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Islands in the Stream (novel)

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Title: Islands in the Stream (novel)  
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Subject: Ernest Hemingway, Pilar (boat), Mary Welsh Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, Novels by Ernest Hemingway
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Islands in the Stream (novel)

Islands in the Stream
First edition cover
Author Ernest Hemingway
Cover artist Paul Bacon[1]
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication date

Islands in the Stream (1970) is the first of the posthumously published works of Ernest Hemingway. The book was originally intended to revive Hemingway’s reputation after the negative reviews of Across the River and Into the Trees. He began writing it in 1950 and advanced greatly through 1951. The work, rough but seemingly finished, was found by Mary Hemingway among 332 works Hemingway left behind at his death. Islands in the Stream was meant to encompass three stories to illustrate different stages in the life of its main character, Thomas Hudson. The three different parts of the novel were originally to be entitled "The Sea When Young", "The Sea When Absent" and "The Sea in Being". These titles were changed, however, into what are now its three acts: "Bimini", "Cuba", and "At Sea".


  • Background 1
  • Plot 2
  • Real Life Influences 3
    • Henry "Mike" Strater 3.1
    • Gerald and Sara Murphy 3.2
    • Hunting for U-Boats 3.3
  • Footnotes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Early in 1950 Hemingway started work on a "sea trilogy", to consist of three sections: "The Sea When Young" (set in Bimini); "The Sea When Absent" (set in Havana); and "The Sea in Being". The last was published in 1952 as The Old Man and the Sea.[2] He also wrote an unpublished story, "Sea-Chase", which his wife and editor combined with the previous stories about the islands, renamed them as Islands in the Stream, which was published in 1970.[3]


The first act, "Bimini", begins with an introduction to the character of Thomas Hudson, a classic Hemingway stoic male figure. Hudson is a renowned American painter who finds tranquility on the island of Bimini, in the Bahamas, a far cry from his usual adventurous lifestyle. Hudson’s strict routine of work is interrupted when his three sons arrive for the summer and is the setting for most of the act. Also introduced in this act is the character of Roger Davis, a writer, one of Hudson’s oldest friends. Though similar to Hudson, by struggling with an unmentioned internal conflict, Davis seems to act as a more dynamic and outgoing image of Hudson’s character. The act ends with Hudson receiving news of the death of his two youngest children soon after they leave the island.

"Cuba" takes place soon thereafter during the Second World War in Havana, Cuba where we are introduced to an older and more distant Hudson who has just received news of his oldest (and last) son’s death in the war. This second act introduces us to a more cynical and introverted Hudson who spends his days on the island drinking heavily and doing naval reconnaissance for the US military aboard Hudson's yacht, converted to an auxiliary patrol boat.

"At Sea", the final act, follows Hudson and a team of irregulars aboard their boat as they track and pursue survivors of a sunken German U-boat along the Jardines del Rey archipelago on the northern coast of Cuba. Hudson becomes intent on finding the fleeing Germans after he finds they massacred an entire village to cover their escape. The novel ends with a shoot-out and the destruction of the Germans in one of the tidal channels surrounding Cayo Guillermo. Hudson is presumably mortally wounded in the gun battle, although the ending is slightly ambiguous. During the chase, Hudson stops questioning the death of his children. This chapter rings heavily with influences of Hemingway’s earlier work For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Real Life Influences

Henry Strater and Hemingway in Bimini

Hemingway used many of his real life experiences, friends, and relatives, to form his stories and base his characters on.

Henry "Mike" Strater

Henry Strater, an American painter, spent the summer with Hemingway fishing on Bimini in 1935.[4] He is shown in the picture to the right standing next to what was believed to be a 1,000 pound Marlin that had been half eaten by sharks while Strater landed the fish.

Gerald and Sara Murphy

While on Bimini, The Murphys, good friends of Hemingway, lost their young son, Baoth, to illness. Hemingway's grief for the loss is captured in letters to the Murphys.[5]

Hunting for U-Boats

During WW II, Hemingway hunted for U-Boats aboard his boat Pilar. His boat was outfitted with communications gear provided by the US Embassy in Havana.[6][7]


  1. ^ Modern first editions - a set on Flickr
  2. ^ Baker 1972, pp. 381–382
  3. ^ Baker 1972, p. 384
  4. ^ "Henry Strater’s Ogunquit Museum of American Art". 
  5. ^  
  6. ^ "Cuba". 
  7. ^ "The Hemingway Patrols: The Old Man and the U-Boats". 


  • Burwell, Rose Marie. Hemingway: the postwar years and the posthumous novels. New York:  
  • Meyers, Jeffrey (1985). Hemingway: A Biography. London:  
  • Mellow, James R. (1992). Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. New York:  
  • Oliver, Charles M. (1999). Ernest Hemingway A to Z: The Essential Reference to the Life and Work. New York: Checkmark.  

External links

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