Ernest Hemingway's Big Two-Hearted River and Sigmund Freud Essay

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Ernest Hemingway's Big Two-Hearted River and Sigmund Freud

Ernest Hemingway’s “iceberg theory” suggests that the writer include in the text only a small portion of what he knows, leaving about ninety percent of the content a mystery that grows beneath the surface of the writing. This type of writing lends itself naturally to a version of dream-interpretation, as this story structure mirrors the structure of the mind—the restrained, composed tip of the unconscious and the vast body of subconscious that is censored by the ego. Psychoanalyzing Hemingway’s fiction is double-sided—we must first analyze the manifest and latent contents that he probably intended, i.e., “This fishing trip will be a metaphor for a sexual act,” and
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Nick sat down on the bundle of canvas and bedding the baggage man had pitched out of the door of the baggage car. There was no town, nothing but the rails and the burned-over country (Hemingway 133).

The first image of the story is one of death; “Dying is replaced in dreams by departure, by a train journey” (Freud Lectures 190), and each proceeding image indicates the death of the woman. The baggage man throws his baggage from the doorway of the car, and as “doors and gates are symbols of the genital orifice,” (Freud Lectures 192), it can be assumed that here Hemingway is associating Hemingway’s “things” in his baggage, to be crude, to his “thing.” After the departure of the train, i.e., the departure of the woman, the landscape is described as burned and annihilated. “The complicated topography of the female genital parts makes one understand how it is that they are often represented as landscapes, with rocks, woods, and water” (Freud Lectures 192). The narrator also notices only hills where once there were houses, typically male images taking the place of the homes, “the symbol of a woman as being a space which encloses human beings” (Freud Lectures 201). Within the first two paragraphs of “Big Two-Hearted River,” Hemingway covers half of Freud’s “Symbolism in Dreams.”

Immediately following the brief death and ensuing absence of the woman, the narrator, Nick, turns to the river,
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