Shell shock was a psychological condition first encountered in troops returning from the battlefields of the First World War. Although at first many blew it off as mere cowardice on the part of the soldiers, the severity of this condition was not realized until the troops came home. Some were so deeply psychologically damaged that they lost control of their bodies to convulsing tremors, and some would dive to the floor at the mere mention of the word “bomb”. Although the condition of Nick Adams in “Big Two-Hearted River” by Ernest Hemingway was not this severe, he is still very disturbed by what he witnessed in Europe during the war. He returns to the forest he cherished and roamed in his childhood years to mentally bring himself back from the battle fields, to forget the atrocities he witnessed and reminisce in the joys of his childhood. The function of Arcadia in “Big Two-Hearted River” is Nick’s place of healing, a happy place from his childhood.
Nick is just returning from fighting in the first Great War in Europe, which began over a discrepancy between two European countries, and was escalated and propagated by treaties and alliances between other European countries. Nick was shipped off to a foreign country on the other side of the globe to suffer through months of hardship in the putrid trenches of the Western Front. He returns to Michigan to be home again, somewhere he is welcome, where he belongs. He feels one with the forest, he doesn’t fight there, he is sheltered. As a child he went there and felt safe and in control, which is what he wanted when he returned home, he knows very well how to live in the forest. There are no other people or even signs of human inhabitation, all that was burned away in the fire, he is happy being alone and taking care of himself, he no longer is forced to obey others commands in the Army. The forest is quiet and calming, there are no machine guns, bombs, or tanks, a harsh contrast to the cacophonous battlefields of...
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