Nick And The River From Hemingway


Nick And The River From Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” Essay, Research Paper

Nick and the River

by Kirk Wintermute

In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Big Two-Hearted

River,” there are very few obvious relationships. But the

relationship that is most important to the story is that of the

main character, Nick, and the river itself. Nick’s feelings

towards the river extend beyond the banks and the waters to

its inhabitants. While Nick may not actually speak to the river

during the story, he does relate to it and show definite

feelings of contentment and fondness towards it throughout

the story.

As the story begins, Nick walks through the burned-out

town of Seney and immediately he approaches the river. As

he looks down on the water, Nick shows more emotion than

usual: “It was a long time since Nick had looked into a

stream and seen trout. They were very satisfactory.” While

Nick shows little to no emotion when he walks through an

entire town burned to the ground, he is rather moved as he

sees the trout in the stream: “Nick’s heart tightened as the

trout moved. He felt all the old feeling.”

Another instance where Nick’s feelings are expressed in

an uncharacteristic manner is when, after making camp on the

river, Nick awakens with excitement at the thought of going

fishing on his first day: “The river was clear and smoothly

fast in the early morning. Nick was excited. He was excited

by the early morning and the river.” This is out of character

for Nick, because he does not seem like the sort of person

who is easily excited at all. On the contrary, he seems to be a

generally sullen and unexcited type of person.

Also, fishing on the river appears to be one of the few

things in Nick’s life that makes him genuinely happy and

content. As he trods down to the river on his first day of

fishing on his trip, weighed down by all kinds of gear, from a

flour bag, to his fly rod, to a bottle of grasshoppers, Nick is

cheerful: “Nick felt awkward and professionally happy with all

his equipment hanging from him. The grasshopper bottle

swung against his chest. In his shirt the breast pockets

bulged against him with his lunch and his fly book.” Fishing

appears to be one of the few things in Nick’s life in which he

can take joy in.

In conclusion, Nick has very definite feelings of devotion

for the river. Nick has a chance to actually display his

emotions and perhaps to indulge in them when he is on the

river where he loves to be. Nick cherishes the river as a place

he can go to be isolated and be wholly content and happy.

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