out to see the monstruo marino and pose for pictures with it. Assessment of its astonishing size began. It was easy enough to accurately measure the 21-foot length of the shark. The liver, weighed at one of Cojimar's shark-processing stations, tipped the scales at 1,005 pounds (Guitart and Milera 11). But there was no scale large enough for weighing the entire shark; the oft-quoted (and hotly disputed) 7,100 pound weight remains a fisherman's "guesstimate" (Ellis and McCosker 51, 54, 57). Dr. Luis Howell Rivero, an ichthyologist from the University of Havana, collected the sharks measurements and communicated them, along with a photograph taken by Alejandro del Valle, to his American colleagues Henry Bigelow and William Schroeder at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. (3) They published the information in their encyclopedic, nine-volume compendium, Fishes of the Western North Atlantic (138 n 12,16), and the Monster of Cojimar passed into the annals of shark history.
Hemingway's Return to Cojimar
On or about 15 March 1945, Hemingway returned to the Finca Vigia, his Cuban home just a short drive from the Cojimar waterfront, after almost a year away at the war. He was fresh from the fierce fighting of the Hurtgenwald offensive, which he had experienced as a correspondent following the Army infantrymen of Colonel Buck Lanham's 22nd Regiment. In mid-November 1944, the 22nd had thrown itself against the heavily fortified Siegfried Line in Germany's Hurtgen Forest. In thirteen days of fighting to gain just one small village reduced to rubble during the battle, the regiment took 2,700 casualties--87% of the regiment's strength--from murderous entrenched fire and artillery barrages (Reynolds, Final Years 117-25). German casualties too were devastating. On 21 November, Hemingway had written to Mary Welsh: "Everyday in the woods is like Custer's last stand if that distinguished leader had fought his way out of it and slain the red men" (Fuentes 357). Hurtgenwald left Hemingway with indelible memories of carnage and a legacy of anger, loss, and terror. And although he had flown into a rage at an Army psychiatrist who warned him that everyone has a breaking point, it may also have left him suffering from what was then known as "battle fatigue" (Reynolds, Final Years 121-22).
Hemingway was not in good shape on his return to Cuba, either mentally or physically. He was suffering from insomnia, taking sleeping pills, and struggling to cut back on drinking "when you wake up in the night and things are unbearable and you take a drink to make them bearable" (SL 581, 586). He was also trying to break a habit of "wake-up drinking" in the morning (Fuentes 356; SL 586). He wrote to Lanham that he was depressed--"Black Ass stuff"--and did not "give a damn about writing" (SL 580, 586). He had sustained serious concussions in two wartime automobile accidents and was still experiencing the after-effects of head trauma: headaches, ringing in the ears, loss of verbal memory, even a tendency to write backwards (Reynolds, Annotated 103, 104; SL 584). He was worried about the effects of the concussions on his ability to write (SL 585).
In the spring of 1945, Hemingway was lonely and anxious. His oldest son, John (nicknamed Bumby), was a wounded prisoner-of-war in a German camp. His two younger sons, Patrick and Gregory, had just returned to his second ex-wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, after a brief visit for school vacation (Reynolds, Annotated 107-08). His then-wife, Martha Gellhorn, their marriage decidedly over, was advancing into Germany towards her finest reporting of the war--on the liberation of Dachau--and having an affair with James Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne (Moorehead 231-41). His lover, Mary Welsh, was at first still in London, initiating a divorce against her husband, Noel Monks, and then when she returned to the States, in Chicago, visiting her family rather than rushing to Hemingway's side (Reynolds, Annotated 106-08). He longed for her to come to the Finca so that they could begin a life together, but his letters both to Lanham and to Mary about trying to control his drinking for her sake suggest his anxiety that his violent and abusive behavior when drunk (4) had made her uncertain about the relationship (SL 578, 580, 584, 589). He also missed the camaraderie of war, writing to Lanham, "It is so damned lonely Buck ... without you and the outfit.... As it is am just killing days and wish I were a soldier instead of a chickenshit writer" (SL 589).
In Hemingway's stories about his autobiographical character Nick Adams, a wounded veteran of World War I, fishing is strongly associated with keeping the trauma of war at bay. In "Now I Lay Me," Nick, traumatized by the memory of being blown up and feeling his soul slip from his body, lies awake at the front and tries to calm himself by mentally fishing the trout streams he had known as a boy (SS 363). Which is why, in "A Way You'll Never Be," a clearly shell-shocked Nick, recently wounded, suffering from nightmares, and rattled by his passage through a corpse-strewn battlefield, begins babbling to fellow soldiers about the correct way to catch grasshoppers for bait (SS 411-12). And why Nick, returned from the war at last, seeks the healing rituals of actual trout fishing in "Big Two-Hearted River" (SS 209-32).
"I'm right back where was in 1918," Hemingway wrote in an 18 November 1944 letter to Mary from the thick of the Hiirtgenwald offensive (Fuentes 352). Unable to sleep, an artillery barrage "ripping cracks in the walls" and shaking the house where he'd taken shelter for the night, Hemingway calms himself by thinking about the fishing they will do in Cuba after the war. But this time he describes for Mary not trout streams, but the Gulf Stream:
Dearest Pickle my beloved let's think about the boat and the dark blue, almost purple of the Gulf Stream, making eddies at the edge of the current and the flying fish going up in coves and us on the flying bridge steering in shorts and no tops and at night anchored behind the barrier down at Parafso with the sea pounding on the lovely sand and breaking on the horse-shoe of the reef and we anchored ... inside with no motion only the tide pull and we lie with our legs touching and drink a tall coconut water, lime, and gin.... (Fuentes 353)
La Tiburonera, the Shark Factory
But Hemingway's return to wartime Cojimar would be nothing like Nick Adams's return to Big Two-Hearted River. World War II had created a booming commercial shark fishery in Cuba when naval warfare closed the vital cod fisheries of North Atlantic. Before the war, cod liver oil had been a primary source of Vitamin A, an essential nutrient required by manufacturers of processed foods and livestock feed. Now shark liver oil became a highly soughtafter replacement, its price skyrocketing during the war (Allen 161-65; Beegel 252-23). Cuba, with an abundance of sharks in nearshore waters, soon had twenty-two ports involved in the wartime shark fishery. Of these, Cojimar, with its proximity to distribution centers in Havana for shipping products both internally and for export to the United States, was most important (Martinez 2). In 1945, with the war drawing to a close and the threat from German U-boats in Cuban waters gone, shark landings at Cojimar were at an all-time high (Martinez 5).
