Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Big Two-Hearted River” is one of the most accomplished of Hemingway’s early stories, ranked in the top half-dozen of this master storyteller’s major achievements. The story is carried almost single-handedly through Hemingway’s style. There is only one character in “Big Two-Hearted River” and very little plot or action. However, much occurs. Hemingway has written a story that is much like the Big Two-Hearted River itself—so spare and clean that the reader looks down into its clear water for meaning.

The power of the story comes in large part from its descriptions, which give the action with an economy of word and picture. There is no dialogue, and only a few times does Nick Adams allow himself to think. For most of the story, readers are observing Nick moving simply in this natural setting:Nick went over to the pack and found, with his fingers, a long nail in a paper sack of nails, in the bottom of the pack. He drove it into the pine tree, holding it close and hitting it gently with the flat of the ax. He hung the pack up on the nail. All his supplies were in the pack. They were off the ground and sheltered now.

This lean, economical prose actually intensifies the psychological situation of the story. The prose is dramatic and objective, but right below the surface (or, in the other seven-eighths of Hemingway’s “iceberg”) is a man barely under control, who must cut off his own thoughts. The tightly controlled surface of...

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Big Two-Hearted River Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Benson, Jackson J., ed. New Critical Approaches to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990.

Berman, Ronald. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ernest Hemingway. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2005.

Burgess, Anthony. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999.

Flora, Joseph M. Ernest Hemingway: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1989.

Hays, Peter L. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Continuum, 1990.

Hotchner, A. E. Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir. New ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999.

Meyers, Jeffrey. Hemingway: A Biography. 1985. Reprint. New York: Da Capo Press, 1999.

Padura Fuentes, Leonardo. Adiós Hemingway. Translated by John King. New York: Canongate, 2005.

Reynolds, Michael. The Young Hemingway. New York: Blackwell, 1986.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Paris Years. New York: Blackwell, 1989.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Homecoming. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The 1930’s. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Final Years. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

Rovit, Earl, and Arthur Waldhorn, eds. Hemingway and Faulkner in Their Time. New York: Continuum, 2005.

Wagner-Martin, Linda, ed. Hemingway: Seven Decades of Criticism. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998.