In Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River”, the setting ties the story together, representing life after war for Nick Adams. Everything at home was burnt down and abandoned, representing the feeling of a veteran returning home from war.
Hemingway represented Nick’s post war feelings via his environment, representing how home was no longer how it used it to be. When he returned from war, there was not even a town but instead rails and a burned-over country. There wasn’t even a trace of the thirteen saloons that were once there and the surface was burned to the ground. The setting Hemingway used is a reflection of Nick Adams’ feelings of loneliness.
No one truly understands the life of a warrior such as Nick. He faced a physical and mental challenge. In many cases, the challenge leaves mental scarring, changing the veteran forever just as Nick was changed and left feeling alone. When he arrived, he expected to look out and see houses scattered throughout the town but instead found nothing but the river. He spent his time alone in the lonely setting of the river because there now wasn’t anyone else there to accompany him.
The setting after war was a change for Nick, allowing him to have new freedoms he didn’t have at war. Unlike at war, Nick was now able to choose what he wanted to do, how he wanted to do it, and when he wanted to do it. Compared to the setting at war where Nick had orders to follow, Nick now had a new sense of freedom. A sense of freedom he wasn’t used to having after fighting.
In conclusion, Hemingway used the comparisons of the two settings, the setting of war vs. the setting at home, to represent Nick and his new life style that was effected by war.
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