During the war years, the village supported three different companies processing shark products: the Compania Nacional de Vitamines, the Campania Industrial de Pesca, and the Compania de Pesca del Valle. The firms dealt in shark meat, fins for the Chinese soup trade, livers in brine, and salted skins for the leather industry. The Compania Nacional, the tiburonera or "shark factory" of The Old Man and the Sea (11), also operated an oil-rendering plant at Cojimar. The companies rented rowboats like Santiago's to local fishermen for a nominal fee or employed them to work on company schooners in return for a share of the catch. Together, the three firms could handle all the sharks the fishermen of Cojimar and other nearby coastal communities could bring to their processing stations (Martinez 4, 10).
When Hemingway returned from the killing fields of Hiirtgenwald in 1945, Cojimar's little crescent-shaped beach, la playita, was a slaughterhouse. In season, as many as one hundred sharks a day were weighed and butchered on the beach (Martinez 4, 6). Hemingway sketches the process in The Old Man and the Sea--the sharks "were hoisted on block and tackle, their livers removed, their fins cut off and their hides skinned out and their flesh cut into strips for salting" (11). He omits the gore--the heaps of heads, teeth, viscera, and bones collected for dumping out in the ocean; the flensed skins rinsed in the sea and bloodying the water lapping at the beach. He omits the vats of livers boiling on the shore and the foul wastewater from the rendering plant. And he omits the scale of the tendederos or drying grounds at Cojimar, handling the combined catch of twenty collecting stations. There the untreated fins and salted meat of hundreds of sharks sat drying on racks in the sun for days (Martinez 5-6, 7-8). He does not omit the stench: "When the wind was in the east, a smell came across the harbor from the shark factory ..." (OMS 11).
Hemingway's Monster Letter--A Reading
On 9 April 1945, Hemingway, home from the war for less than a month, sat down to write Mary a letter. He was lonely: "this fine imitation of purgatory and limbo ... building up on me." He was sleep-deprived: "went to sleep with the Capeheart on and then woke and took two sleeping tablets ... and couldn't sleep." But he was heartened by "an absolutely perfect, cool day" when "everything looks fresh and new and lovely." He had been down to the harbor, where Pilar, battered in the 1944 Pinar del Rio hurricane while he was away, was being refurbished. The forward cockpit had been rebuilt and various places damaged by "storm and stress" were being repaired. He had even ordered new covers for the boat cushions (SL 581).
Enter the sharks. "There are some damned interesting things going on in the ocean," Hemingway begins. "A new species of shark has turned up at 600 fathoms in great quantities. They ... are black; with a horrible ugly mouth and their stomachs are full of swordfish swords, marlin bills and they eat each other if you don't get them in fast enough" (SL 581-2). (5) The Old Man and the Sea is critical of "some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money" (29-30). They speak of the sea "as el mar which is masculine" and as "a contestant or a place or even an enemy" (30). Hemingway's letter does the same. Military imagery and an assumption of enmity begin with these precursors of the Monster of Cojimar, a submarine pack of sinister, sword-swallowing sharks roving half a mile down, devouring not only the swordfish and marlin Hemingway hopes to catch, but finally each other. Their capture also represents a newly industrial assault by man on the sea; sharks caught at six-hundred fathoms could only have been taken by the Cuban shark fleet's lone fully mechanized vessel, a sixty-foot proto-factory ship, with a 225 horsepower diesel engine (Martinez 3-4). Hemingway's description recalls a passage from Moby-Dick: "to and fro in the deeps, far down in the bottomless blue, rushed mighty leviathans, sword-fish, and sharks; and these were the strong, troubled, murderous thinkings of the masculine sea" (Melville 543).
The Monster of Cojfmar surfaces next:
Also one of the Cojimar fishermen caught a Great White Shark that weighed 7,000 (seven thousand) pounds. Now if you should hook into a shark weighing 7,000 pounds the first time we ever go out in the boat daughter I think it would be a terribly unequal contest and that we ought to protest to the Geneva Conventioners. The biggest shark I ever caught weighed 798 pounds and even a tiny fish of that sort offered considerable resistance. I think on a 7,000 pound shark there would be some doubt as to who had hooked who. Really Pickle if you and I should tie into something of that sort believe it would hold your interest. (SL 581-82)
Hemingway responds to the news of a 7,000-pound great white shark as a competitive sport fisherman. There's no mention of the gasoline-powered Winch and palangre involved in the actual capture. Instead, thinking of the Monster as a contestant in single combat, he asks Mary to imagine what it would be like to "hook into" a shark this size with rod and reel. Sport fishing for great whites was in its infancy. His pride as a deep-sea fisherman aroused, Hemingway compares the Monster of Cojimar to "the biggest shark I ever caught," presumably his 786-pound mako taken at Bimini in 1936--for a time, the North Atlantic record. (6) As he recalls the "considerable resistance" put up by his own "tiny fish," Hemingway recognizes that the Monster of Cojimar, at almost ten times the weight, would be a fish large enough to reverse the natural order of predator and prey: "I think on a 7,000-pound shark there would be some doubt as to who had hooked who."
