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Is it possible that Ernest Hemingway’s story “Big Two-Hearted River” doesn’t have an iceberg? Is it possible that there is nothing below the surface of “Big Two-Hearted River” except fish?
From various readings about Hemingway’s life, fishing was a beautiful experience for him. So it comes as no surprise that he needs no other ulterior motive to make writing about fishing a beautiful experience.
In this story, Nick Adams, a recurring Hemingway character, takes a train to somewhere in Michigan. I’m guessing at Michigan, here, simply because Lake Superior is mentioned and other Nick Adams stories are set in Michigan.
All of the Nick Adams stories I’ve read give the sense of a past and a future. “Big Two-Hearted River” is no different; however, the present is more of a focal point than in other stories. And the present involves Nick setting up camp and fishing with vintage Hemingway descriptions. Nick is fishing by himself and while an alone-ness prevails over the story it only enhances the beauty of the experience. There is something different here from loneliness or isolation:
Out through the front of the tent he watched the blow of the fire, when the night wind blew on it. It was a quiet night. The swamp was perfectly quiet. Nick stretched under the blanket comfortably. A mosquito hummed close to his ear. Nick sat up and lit a match. The mosquito was on the canvas, over his head. Nick moved the match quickly up to it. The mosquito made a satisfactory hiss in the flame. The match went out. Nick lay down again under the blanket. He turned on his side and shut his eyes. He was sleepy. He felt sleep coming. He curled up under the blanket and went to sleep.
I read this story because I selected the King of Spades for Week 15 of my Deal Me In 2016 short story project. “Big Two-Hearted River” is included in my copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. My Deal Me In 2016 list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.