Big Two-Hearted River

by Ernest Hemingway

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What is the theme of “Big Two Hearted River” and how is it communicated? Also, I do not understand why it is important that the war is not directly analyzed or discussed as well as Nick’s efforts at self reconstruction.

Nick Adams travels to his hometown of Seney, Michigan where he finds that the town has been completely destroyed by fire. He goes fishing in a nearby river and has happy memories of his father there. He catches a large trout and takes it home.

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Hemingway communicates his theme in “Big Two-Hearted River ” by paralleling and contrasting Nick Adams experience in World War I with his homecoming to Seney, Michigan. Upon arriving at the burned over town, Nick is in a place much like that of the battlefields of WWI. Seney is burned...

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over so that no building is left standing and even the foundation stones of the Mansion Hotel are cracked. Hemingway does not directly recount Nick’s war experiences, because leaving them as haunting memories adds both to the mystery of the story and the enigmatic character of Nick Adams.

One of the major themes of the story is the healing of nature. Nick first encounters this when he spies the trout at the bottom of the river. The trout are in their right place with nature. Nick has been out of place with nature for years, but has now come home and desires to fit in once again.

Another major theme of the story is the river itself. Just what the two hearts are, is the subject of much speculation. Are they the hearts of Nick and his father? Of nature and humankind? Of the past and the present? Perhaps the river represents all of these and more. One thing is certain, the river represents a journey (like rivers do in most literature) and Nick takes a journey up the river to find himself.

A third major theme of the story is the swamp. The swamp has deep psychological significance for Nick Adams. The fact that he does not wish to go into the swamp suggests that it represents repressed memor

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