The letter's references to war and its masculine vision of the great white as contestant and enemy continue. Battling such a shark with rod and reel would be "a terribly unequal contest" and "we ought to protest to the Geneva Conventioners" (SL 582). This is intended as a timely joke, aligning the monster shark with the Germans and comparing the humanitarian laws governing warfare to the International Game Fish Association's rules for sportsmanlike fishing. But it's not especially funny. In February 1945, not long before Hemingway wrote to Mary, the International Red Cross had announced a series of Geneva conventions to address the excesses of World War II, including the Nazi concentration camps then being uncovered (Spoerri).
Hemingway's letter grows more militaristic and violent:
This shark didn't consider himself hooked, and paid no attention for a long time except to come up alongside the boat and stick his head out of the water and click his jaws at people. Hope that little machine Fred was sending will arrive so we can make some fitting response if he goes into that jaw clicking routine. Click right back at him. (SL 581-82)
Again there's no mention that the Monster of Cojimar was taken by a schooner with a palangre and a motorized winch. Nor is there any mention that the great white was half-dead when finally dragged to the boat (Guitart and Milera 10). Instead, keeping the burden of "unequal contest" on the shark, Hemingway construes its failure to fight as evidence of its strength and confidence (the Monster does not even know that it is hooked). Head out of the water, clicking its jaws (perhaps the sight Jose Hernandez found so hair-raising), the great white seems especially menacing. And suddenly--in the letter--the Monster is no longer dead, but alive and clicking his jaws at Hemingway and Mary in the present tense. Thoughts of sportsmanlike fishing, regulations, and trophy fish are gone--Hemingway wants to machine-gun the shark, to "click back," to engage in shark-like behavior himself.
In A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway wrote memorably of World War I "and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing were done with the meat except to bury it" (185). Of World War II, he might have written "and the sacrifices were like the tendederos at Cojimar if nothing were done with the meat except to bury it." In fact he does write that, obliquely, in his letter about the Monster, but in a far more sinister form:
Have found a fine place where we can go and fish for sharks and sell them for a good price. Ought to be able to pay our boat expenses that way and actually the shark is as much fun to do away with as the kraut with added advantage one can dispose of same afterwards. (SL 582)
We are a long way here from the powerful anti-war statement of Farewell. Now Hemingway, back from a different war, not only wants to participate in the commercial slaughter of sharks--he has so demeaned and dehumanized the human enemy by equating them with sharks that he can think of killing Germans as "fun."
That is what hatred sounds like. It may have risen from trauma recently past--of the fighting in Hiirtgen Forest, he had written to Mary on 21 November 1944: "This is the toughest fight I've ever known. Belleau Woods chickenshit alongside of it.... [A] real battle in a woods is something. The fire rolls like the sea" (Fuentes 359). Only a mind numbed by dehumanizing the enemy could accept the deaths of thousands on both sides of the conflict. On 23 November, Hemingway wrote: "The streams flooded up to your waist running yellow mud and you can walk in the woods knee deep through dead krauts. Nobody will ever know how many krauts we've killed because there's no way to count them" (Fuentes 361). It was possible to resent the Germans simply for continuing to fight and be killed, "the kraut counter-attacking, attacking, attacking, attacking--moving like lemmings in a migration into death" (Fuentes 359).
Or, the hatred may have risen from horror present. Since January 1945, when the Soviets had liberated Auschwitz with its evidence of hundreds of thousands of deaths, the Nazi camps of mass extermination were no longer secret. Later in April, the cruel month of Hemingway's Monster letter, the Allies would liberate Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau ("Liberation of Nazi Camps"). Despite the imminence of victory, as the war drew to a close there was an upwelling of hatred well-explained by Martha Gellhorn, who was at Dachau when she learned of Germany's unconditional surrender:
We have all seen a great deal now; we have seen too many wars and too much violent dying; we have seen the hospitals, bloody and messy as butcher shops; we have seen the dead like bundles lying on all the roads of half the earth. But nowhere was there anything like this. Nothing about war was ever as insanely wicked as these starved and outraged, naked, nameless dead. Behind one pile of dead lay the clothed healthy bodies of the German soldiers who had been found in this camp. They were shot at once when the American Army entered. And for the first time anywhere one could look at a dead man with gladness. (184)
Or, the hatred could arise from anxiety about the very near future. In his Monster letter to Mary, Hemingway segues directly from writing about the pleasure he would take in killing sharks--and Germans--to worry about his oldest son, still in a prisoner-of-war camp:
Had a letter from Hadley giveing Bumby's address. He should be over-run [rescued from POW camp] by now or very soon. Won't that be wonderful? We mustn't count on it. But it is the logical thing to expect. (SL 582)
In fact the New York Times will run a story, "Hemingway's Son Liberated," on 2 May 1945 (Reynolds, Annotated 107). But at that moment in April, the thought of his son wounded and a prisoner between invading and retreating armies must have been agonizing.
