"Big Two-Hearted River" by Ernest Hemmingway

Essay by brunette25 November 2006

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"Big, Two-Hearted River" begins with a train dropping off Nick Adams near the

wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What follows is a straightforward

narrative of one of his days camping alone near the river. Nick is most intrigued by the

river, which he uses to provide food for himself and much more: he finds healing through

the river.

Much like Hemingway himself, Nick Adams finds himself continually haunted

with frightening flashbacks to his past suffering and grief. As he alludes to in other

stories, Nick turns to fishing (especially fishing with grasshoppers) to release his mind

from the terrible pressure of his life. As he makes coffee, for instance, he is reminded of

his old fishing buddy and oil tycoon, Hopkins, who Hemingway suggests took his own

life a few months before, after receiving a disturbing telegram, perhaps about his lover.

Other disturbing flashbacks in Big, Two-Hearted River, include a tragic execution scene

where the man waiting to be hung loses control of his bladder.

This is bad form,

Hemingway suggests, since the man does not possess the author's famous "grace under

pressure" ideal.

Throughout Big, Two-Hearted River, as Nick constructs his tent, fishes in the

nearby river and cooks his catch, Hemingway describes his mood in two ways--up and

down. If he stands up or climbs up a hill (on his way to build his tent, for example), he is

in good spirits; but if he sits down (as he thinks about Hopkins, his friend who committed

suicide, for instance) or descends, his mood is falling. Thus, Nick's mood follows his

actions--form follows content.

Nick seems to deliberate on awful circumstances in the past; Hopkins suicide, and

the terrible execution scene. Nick's friend, Hopkins, suicide definitely had an effect on

the outcome of...