"Big Two-Hearted River" is a two-part short story written by American author Ernest Hemingway. The story was published in the 1925 Boni & Liveright edition of In Our Time, the first American volume of Hemingway's short stories. It features a single protagonist, Hemingway's recurrent autobiographical character Nick Adams, whose speaking voice is heard just twice. Thematically, the story explores the destructive qualities of war, countered by the healing and regenerative powers of nature. When the piece was published, critics praised the quality of writing, and it is considered important in the Hemingway canon.
The story is one of Hemingway's earliest to employ his iceberg theory of writing, a modernist prose style where the underlying meaning of the work is only hinted at, rather than made explicit. "Big Two-Hearted River" is almost exclusively descriptive and almost completely abandons plot or narrative arc. At the time, Hemingway was influenced by Cézanne's paintings in which background details are less focused than those in the foreground—a method Hemingway adapts in the story. The minutiae of a camping and fishing trip are examined in great depth, while the background elements of the landscape, and most particularly an area of swamp, are given only cursory descriptions.
Famous quotes containing the words big and/or river:
“Nothing is far and nothing is near, if one desires. The world is little, people are little, human life is little. There is only one big thingdesire.”
—Willa Cather (18731947)
“The Xanthus or Scamander is not a mere dry channel and bed of a mountain torrent, but fed by the ever-flowing springs of fame ... and I trust that I may be allowed to associate our muddy but much abused Concord River with the most famous in history.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)