Ritualism In Hemingway's Big Two-Hearted River

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Ritualism is apparent in Hemingway’s short story “Big Two-Hearted River” with regards to Nick’s interactions with the river and nature. Through my Christian background, I recognize that this ritualism also is evidently involved with the sacrament of baptism and the Eucharist. As we discussed in class, Nick is injured due to a battle and is now attempting to recovering from that wound. However, William Bysshe Stein argues that Nick is also “afflicted by a graver injury, an acute disunity of sensibility,” as in, he is isolated and mentally lost in such a way where he needs to recover from an inner chaos caused by the wound (556). I argue, as Stein has, that in order to recover from this mental chaos, Nick uses ritual subconsciously for the sake of comfort and pleasure. All of the actions that Nick supposedly does (or imagines himself doing, which is another discussion) are known fairly well by him simply by habitually …show more content…
From the town, Nick journeys into the woods to eventually reach the river. The river, much like the town of Seney, serves as the “controlling image of [the story’s] thematic conflict” (Stein 557). Here, the earth is physically given life through the river’s water, and so too can Nick be (Stein 557). In Christianity, this giving of life is also true of water. Water is traditionally used for the sacrament (Christian ritual) of baptism, in which the catechumen (the person entering the Church) is plunged or immersed into water (baptizein in Greek meaning to “plunge” or “immerse”), symbolizing their burial into the death of Jesus Christ and their rising with him in his resurrection (Catechism of the Catholic Church para. 1214). Thus, water has a particular significance in “Big Two-Hearted River” as well, considering that Nick goes to the river to recover from the mental chaos caused by his

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