In his posthumously published novel, Islands in the Stream, conceived in the autumn of 1945 (Burwell 1, 4, 55, 57), Thomas Hudson's eldest son, always thought of as a surrogate for Bumby, dies in combat. Hemingway also revisits the parental nightmare of helpless inability to rescue a child in mortal danger when a shark menaces Hudson's middle son, David: "Out across the blue water, showing like a brown dinghy sail and slicing through the water with heavy, tail-propelled, lunging thrusts, the high triangular fin was coming in toward the hole at the edge of the reef where the boy with the mask on his face held his fish up out of the water" (IIS 85). (7) Hudson, from the boat, fires repeatedly with a .256 rifle at the shark slicing towards his son and fails to stop it. He is on his last shell when Eddy brings closure--and catharsis--by machine-gunning the shark, a monster hammerhead:
[H]e heard the submachine gun start firing from the stern and saw water start to spout all around the fin .... As he shot, the clatter came again, short and tight, and the fin went under and there was a boil in the water and then the biggest hammerhead he had ever seen rose white-bellied out of the sea and began to plane off over the water, crazily, on his back, throwing water like an aquaplane. His belly was shining an obscene white, his yardwide mouth like an upturned grin, the great horns of his head with the eyes on the end, spread wide out as he bounced and slid over the water, Eddy's gun rapping and ripping into the white of his belly making black spots that were red before he turned and went down and Thomas Hudson could see him rolling over and over as he sank. (IIS 85-86)
The hammerhead passage of Islands in the Stream, which literally demonizes a giant shark (it has horns and a grin, later it is "an old evil son of a bitch," its jaws the stuff of "bad dreams" [IIS 89]), is the most obvious literary apotheosis of Hemingway's letter about the Monster of Cojimar and his desire to machinegun it.
In the Monster letter of 9 April 1945, after expressing his concern for Bumby and asking Mary to write to Hadley Richardson, Bumby's mother, Hemingway seems to have recollected that his own purpose in writing to Mary was to attract a reluctant bride to his tropical bower. He turns from sharks and machine guns to flowers after rain, a hummingbird in the bougainvillea, the "lovely books" he has purchased for Mary, the "little house" she can have as her own if she wants, the skills of the Chinese cook, the readiness of Pilar, and the salty talk of the household parrot (SL 582-3).
Sharks and Torpedoes
It would take more than a change of subject, however, to exorcize the connection between sharks and Germans, sharks and war in Hemingway's imagination. In 1942 and '43, after Hitler declared a blockade of the Atlantic coast and the Caribbean to justify attacks on neutral shipping, Hemingway had volunteered with Pilar to hunt Nazi submarines and search for hidden supply dumps off Cuba's north coast (Mort 111). His efforts were fruitless, but the threat was real. In the summer of 1942 alone, when he began his patrols, twenty U-boats sank seventy-eight merchant ships in the Gulf of Mexico. Losses were twice as high in the Caribbean Sea. Targets included oil tankers, freighters, banana boats, passenger liners, and even small fishing boats (Mort 72-108). And as Hemingway well knew, everywhere that U-boats sank vessels in the biologically rich waters of the Gulf, there were sharks--circling lifeboats, stalking swimmers, occasionally taking a man in the water, and feeding on the dead (Wiggins 108, 140, 185).
Then, in November 1942, to use the words of Hemingway's fellow Collier's contributor, J. D. Ratliff, a "horrible scene of slaughter" involving sharks was enacted off Madagascar when "A German torpedo ripped into a British troop ship. Sharks, maddened by the smell of blood, attacked and destroyed everything in the water" (30). The ship was the Nova Scotia, with 1,000 souls on board including 750 Italian prisoners of war. Some were killed by the explosion, some were choked by oil, and many drowned--but others were killed in what is still considered the largest mass shark attack in the Indian Ocean. "The sea was alive with sharks," one of only 200 survivors recalled, "and dozens of men were taken." Rescuers, when they finally arrived, had to club sharks away (Levine). Many were oceanic whitetips, the galanos of The Old Man and the Sea, known for their mobbing behavior (Levine; Beegel 246-47).
The Nova Scotia sinking prompted the Navy's Office of Scientific Research and Development to try to develop a shark repellent--a project that briefly involved Hemingway (Allen 115). Sharks were not only a threat to torpedoed sailors and downed fliers; they were becoming a serious wartime morale problem. "Anxious mothers wrote their congressmen about the sharks," explains Thomas Allen. "Servicemen ... were being unnerved by the dread of an enemy more horrifying than a man with a gun" (115). Spearheaded by William Douglas Burden of Florida's Marineland and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the shark repellent project sought sites for fieldwork in Cuban waters. Submarine chasers were assigned to look for sharks, and Hemingway was among those who responded (Ratlif 30; Allen 116).
By the time the Monster of Cojimar surfaced in his letter of 9 April 1945, then, Hemingway was intimate with the wartime problem of sharks that "would hit a man in the water, if they were hungry" (OMS 108). He had never liked sharks. Hemingway was born too soon to appreciate their essential role as apex predators in marine ecosystems; he had no understanding that they could be threatened by overfishing, and as a sport fisherman, he resented their competition for his trophies. Writing about Hemingway at Bimini before the war, John Dos Passos describes how the author lost an immense tuna to a mob of sharks:
At last in a great wash of silver and spume the tuna came to the surface ten or fifteen yards astern of the boat. The sharks hadn't touched him.... The Old Master was reeling in fast. Then suddenly they came. In the light of our flashlights we could see the sharks streaking in across the dark water. Like torpedoes. Like speedboats. One struck. Another. Another. The water was murky with blood. By the time we hauled the tuna in over the stern there was nothing left but his head and his backbone and his tail. (Dos Passos 213-14)
Hemingway borrowed a Thompson submachine gun from a yachtsman that same night (Dos Passos 214). Such pre-war memories would make it all too easy for Hemingway to flesh out reports of shark attacks on human casualties of war.
