The only complete character in Islands in the Stream is Thomas Hudson—although readers never learn very much about him either. All the other characters are either reflections of Hudson (his sons, Roger Davis) or antagonists (women and some of his crew, such as Willie). Hudson stands in the direct line of Hemingway heroes, from Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises (1926) through Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms (1929) to Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). All of these characters have lost something crucial and stand in imminent danger of losing much more. There is a tension in all of them, both because the surface of life may explode at any moment (as it does in the end for Thomas Hudson) and because the characters themselves are often in the process of repressing thoughts and feelings (as Thomas Hudson does throughout the last two parts).
In part 1, Hudson has built a secure life through work: “He knew he must keep working now or he would lose the security he had built for himself with work.” In parts 2 and 3, he holds to the concept of “duty” to keep himself intact: “Duty is a wonderful thing. I do not know what I would have done without duty since young Tom died.” Yet there is always the danger that he may come apart or give in to drink. By the end of part 3, Hudson can barely cover up “all the hollownesses in him.”
Thomas Hudson resembles Hemingway even more than the...
(The entire section is 512 words.)