Big Two-Hearted River

Themes and Colors
The Inevitability of Change  Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Physical vs. Emotional Suffering Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Big Two-Hearted River, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

In “Big Two-Hearted River,” Nick, the protagonist, is constantly confronted by change. He arrives at the town of Seney, Michigan, on a solitary fishing trip and finds that the town has burned to the ground since he was last there. Seney is deserted, its saloons and houses are completely destroyed, and the fire has affected the landscape and wildlife. These specific changes are bleak and depressing, but Nick also appears to view change…

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Nick, the protagonist of “Big Two-Hearted River,” has returned from World War I and intends to head to a familiar place he remembers—the wilderness outside the town of Seney, Michigan—so he can begin to collect himself. However, when he reaches Seney, he finds it has completely burned down, and is disconcerted by its unfamiliar, desolated landscape. As Nick makes his way down to the river, the rejuvenating power of nature soothes and…

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In “Big Two-Hearted River,” Nick arrives in the burned-down town of Seney, Michigan, on a hot day, ready for a solo camping trip. He walks uphill to set up camp the river, carrying not only a very heavy pack but also unpleasant memories and emotions associated with World War I, from which he has just returned. While Nick faces both physical and mental suffering in the story, he seems to prefer physical discomfort…

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