Before the year 1945 was out, the nightmarish connection between sharks and war would be indelibly seared into public consciousness when, on 30 July, a Japanese submarine torpedoed and sank the battle cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis in middle of the Pacific Ocean. Because the Indianapolis sank almost immediately, no distress signal was sent. And because she was sailing under secret orders, having just delivered to Tinian Island parts for the atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima, Indianapolis was not reported overdue. It would be five days before Navy flyers accidentally sighted survivors. Most of her crew of 1,196 men went alive into the water; only 316 survived. Many of the 880 dead were killed outright by sharks, and sharks fed on the corpses of the rest (see Kurzman). The attack is immortalized in the movie Jaws, where actor Robert Shaw tells the Indianapolis story with bone-chilling effect in an uncredited speech written to explain his character Captain Quints Ahab-like hatred of sharks. (8)
Hemingway was almost certainly aware of the Indianapolis disaster and the resulting controversy, which received prolonged news coverage. As with the monomaniacal Captain Quint, it did nothing to diminish his hatred of sharks or his equation of sharks with the enemy. On 20 September 1945, Hemingway was again ranting to Mary that he hated sharks "almost" as badly as he "used to" hate "Krauts or Fascists." "I love to kill sharks," he wrote to her, "and I think you will too." He looked forward to shooting lots of them, and promised to get Mary her own rifle. The Indianapolis may have been on his mind when he began work on the Bimini section of Islands in the Stream in autumn 1945 (Burwell 55, 57). Sharks definitely were.
Historian Dan Kurzman writes that the first pilots to spot the Indianapolis survivors "were transfixed by the scene below, which might have crystallized in a mad painters mind":
They saw men bobbing in the swells like human corks, some with their oil blackened heads grazing the surface while sharks slithered in their midst, picking them off at random. As radioman France would later write home, "it wasn't the best sight I have ever seen when you stood ... and watched a great white shark swim off with a man." (159)
Hemingway's imagination, perhaps inflamed by the Indianapolis story, works like a mad painter's in the "Bimini" chapter of Islands in the Stream, where the bartender Bobby proposes a canvas of the Judgment Day for Thomas Hudson to paint:
Hell is just opening.... There's a big sort of hatch open and devils are carrying Negroes and church people and rollers and everyone into it and they go out of sight. Waters rising all around the island and hammerheads and mackerel sharks and tiger sharks and shovelnose sharks are swimming round and round and feeding on those who try to swim away to keep from being forked down.... But the devils keep forking them down, or else they are engulfed by the rising sea where now there are whale sharks, great white sharks, and other outsized fish circling outside of where the big sharks are tearing at those people in the water. (IIS 20)
The association of sharks with war is the association of sharks with human cruelty and murder. Here Hemingway figures a feeding frenzy of sharks on human victims as a scene from the mouth of hell, as an extreme punishment for human sin. Ever the naturalist, he lists the species of the sharks in this fantastical maelstrom--hammerhead, mackerel, tiger, shovelnose--a reminder that this apocalyptic violence is a condition of nature. The great white shark--the Monster of Cojimar--circles outside the maelstrom, accompanied by a whale shark (a plankton-feeder, but the largest fish in the sea, maturing at 35 to 40 feet) and other "outsized" fish--sea monsters (Ellis 102). (9) About Bobby's shark apocalypse, Hudson observes "There was a man named Bosch who could paint pretty well along those lines .... He'd be pretty hard to beat" (IIS 21). Hemingway greatly admired the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516), who often included naturalistically observed animals in his otherwise surreal paintings of sinful humanity, horror, and hell. In Islands in the Stream, Hemingway borrows technique from Bosch, the artist Carl Jung famously called "the master of the monstrous," making the sharks so associated in his mind with war into agents of human damnation.
Hunting the Monster in The Old Man and the Sea
At the very end of the 1945 Monster letter to Mary, Hemingway mentions that for him, writing letters is "discipline to get back in writing shape. Letters, simple story, complicated story, novel. That's the program" (SL 584). The shark passages of Islands in the Stream, begun that same year, are the obvious first fruit of this scheme. Hemingway, however, eventually elected not to publish Islands, leaving his sprawling "Sea Book" on the drawing table. Instead, he would publish a slender and masterful novella, The Old Man and the Sea, originally intended as part of the longer novel. Composed in the winter of 1950-51, Old Man would appear in Life magazine in September 1952 (Reynolds, Annotated 118-19, 121). In some ways, the novella is an extreme distillation of themes in Islands, its sharks reminding us that Old Man too had its origins in war.
In this most minimalist of Hemingway's novels, whole complexes of history, meaning, and emotion are sketched with just a few words--a technique Mark Ott has likened both to Winslow Homer's brush strokes and to Hemingway's terse notations in the Pilar log (Ott 69-70). The war just past is present in brief descriptions of the shark factory and of the young fishermen who have purchased motors and palangres with their war profits (OMS 11, 29-30). It is present in the radios that others now have aboard their boats for communication but that Santiago cannot afford (39). It is present in the unsuccessful search for the old fisherman "with coast guard and with planes" (124). Most of all, the war is present in the galanos who will hit a man in the water even if he has no smell of blood on him (108).
The novellas extended meditation on when it is a sin to kill takes on additional weight when read in the context of war. Santiago admires and identifies with the marlin: "Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother" (OMS 92). After he kills the marlin, "the fish's eye looked as detached as mirrors in a periscope" (96), the instrument used by submerged U-boats to see above the surface of the sea. Hemingway, who rarely uses similes, here emphasizes the periscope's mirrors, suggesting that a man might see himself reflected in the mechanical eye of the enemy. The marlin's eye is also as "detached" as "a saint in a procession" (96)--not a living saint to whom a man might pray for forgiveness of his sins, but a cold, indifferent idol with no absolution to dispense. The marlin is Santiago's brother as a German submariner might have been Hemingway's brother, and the fish's dead eye offers no forgiveness for the killing, only an unavoidable insistence on self-reflection.
