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Hofling, C.K. (1963). Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and the Male Reader. Am. Imago, 20(2):161-173.

(1963). American Imago, 20(2):161-173

Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and the Male Reader

Charles K. Hofling, M.D.

In psychoanalytically-oriented literary criticism there are three principal ways in which a composition may be approached. The critic may study the protagonist from a clinical, a dynamic, and, occasionally, a genetic point of view, as if he were a real person, endeavoring to enrich one's understanding of the character and thus of human nature in much the same way as in a case presentation. The critic may study the composition as a psychic production of its author, endeavoring to shed light on the personality of the latter. Finally the critic may endeavor to study the impact of the composition on himself and/or upon readers in general.

Of the three approaches, the last is the least often used. It is probably the most open to adverse criticism, since another reader may always say with complete honesty that he is not affected in the way described. On the other hand, it can be of particular value in the study of the author as author, i.e., as one with a degree of mastry of techniques of arousing certain responses in his readers.

It is this third approach which is utilized in the present paper, an effort which is thus in no sense a balanced criticism of the master-work upon which it is based.

In an attempt to apply the insights of psychoanalysis toward gaining a fuller understanding of the emotional impact of The Old Man and the Sea upon the reader, an appraisal of the protagonist becomes a logical starting point. Indeed, if one is reading purely for pleasure, this is what one tends naturally to do.

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