Big Two-Hearted River

Hopkins Character Analysis

Though Hopkins doesn’t appear in the story, Nick thinks about him at his camp by the river while making coffee “the way Hopkins used to.” Hopkins was a friend Nick had “a long time ago,” and Nick remembers that he was “a serious coffee drinker” and “the most serious man Nick had ever known.” He recalls several things about Hopkins: he used to play polo, had made “millions of dollars” on an oil well in Texas, and had a girlfriend whom his friends nicknamed “the Blonde Venus.” However, though Hopkins was rich, successful, and well-liked by his friends, he could not escape the tragedy of the war. Hopkins got a telegram and “went away,” which suggests that he was drafted to fight in World War I. Before he left, he gave away his pistol to Nick and his camera to another friend, Bill, and the three of them made plans to go fishing together on Hopkins’s yacht the following summer. Then, “[t]hey never saw Hopkins again,” so he most likely died in the war. Nick drinks the coffee he’s made and is amused to find that it is bitter, just like the end to Hopkins’s story. But Nick doesn’t want to think these sad thoughts about the death and destruction caused by the war, and he is glad that he tired enough to “choke” his mind from thinking more about these things. Nick’s memories of Hopkins emphasize the tragic outcomes of the war and also reveal Nick’s strategy to avoid dealing with his difficult memories by intentionally exhausting himself and “choking” his mind of all thought.

Hopkins Quotes in Big Two-Hearted River

The Big Two-Hearted River quotes below are all either spoken by Hopkins or refer to Hopkins. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Inevitability of Change  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Big Two-Hearted River published in 1987.
Part I Quotes

He could not remember which way he made coffee. He could remember an argument about it with Hopkins, but not which side he had taken. He decided to bring it to a boil. He remembered now that was Hopkins’s way. He had once argued about everything with Hopkins. […]

That was a long time ago. Hopkins […] had played polo. He made millions of dollars in Texas. […] They called Hop’s girl the Blonde Venus. […] Hopkins went away when the telegram came. That was on the Black River. […] They were all going fishing again next summer. The Hop Head was rich. He would get a yacht and they would all cruise along the north shore of Lake Superior. […] They said good-bye and all felt bad. It broke up the trip. They never saw Hopkins again. That was a long time ago on the Black River.

Nick drank the coffee, the coffee according to Hopkins. The coffee was bitter. Nick laughed. It made a good ending to the story. His mind was starting to work. He knew he could choke it because he was tired enough.

Related Characters: Nick, Hopkins
Page Number: 168-169
Explanation and Analysis:
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Hopkins Character Timeline in Big Two-Hearted River

The timeline below shows where the character Hopkins appears in Big Two-Hearted River. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I
The Inevitability of Change  Theme Icon
Physical vs. Emotional Suffering Theme Icon
...remember how he made coffee,” though he does remember that he’d argued about it with Hopkins. He decides to bring the coffee to a boil and then remembers that this was... (full context)
The Inevitability of Change  Theme Icon
Physical vs. Emotional Suffering Theme Icon
Nick watches the coffee pot boil over and thinks that it is “a triumph for Hopkins.” Instead of letting the coffee steep in the pot, Nick uses his hat to hold... (full context)
The Inevitability of Change  Theme Icon
Physical vs. Emotional Suffering Theme Icon
Hopkins played polo and made a lot of money on an oil well in Texas. They... (full context)
The Inevitability of Change  Theme Icon
Physical vs. Emotional Suffering Theme Icon
Nick drinks the coffee he’d made in the same way that Hopkins used to. It is bitter, which makes Nick laugh because it seems like a fitting... (full context)