While reading Ernest Hemingway's short story "Big Two Hearted River," one might think that it is just about a man named Nick Adams returning to Seney, to go camping and fishing. It may not be clear to some readers why the town of Seney is burned down or why Hemingway talks about each of Nick's action in great amount of detail. While first reading the story one might not notice that Hemingway has many symbolic parts, so that he can get the true meaning of the story across to the reader. The story is truly about Nick Adams wanting to get on with his life enjoying to its fullest and putting all of the awful events that have happened to him in the past.
When Nick arrives at the town of Seney, he sees that the town is completely burned to the ground. When Nick was on the bridge he looked down at the water and saw trout in the water going against the current.
Nick realized that the trout were changing their positions only to steady themselves once again: Nick looked down into the clear, brown water, colored from the pebbly bottom, and watched the trout keeping themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they changed their positions by quick angles, only to hold steady in the fast water again (472).
Hemingway is trying to show that the trout are better then Nick, since they are not bothered by emotions or their surroundings. Nick is, he is bothered by the war, which created internal emotions that he is trying to resolve. Hemingway used the trout in the river to represent the inner peace that Nick is trying to gain.
When Nick got to the country he saw that it was untouched by the fire that had burned the town down. He started to walk through the ferns and jack pines and Nick was becoming exceedingly content. Nick was thinking that, "Ã¢ÂÂ¦the country was alive again," (474). Hemingway left the country untouched by the fire because he wanted to show to the readers that Nick was trying to the war behind him and get on with his life trying to enjoy it to its fullest, "Nick tries to put everything behind him, which is shown by his happiness and excitementÃ¢ÂÂ¦" (Annelie Lewis).
When Nick gets to the fishing grounds he does not use normal worm bait he uses, grasshoppers as bait. When Nick got into the river he hooked the grasshopper from the thorax to the last segment of the abdomen. Then grasshopper proceeded to hold the hook with his front feet, while it was spitting tobacco juice on it. Hemingway used the grasshopper as a symbol that when life had Nick down he was just going to get back up and continue to try and not give up.
While Nick is fishing he caught a small fish but he ended up letting it go, but soon after he caught another fish which was the biggest one he had ever seen. He tried valiantly to get a hold of the fish and pull it in but he could not and the fish bit through the line and escaped. Hemingway was showing that nothing in this life is easy and it should not put you down, because when the fish got away from Nick, he was not aggravated he smoked his cigarette and continued to fish. He then caught two fairly good-sized fish. While he was fishing he saw that in the swamp there were bigger trout but he refused to go fishing there. Nick believed that he was not ready to go fishing but he thought to himself that he would work his way up to the swamp and one day he would be prepared to go fishing there: Nick did not want to go there [the swamp] now. He felt a reaction against deep wading with the water deepening up under his armpits, to hook big trout in places impossible to land them. In the swamp banks were bareÃ¢ÂÂ¦. the sun did not come through, except in patches; in the fast deep water, in the half light, the fishing would be tragic. In the swamp fishing was a tragic adventure. Nick did not want it.
In the story "Big Two Hearted River", Hemingway uses many different types of symbolism to describe how Nick Adams is moving on with his life and putting the war behind. Nick has a lot of emotional problems that he has to contend with: his friend Hopkins being killed and the stress that Nick went through while he was fighting in the war. Hemingway uses nature as a way for Nick to heal his soul and to move on happily with his life. The trout that were swimming in the beginning of the story symbolize what he wants to be, since they don't let anything stop them from getting upstream, but Nick's emotions kept him from moving on. Also the grasshopper that he hooked to his hook showed that Nick should not give up just because he is caught in a predicament.