Santiago recognizes that he did not kill the marlin only "to keep me alive and feed many people"--personal survival and the greater good being common justifications for killing in war. Instead, "you killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman" (OMS 105), as a soldier might kill from pride in his martial skill and because killing is his occupation. Hatred, the numbing anodyne that made it possible to "walk in the woods knee deep through dead krauts" at Hurtgenwald (Fuentes 361), is not yet present here. Instead, the marlin's death poses a troubling question: "If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?" (OMS 105). The answer, as the accusatory mirror of the fish's eye suggests, ought to be "More." The murder of a brother has been a sin since Cain slew Abel in Genesis.
Now the first shark rises. A mako, this shark is dangerous game, a monster who could destroy Santiago's boat or inflict a fatal injury. The description of the mako's size is the same as for the demonic hammerhead in Islands in the Stream--the biggest Hudson has ever seen, the biggest Santiago has ever seen (IIS 86; OMS 103). But unlike Eddy in Islands, the old man has no submachine gun; this will be an equal contest with a shark weighing perhaps as much as 1,000 pounds (Beegel 262-63). Like Saint George slaying his dragon, Santiago kills his own "cruel and able and strong and intelligent" monster in single combat, with a harpoon (103). There is no talk of love for or brotherhood with the mako. But there is identification and respect--as one warrior to another: "He lives on the live fish as you do.... He is beautiful and noble and knows no fear of anything" (106). Santiago takes pride in killing the mako cleanly with a single blow--"I killed him well" (106).
Yet despite the emphasis on chivalric conduct, once more the old man worries about the sin of killing. Tellingly, instead of offering the ageless rationale of fishermen everywhere--the mako would devour his catch, after all--Santiago turns to the justification for dispatching an enemy combatant--"I killed him in self-defense" (OMS 106)--again suggesting this novellas unstated interest in human violence and murder. If, in A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway taught us that "abstract words such as glory, honor, courage" are "obscene" in the context of war (185), then perhaps we should distrust the emphasis on nobility and courage in The Old Man and the Sea. "But you enjoyed killing the dentuso," Santiago thinks--a disturbing realization he cannot rationalize away, especially given his identification with the shark (105). His pride in "killing well" dissolves before his recognition that perhaps the contest was not truly equal; perhaps he was "more intelligent" and (again in the language of war) "better armed" (103). In a rare use of a very different sort of abstract word, Hemingway tells us that Santiago strikes at the mako with "complete malignancy" (102; my emphasis)--a kind of hatred with the capacity to metastasize, if you will.
In the third and final movement of the novella's sequence on killing, the galanos arrive, those sharks most explicitly associated with war both in the publics memory of naval disasters and in Hemingway's evocation of their willingness to strike men in the water. Attracted by the smell of blood, the galanos come in a pack to feed frenziedly on the marlin's carcass, despite the fact that Santiago hacks and clubs at them in an equal frenzy, killing and wounding as many as he can. The sharks' ganging behavior in the face of the old man's fierce resistance recalls the German troops of Hurrtgen Forest in Hemingway's 21 November 1944 letter to Mary: "attacking, attacking, attacking--moving like lemmings in a migration into death" (Fuentes 359). The violence ends only when there is nothing left for the sharks to eat (OMS 109). The picked-over skeleton of Santiago's hard-fought catch has long been read as an emblem of Pyrrhic victory. However, perhaps we could add that Hemingway understood Pyrrhic victory not as a Plutarch scholar in a library carrel would understand it, but as a traumatized witness to the thousands of American and German lives lost in capturing the shelled-out carcass of a village called Grosshau (Reynolds, Final Years 122).
If Santiago's quest for the marlin was ever anything like heroic enterprise, or even fishing mindfully pursued, it ends in mayhem. To the old man, the galanos are "hateful" sharks (OMS 107). "Hateful" here is ambiguous, a two-edged sword. It can mean the sharks themselves are malevolent, full of hatred as they devastate the marlin that is Santiago's love and livelihood, and (or) it can mean that their detestable nature fills the old man with hatred, making Santiago hateful too (107). The arrival of the galanos temporarily suspends Santiago's capacity for moral reflection and identification with the creatures of the sea. He speaks to these sharks only to incite, taunt, and curse them, and takes vengeful satisfaction in ruining as many as possible with his hate-filled, desperate, and ultimately fruitless clubbing (115).
Despite their obvious enmity, in The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway makes a point of identifying Santiago with sharks. With a nod to Cojimar in wartime, the old man drinks "a cup of shark liver oil each day from the big drum in the shack where many of the fishermen kept their gear.... [I]t was very good against all colds and grippes and it was good for the eyes" (OMS 37). When the mako rises, in a rare simile, Hemingway compares its vicious teeth first to a man's fingers--and then to Santiago's: "They were not the ordinary pyramid-shaped teeth of most sharks. They were shaped like a man's fingers when they are crisped like claws. They were nearly as long as the fingers of the old man and they had razor-sharp cutting edges on both sides" (101). The text insists that man too is a predator, a killer. His sharkish nature is fundamentally natural.
But man is not "just a moving appetite as some sharks are" (OMS 106). The soul, the conscience, that part of Santiago that thinks about love and hate and brotherhood, about when it is a sin to kill, exacts its toll--remorse for going "too far out" and ruining both the marlin and himself, contrition for the sin of pride (115). The sharks, "not an accident" (100) but a predictable consequence of spilling blood in the sea, are nature's punishment for sin, a species of damnation. Herman Melville, whose great white whale Moby Dick is yet another monster swimming below the surface of The Old Man and the Sea, wrote that "if you have never seen" sharks congregating "around a dead sperm whale,
moored by night to a whaleship at sea," then "suspend your decision about the propriety of devil-worship, and the expediency of conciliating the devil" (Moby-Dick 301).
