In Ernest Hemmingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River”, Nick returns home after the war and visits a favorite fishing spot. Dual sides of Nick are shown as he ventures within nature and manifest in his consciousness and subconsciousness. While Nick’s conscious self wants to divert all attention from thoughts of the past, his subconscious thoughts occasionally slip through and reveal that he wishes to confront his past and move forward. Nick allows his consciousness to be submerged by the scenery, and in focusing on nature and the menial tasks at hand he is able to repress the memories and feelings that are associated with the war. Nick’s subconscious thoughts and worries are however reflected within nature to show that change brought on by war and found in nature can be unsettling. Though the story is told through the use of third person narration that allows the reader to view the surroundings from Nick’s perspective, Nick’s actual thoughts and feelings are never revealed to the reader. Because thoughts provide insight to a person’s feelings, motivation, and, character, by leaving out Nick’s thoughts, Hemmingway shows that Nick has lost all sense of self. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that besides returning to nature in order to experience a form of healing, Nick seeks to find his sense of self and belonging that had been lost during the war as well as comes to terms with his past. Through the use of sensory details and third person narration, Hemmingway shows that the thoughts and feelings of people are projected onto the landscape and that nature serves as a unifying force that collects and pieces together the fragmented pieces of a person’s identity as seen with Nick who comes to terms with his past and rediscovers his sen…
…rejects a place among people and instead chooses a place within nature which becomes the place where he belongs. As Nick spend more time within nature, the part of him that had been consumed by the horrors of war emerges and he finds his sense of self. Aspects of Nick’s character such as his compassion and respect for nature that he had possessed before the war are brought back to Nick because nature slowly healed him as he spent more time there. At the end of the story when Nick thinks that “There [are] plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp” (992) showing that though Nick will not face his past now, he will do so in the future. Hemingway
Hemingway, Ernest. “Big Two-Hearted River.” American Fiction Between The Wars. Ed. HaroldBloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Pub (L), 2005. 980-92. Clark I. Draney-AcademicSite. Web. 22 May 2014.