Study Guide

Big Two-Hearted River (Parts I and II) Summary

By Ernest Hemingway

Big Two-Hearted River (Parts I and II) Summary

Nick gets off the train near the former town of Seney, Michigan, in a countryside that is more charred than a forgotten microwave dinner. He sees the river and watches the trout at the bottom. Looks like he’s planning on doing some fishing. He gets his pack and hikes towards the river, noticing as he does that the grasshoppers have turned black from the burned landscape. Eventually, because he’s hiking a long way, he takes a nap.

Nick wakes up and makes toward the river. He’s looking for the campsite to end all campsites. Once he finds it he goes about doing camp-y things, like pitching the tent and cooking canned food over the fire. Then he makes some coffee, which sends him into a reminiscence about someone named Hopkins. Then it’s bedtime for Nick.

The next morning, Nick wakes up all excited to go fishing. He goes into a meadow and catches grasshoppers before they are warmed enough to hop away. For breakfast he makes himself some mouthwatering pancakes.

Nick gets all of his fishing gear together and hits the river. The first fish Nick gets is too small, and he lets it go. But the next fish is a real doozy, and Nick has to let it go because it almost breaks the leader. This incident leaves Nick pretty shaky.

Nick takes a break to smoke a cigarette and then decides to fish near an uprooted tree. There he gets his first fish. He then sees a beech tree hanging down and knows that there will be big fish there, but he doesn’t want his line to get tangled in the branches. But just for kicks Nick lets his line wander there, and he hooks a fish that quickly escapes. So much for that.

Nick sees a log ahead and casts his line toward it. He hooks a fish, but then the line goes slack and Nick thinks that he’s lost it. But then Nick sees him in the current, and reels him upstream into his net. So that’s Number Two. Nick decides that two is plenty.

Nick goes to the log and sits down to eat his lunch. He looks at the swamp into which the river flows and feels a dark and ominous feeling about it. He doesn’t want to fish in it today. So he cleans and guts the fish he has and decides that there will be plenty of other days to fish in the swamp.

The end. No really. That’s the whole thing summed up quickly for you. Pretty quiet story, right?

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