Melville's association of sharks with the devils of the Last Judgment, which follows hard on his association of sharks with naval warfare--clustering around "the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea fight ... like hungry dogs round a table where red meat is being carved" (301)--may have been one inspiration for the shark apocalypse in Islands in the Stream, a book in which Hemingway expressly hoped "to take Mr. Melville" (SL 673). But when Hemingway abandoned Islands in favor of Old Man, he returned to his own theory of omission: "If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit the things he knows and the reader ... will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them" (DIA 192). The Old Man and the Sea includes a nighttime feeding frenzy by sharks underlain both by Melville's demonic version and Hemingway's own shark apocalypse from Islands in the Stream, but written with his trademark spare naturalism:
But by midnight he fought and this time he knew the fight was useless. They came in a pack and he could only see the lines in the water that their fins made and their phosphorescence as they threw themselves on the fish. He clubbed at heads and heard the jaws chop and the shaking of the skiff below. He clubbed desperately at what he could only hear and feel.... But they were up to the bow now and driving in one after the other and together, tearing off pieces of meat that showed glowing below the sea as they turned to come once more. (OMS 118)
War, devils, the fantastical flourishes of a Melville or a Bosch, and most of all, the idea of a Last Judgment have been left out, but are still very much present in this weirdly lit scene.
When we think about sharks and the apocalyptic visions beneath this novella's surface, it's hard not to recall that the Beast of Revelation rose up out of the sea. The biblical monster is many-headed, like the mob of galanos, and just as when one shark is killed another takes its place, so when one of the heads of the Beast receives a deadly wound, that wound is healed (Rev. 13.110). In Revelation, it is given unto the Beast to "make war with the saints and to overcome them" (13.7). Santiago--in Spanish the namesake of the fisherman, apostle, and martyr St. James--is like those saints--"destroyed but not defeated," his battle with the sharks a kind of martyrdom (OMS 103). In Papa: A Personal Memoir, Gregory Hemingway recalls his father saying:
Remember that painting by Bosch of the end of the world? All the devils were rounding up the sinners and I pointed out one man robed like a gentleman who was rising from his table indignantly and drawing his sword. Remember? I pointed him out to you, out of all those grotesque figures, and said see, see him there, he thinks he can handle death with a sword? And you seemed to understand so well what I was saying. (14)
Santiago is that man, both saint and sinner in a shark apocalypse, engaged in an existential contest he is bound to lose, battling death and damnation with a harpoon.
"All the symbolism people say is shit," Hemingway wrote to Bernard Berenson about this book (SL 780), and there are no simple equations that make The Old Man and the Sea an allegory. But there are complex equations. The sharks certainly represent the inevitability of death and the inherent, indifferent cruelty of nature. They are also aligned with man's inhumanity to man, with mindless greed and violence, and with "that shocking sharkish business"--war (Melville 301). Their behavior is fundamentally human. They arise in Old Man just as they arise in the shark apocalypse of Islands, as a punishment for man's own sharkish nature. No wonder, then, that Santiago strikes at the mako with "complete malignancy" and vows, about the "hateful" galanos, "Fight them. I'll fight them until I die" (OMS 102, 115).
In the winter of 1950-51, as Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, the United States was at war again--this time in Korea. Fighting was fierce as China entered the fray on the North Korean side, pressing U. N. forces back to the 38th parallel. President Truman declared a state of emergency in the United States. The stakes seemed high--citizens were warned about the dangers of nuclear attack, while atomic testing rattled the American Southwest. Hemingway, who had so nearly lost his eldest son in World War II, and who now had two younger sons of draft age, would have seen the Selective Service System return to life, seeking 100,000 men for the maw of war (Daniel 680-93).
Hemingway's contemporary audience for Old Man was profoundly war-weary. Every single person old enough to read the book when it appeared in 1952 would have had fresh memories of World War II; the majority would have fought or otherwise experienced hardship and sacrifice. Some would have lost loved ones. Older readers, those Hemingway's own age, would have had primary memories of World War I as well. Now, in 1952, reading Old Man during the Korean War and by the light of ten thousand suns that had flashed at Hiroshima, Hemingway's audience may have come to regard the Sisyphean violence and loss represented by the sharks as simply the existential condition of man, something that could only be bravely endured. In some ways, Santiago embodies the war-forged stoicism of Thomas Hudson--and a generation--"Get it straight. Your boy you lose. Love you lose. Honor has been gone for a long time. Duty you do" (IIS 326).
"If any man have an ear, let him hear," proclaims the author of Revelation. "[H]e that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword" (Rev. 13.9-10). This never-ending cycle is the ultimate message of the Beast, who has power over all nations. It is also the message of the sharks in The Old Man and the Sea, and of the shark apocalypse of Islands in the Stream, with its origins in the Indianapolis disaster, Moby-Dick, and paintings of the Last Judgment by Bosch. And so, if we read in terms of allegory or parable, the passage of the marlin's sword to Manolin at the end of the novella is the passage not only of Santiago's prowess as a fisherman but of a legacy of war from one generation to the next (OMS 124).
In Hemingway's early masterpiece "Big Two-Hearted River," Nick, the returning World War I veteran, decides to avoid fishing the swamp. In the swamp with its "fast deep water," fishing would be "a tragic adventure"--a tragedy that consists of hooking "big trout in places impossible to land them" (SS 231). Nick does not want it and thinks: "There were plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp" (232). Now, in Hemingway's last published work, those days have come. The Monster of Cojimar inhabits the novella in the forms of its giant marlin and mako and its detestable galanos--big fish impossible to land, sea monsters from the Gulf Stream. With them rises the idea of fishing as a form of mutually assured destruction--so different from the therapeutic trout fishing of "Big Two-Hearted River." "I think on a 7,000 pound shark there would be some doubt as to who had hooked who," Hemingway had written to Mary, while in The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago thinks about his 1,500 pound marlin: "[I]s he bringing me in or am I bringing him in?" (OMS 99) and "Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me too?" (92). This is fishing for a nuclear age, fishing that evokes the End of Days. In The Old Man and the Sea, there is no longer any prospect of healing from war, only recognition that its monstrous cycle of violence and death is continuous, and courage is essential.
