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Hemingway novel given trigger warning to avoid upsetting Highland students

Literature students at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have been warned that Hemingway's novel contains "graphic fishing scenes" which may upset them.
Literature students at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have been warned that Hemingway's novel contains "graphic fishing scenes" which may upset them.

Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and The Sea has been given a trigger warning to avoid upsetting university students.

The book tells the story of an ageing Cuban fisherman on a quest to land a memorable catch. Literature students at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have been warned that it contains “graphic fishing scenes”.

Screen adaptations of the 1952 Pulitzer prize-winning novel carry U and PG certificates, meaning they are suitable for children.

Mary Dearborn, the author of Ernest Hemingway: A Biography, said: “This is nonsense. It blows my mind to think students might be encouraged to steer clear of the book.

“The world is a violent place and it is counterproductive to pretend otherwise.

“Much of the violence in the story is rooted in the natural world. It is the law of nature.”

‘Let students think for themselves’

The “content warning” was revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request by the Mail on Sunday.

Paul Hendrickson, an American author who wrote Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, said: “Let serious-minded university students think for themselves.

“Trying to shelter them from what does not need sheltering in the first place does far more damage to their futures as adults.”

Hemingway won the Nobel prize for literature in 1954.

The Old Man and The Sea follows Santiago, the down on his luck fisherman, as he wrestles with an enormous marlin after going 84 days without a bite.

The book is viewed by fans as a metaphor for life itself, and was cited when Hemingway won the Nobel prize for literature in 1954.

Trigger warning over other works

UHI students have also been handed warnings over other great works of literature.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein contains “violent murder and cruelty”. And students of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet were told they feature “stabbing, poison and suicide”.

These follow previous warnings at other universities about potentially upsetting scenes in classic fairytales.

Glasgow University admitted students were cautioned about “violent material” contained in the famous children’s stories by the Brothers Grimm.

Their tales include Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood.

A UHI spokeswoman said: “Our students are at the heart of what we do. While it is not university policy, in this instance we provided a content warning at the request of several of our students, who told us that they would appreciate being informed of such things in advance.

“We have a duty of care to our students, and this content warning is there to support them to make an informed choice.”

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