Islands in the Stream Part 1, Chapter 15 Summary

Ernest Hemingway

Part 1, Chapter 15 Summary

As Thomas Hudson crosses the Atlantic by boat, he reflects that, unlike Dante’s Inferno, hell is a ship designed for comfort taking him to a place he always looked forward to with anticipation but now views with dread. He boarded the ship early in New York to avoid meeting people who would feel compelled to express their condolences on the death of his sons. He had hoped he could come to terms with his sorrow, but he soon realized this is impossible. He decides to spend the passage drinking and reading. In the news magazines, he reads the report of the deaths of his boys and his ex-wife, but he feels nothing, most likely due to the whiskey.

Thomas Hudson wonders why the boys’ mother took them to Biarritz when St. Jean-de-Luz is so much better. When he thinks this in such a cold-hearted way, he realizes the alcohol is taking effect. He further thinks he should give them up, stop grieving, and get on with the business of life.

As the ship begins to move, Thomas Hudson berates himself for loving his sons too much. He also regrets ever loving their mother. He realizes the whiskey is taking over. His thoughts turn to Roger and Audrey. He wonders where they are so he can get in touch with them with the news. He thinks the bank will get in touch with Tom. He decides that he had better exercise the next day to sweat out all the alcohol.

In the night when he awakens, Thomas Hudson feels the movement of the boat and smells the scent of the sea and thinks for a moment that he is back on the island. Then he remembers, and he realizes that the past few days are not just a bad dream. He sees a tray of sandwiches that the steward brought in the evening before. Knowing that he needs to eat something, he eats a sandwich and a couple of apples, then has another drink. He finds that he enjoys drinking at night, though he had previously made it a rule to avoid this. Now it makes him feel good, as if he is breaking training. It is the first glimmer of happiness he has felt since he received the news of David and Andrew’s deaths. He reads magazine after magazine, priding himself in the belief that he has accomplished moving forward with his life.