There is not really a metaphor for fish in the short story "Big Two-Hearted River" by Ernest Hemingway . The fish in the river are literally present, and Nick's fishing constitutes the main arc of the story. Instead, as discussed above in other answers, the fish stand as...
There is not really a metaphor for fish in the short story "Big Two-Hearted River" by Ernest Hemingway. The fish in the river are literally present, and Nick's fishing constitutes the main arc of the story. Instead, as discussed above in other answers, the fish stand as a metaphor for the state of Nick's inner self. To understand this distinction, it helps to discuss the nature of metaphor.
A metaphor is defined as an implicit comparison not using such explicit comparative words as "like" or "as." Explicit comparisons, such as Robert Burns' "My love is like a red, red rose," are called similes. A metaphor, though, is more subtle, such as John Donne's line "Till age snow white hairs on thee." In this line, snow is being compared to old age, in that it makes hair white. This leads us to the two major parts of the metaphor:
- Vehicle: The vehicle is used to convey the central idea of the metaphor. In the line by Donne, the snow is the vehicle, used to illustrate the poet's idea of aging. Snow here is a concrete image being used to illustrate something more abstract. In Hemingway, the fish is the vehicle.
- Tenor: This is the point of the metaphor, in Donne the nature of old age and the passage of time. In Hemingway's story the tenor is Nick's psyche.
In Hemingway's story, the fish and the fishing trip itself are the vehicles that the author uses to describe Nick's gradual healing from the trauma of war. Nick's internal psychological state, and the psychological wounds of war he bears (what we might now call PTSD), are the tenor of the metaphor.
The successively better fish Nick catches serve as metaphors for how Nick himself gradually recovers from his war time experiences by reconnecting with the natural world. Thus we would describe the fish as metaphors for Nick, rather than talking about metaphorical fish, for the fish are, in fact, literally present in the story.