Indian Camp

From LitWiki
“Indian Camp”
AuthorErnest Hemingway
CountryUnited States
Published inTransatlantic Review
Publication date1924

“Indian Camp” is a 1924 short story by Ernest Hemingway.



Nick is a young boy who goes on a trip with his dad to an Indian Camp. He has no idea of what he is going to encounter when he arrives because his father did not tell him where they were going or why. The story is based on Nick's experiences at the Indian Camp.

Nick's father

Nick's father is a doctor who goes to the Indian Camp to help a young Indian woman give birth to her baby. Towards Nick, he is very caring and he seems to be a good father. He brings his child Nick along on the outing, expecting to show him examples of life and work. He's a manly figure and responds to his reality with confidence.

Uncle George

Uncle George goes along with Nick and his father to the Indian Camp. He doesn't seem to be as nice and caring as Nick's father. The narrator of the story gives the reader the impression that he doesn't have any sort of attachments, and shows up whenever he wants to. Textual evidence suggests that George might be the baby’s father.

Young Indian Woman

The young Indian woman has been in labor for two days. Her baby is not turned correctly and Nick's father, the doctor, must operate on her. The doctor performs a Caesarian with a joack-knife and then sews her up with nine-foot, tapered gut leaders. She is took weak to see her baby after it is born.

Indian Woman's Husband

The story presents the spouse as a hapless spectator.[1] He's profoundly tormented by his better half's shouts, yet can't offer her the assistance she needs.[1] There's nothing left but to remain close by and witness Nick's dad's a hard yet effective treatment of her.[2] This condition wears on him In the end, he cuts his own throat with a razor for some reason which has never been known.[2]

Native Americans

They are described by their action of helping the white man when requires. There is no specific names for them in the story.(10,20)


Nick and his father set out for the Indian Camp during the nighttime and come back during the day. This is a metaphor for Nick not knowing what he is going to encounter and then coming out of the whole situation by learning a few life lessons. "Other metaphoric relationships (father and son, white man and Indian, middle-class and poor) serve important purposes in this compelling story"(34).

The story starts by covering Nick and different characters in the corner of the night as they plan for their excursion. For Nick, this excursion is into the obscure, at last, to observe birth and death. The story builds up the comparability between birth and passing by portraying both as vicious. The lady in the story is in pain because her child is brought into the world in a breech position, and for quite a long time she has been suffering. While her shouts are agonizing, Nick's dad recommends that this aggravation is a characteristic piece of the birthing process. Besides, since she can't convey the child normally, Nick's dad works on her without the sedative. When she delivers the child, Nick's dad keeps an eye on the man in the top bunk, he tracks down a horrifying scene, the man had cut his throat. It appears to be while watching the woman giving birth made him kill himself, the birth and death is a metaphor.(28-31)(34)

Plot Summary

“Indian Camp” is a narrative about a child named Nick going on a journey to experience the aspects of life and death. Nick’s father has been requested to help an Indian lady who has been in painful labor for two days. His father takes his son, Nick, and his brother, George, to witness the birth of a child. The woman in labor is located on an island. She’s sheltered in a shanty, laying on a wooden bunk bed. The father delivers the baby in a horrendous way, causing suffering to the lady throughout the process. Afterward, the father discovers that the woman's husband committed suicide by slitting his throat. Nick witnesses the whole situation. During the journey back home, Nick asks his father questions about the incidents, and His father explains to him what happened. After the conversation, Nick begins to have the sensibility of bravery and immortality. He feels, “that he would never die”.

Major Themes

One major theme of this story is how Nick matured after he witnessed both life and death.[citation needed] He went into the camp as being a young inexperienced boy and came out being confused about death. The trip started out as just being a doctor with his son going into an Indian camp to deliver a baby. Not only does he learn about new life by watching the woman give birth, he learns that sometimes women go through great pain. Women can sometimes have difficulty having children. One of these reasons could be because the baby is not turned the correct way. His father explains to him that babies should be born head first and that when they are not it can cause trouble for everybody. [29]

While they were there, the baby's father committed suicide. Nick witnessed birth and death on this trip. He came out with questions about life and death he would have never had before. Although Nick did mature a great deal, he is still young and doesn't fully understand everything he witnessed. ". . .he felt quite sure he would never die"(31). Nick doesn't yet understand that everyone has to die at some point in their life.[citation needed]

Another theme of the story was how the doctor treated the Indians in the story. He was very caring towards Nick, but when it came to the Indians he acted as if they had no feelings. "But her screams are not important. I don't hear them because they are not important"(29). He didn't seem to care that he was in terrible pain and just continued with the surgery.

The point of a white doctor being called to aid the Indians helps push the notion that Western medicine had also advanced to the point that it's seemingly leaving Indian practices at the time obsolete.[citation needed]

There is also the father and son theme. The father have wish to educate his son, his son understood very well and also at the end asking questions instead of just receive his father's information." Do ladies always have such a hard time having babies, why did he kill himself Daddy, is dying hard?"(55,60)

The story gives Nick two options for reacting to ladies' torment-and the experience in this story is suffering. The primary option is to relate to the lady, as the Indian's better half decides to do. He feels for her so that he can presently don't bear her aggravation and closures his life.' Hemingway makes it her experiencing that inconveniences the man.[3]

A theme of “Indian Camp” is growth.[4] Nick and his father Dr. Adams are on vacation, when he is called to have a women deliver a child. Dr. Adams decides to bring his son who we can tell is preadolescent to witness his work. We know this about Nick because, “Nick’s willingness to have his father on the ride across the lake, contact teenagers are more likely to eschew.”[5] This would be shocking for anyone to watch, especially a young boy. At the beginning before the operation begins Nick is asking questions about what is happening to the Indian women. By the end of it we see Nick’s “Looking away so as not to see what his father was doing,” “indicates his attempt to shut his eyes to what he has already witnessed.”[6] There is no telling what it would do to a child to see his father operate in those conditions and all while being asked to assist. After doing so, they go to check on the father, to discover he is dead after committing suicide. This provided another “shock to the boy and adding to the quick birth-to-death cycle.”[6] At the end of the story Nick is no longer clinging to his father on the way back to the camp showing he is no longer the scared boy clinging to his father, like he was before.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sipiora 2002, p. 29.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sipiora 2002, p. 30.
  3. Tyler 2006, p. 38.
  4. Hays 2013, p. 207.
  5. Hays 2013, p. 208.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hays 2013, p. 209.
  7. Hays 2013, p. 210.

Works Cited

See also: Annotated Bibliography.

  • Hays, Peter (2013). "Teaching 'Indian Camp'". In Hays, Peter (ed.). Fifty Years of Hemingway Criticism. Scarecrow Press. pp. 207–210.
  • Hemingway, Ernest (2002). "Indian Camp". In Sipiora, Phillip (ed.). Reading and Writing about Literature. Upper Saddle Creek, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 28–31.
  • Robinson, Daniel (2020). "Cultural Appropriation, Acculturation, and Fatherhood: A Reading of 'Indian Camp'". CEAMagazine: A Journal of the College English Association. 28: 39–50.
  • Tyler, Lisa (January 1, 2006). "Dangerous Families and Intimate Harm in Hemingway's 'Indian Camp'". Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 48 (1): 37–53.