In April 1945, Hemingway himself was a kind of Monster of Cojimar--Ahab-like, with a splintered helmet of a brow. Scarred by warfare, aggrieved at the losses he had seen and experienced, he too was raging to strike through the indifferent mask of Nature. Also like Ahab, at least in "The Symphony" chapter near the close of Moby-Dick, Hemingway was longing for a wife and a son, longing for the kiss of some feminine principle in nature and in his life. Instead, the sea presented him with "strong, troubled, murderous thinkings" (Melville 543). When the great white shark appeared to Hemingway, it appeared to a man prepared to receive an impression of something monstrous, something that still lurks beneath the surface of his post-war sea fiction.
While the Monster of Cojimar still swims freely through the pages of virtually every book about sharks written since 1945, its mortal remains have all but vanished. The legendary great whites dried skin was sent to Mariel for exhibit at the Museum of Cuba's Naval Academy, where it eventually succumbed to rot (Guitart and Milera 11). In 1998, when members of an American oceanographic expedition to Cuban waters visited Dario Guitart at his Havana home, the ichthyologist, once a student of Luis Howell Rivero, called for his wife to bring her jewelry box and showed his guests their sole relic of the Monster--a shark tooth nearly three inches long, capped in tortoiseshell and suspended from a silver chain (McCosker 43-44).
In 2002, Jose Hernandez, who together with his fellow fishermen caught the Monster, was still alive, eighty-six years old, living in Cojimar, and willing to show a single enormous fish vertebra and some fuzzy photographs to a tourist. Embellishing his already substantial fish story, Hernandez claimed that he had caught not a great white shark but a surviving Carcharadon megalodon--an extinct prehistoric shark growing to twice the size of todays largest great whites, a monster bigger and heavier than a Tyrannosaurus rex (Donohue; Ellis 87). In the old man's mind, his shark was "the only one in the world" (Donohue).
The author wishes to thank Rosa Monzon-Alvarez of the University of Miami Cuban Heritage Collection, Dr. John McCosker of the California Academy of Sciences, Dave Sherman of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Dr. Pilar Tirado of Simpatico Language Services, and Robert Young of the Ernst Mayr Library of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Allen, Thomas B. Shadows in the Sea: The Sharks, Skates, and Rays. Revised edition. New York: Lyons and Burford, 1996. Print.
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Beegel, Susan F. "A Guide to the Marine Life in Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea." Resources for American Literary Study 30 (2006): 236-315. Print.
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Susan F. Beegel
University of Idaho (retired)
(1.) In 1974, Dario Guitart, founder of the University of Havana's Instituto de Oceanologia and author of a four-volume guide to marine fishes, interviewed participants about the Monster's capture in order to maintain its reputation as the largest great white shark (Belleville 229; Guitart and Milera 11). Published in Mar y Pesca, the official review of Cuba's Instituto Nacional de Pesca, his is the most reliable extant account. I am grateful to Dr. Pilar Tirado for her translation.
(2.) There's no mention in the account of how the shark was killed, no climactic gaffing or harpooning. Because pelagic sharks need to swim freely in order to breathe, the likelihood is that the "Monster" simply suffocated as a result of the struggle and restraint (Ellis 39).
(3.) Regrettably, the original correspondence and photograph have been lost (see Young). Hemingway almost certainly learned about the Monster from his boat manager, Gregorio Fuentes, who was close to Luis Howell Rivero. In 1938, Howell Rivero had helped Fuentes obtain a position on board the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's research vessel Atlantis for a joint Harvard-Havana survey of Cuban marine life (cruise 74). A logbook refers to Fuentes as "Rivero's new man" (see Sherman).
(4.) For example, Reynolds records an incident in Paris when Hemingway slapped Mary in public (Final Years 116) and Carlos Baker another in which the drunken author took a framed photograph of her husband and shot it up with a machine pistol in a Ritz Hotel restroom (443).
(5.) These sharks are the primitive species Hexanchus griseus, the six-gilled or cow shark, its Cuban common name tiburdn canabota. Again Hemingway probably learned of this discovery from Gregorio Fuentes via his connection to Luis Howell Rivero (see n. 3). The Cuban ichthyologist's report to Bigelow and Schroeder mentioned details found in Hemingway's letter. It also included photographs taken by Alejandro del Valle of three huge examples taken at Cojimar (922, 1,400, and 1,600 pounds) (Bigelow and Schroeder 83 n.14; 84 n. 19, 20).
(6.) Here, as he boasts to Mary, Hemingway inflates the size of his mako to 798 pounds, not coincidentally the weight of the then world record (Farrington, Atlantic 212-13).
(7.) Gregory Hemingway, the author's youngest son, believes this passage is based on an incident from his childhood. Three hammerhead sharks arrived as he was spearfishing on a Cuban reef at the edge of the Gulf Stream. There were no machine guns that day. His father simply directed Gregory to throw his fish at the sharks and swim to him, then carried the boy to safety (65-67).
(8.) The date for the sinking given in the Jaws speech is incorrect. Otherwise, the film's account of the Indianapolis tragedy is reasonably accurate (see Shaw).
(9.) Gregory Hemingway records encountering a whale shark while on a submarine patrol with his father, who explained that it was "almost a third the size of the sub were looking for" (73-74).
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|Author:||Beegel, Susan F.|
|Publication:||The Hemingway Review|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2015|
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