Big Two-Hearted River

In Big-Two Hearted River we are exposed to who Nick has become.  He has finally ventured home to the river where he grew up near Lake Superior.

Tellingly, he has a quandary when it comes time to cook his first dinner and has to excuse himself for using canned foods instead of nature’s bounty.  In the region where he now is, where he hunted squirrels and fished with his first love, he now has brought in the essence of the modern man with him, an inability to forage for himself.  Most interesting, though, is the way Hemingway approaches this realization: Nick does not think upon it beyond excusing himself under the premise that he had carried the food.

The next day, though, Nick returns honestly to his roots; prepping coffee, cooking pancakes with flour (something standard for those days), and then fishing.  He is not prepared, however, to return to the swamp… He is easing himself into it.

-luke mansfield


3 thoughts on “Big Two-Hearted River

  1. Nice observation Luke. I think the grown up Nick is quite daring. He was very dedicated to catching his fish, no matter how many times he failed. I agree with you that he’s not entirely ready for the jungle life, but he will be if he stays dedicated.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head. The whole sequence of events, which at first glance is about nothing more than a fishing trip and some pancakes, is full of symbolism. He returns to the country he once knew to find it destroyed by a fire. And most importantly, he constantly resists the temptation to keep traveling up river, into the deeper water. It is almost as if he is afraid of what he will find. Along this line, I take that to mean that although he is back home where he belongs, it is not the place he left, nor is he the man he was when he fished the river last. Even though it feels good to be back in the water, he is still not ready to explore the depths just yet. There is plenty of time to fish the deeper waters of his mind. For now, he is content to live life on the surface.


  3. I loved this entire two-part story. Every single word was used so precisely to convey Nick’s struggle with focusing solely on the present. The repetition of language while he is fishing in the river at the end, as well as the scene where he makes coffee both represent a battle that he will be fighting every day of his life. The image of the swamps as a metaphor for the darker, deeper side of humanity, as well as Nick’s desire to stay far away from them convey a tone that leaves Nick looking almost childish. Just like a young kid would speak in short, concise sentences, Hemingway describes Nick’s actions in this way, and just as we always want to save the hard parts of life for another time, Nick retreats into the repetition of a simple life in the woods as opposed to forging on to deeper waters. As we know, he has already experienced these “waters” in the war, and I’m not sure he’ll ever really be able to move on.

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