Indian Camp

by

Ernest Hemingway

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Nick Adams Character Analysis

Nick is the young protagonist of the story, brought along by his father and Uncle George on a trip to a nearby Native American encampment to care for an “Indian lady” who has been in labor for two days because her child is being born in breech position (meaning bottom instead of head first). The narrator doesn’t make clear how old Nick is, but his childlike questions throughout make it seem that he is years from reaching puberty. Nick a curious boy who idolizes his father as a paragon of strength and wisdom. The trip begins as an occasion for Nick to learn about some of life’s realities, but things quickly go awry as it becomes clear that the Indian woman will need to be given an emergency cesarean. At some point during the procedure her husband takes his own life, leaving behind a bloody scene which Nick glimpses despite his father’s attempts to shield him from the sight. Nick leaves the “Indian camp” shaken. On the trip home, he retreats into his father’s arms, believing that he will never die.

Nick Adams Quotes in Indian Camp

The Indian Camp quotes below are all either spoken by Nick Adams or refer to Nick Adams. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Birth and Death Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Indian Camp published in 1987.
Indian Camp Quotes

Inside on a wooden bunk lay a young Indian woman. She had been trying to have her baby for two days. All the old women in the camp had been helping her. The men had moved off up the road to sit in the dark and smoke out of range of the noise she made. She screamed just as Nick and the two Indians followed his father and Uncle George into the shanty.

Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

“Listen to me. What she is going through is called being in labor. The baby wants to be born and she wants it to be born. All her muscles are trying to get the baby born. That is what happening when she screams.”

Related Characters: Nick’s Father (speaker), Nick Adams, The Indian Woman
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

“Oh, Daddy, can’t you give her something to make her stop screaming?” asked Nick.

“No. I haven’t any anesthetic,” his father said. “But her screams are not important. I don’t hear them because they are not important.”

Related Characters: Nick Adams (speaker), Nick’s Father (speaker), The Indian Woman
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

“Those must boil,” he said, and began to scrub his hands in the basin of hot water with a cake of soap he had brought from the camp. Nick watched his father’s hand scrubbing each other with the soap. While his father washed his hands very carefully and thoroughly, he talked.

Related Characters: Nick’s Father (speaker), Nick Adams
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

“Now,” his father said, “there’s some stitches to put in. You can watch this or not, Nick, just as you like. I’m going to sew the incision I made.”

Nick did not watch. His curiosity had been gone for a long time.

Related Characters: Nick’s Father (speaker), Nick Adams
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

“Why did he kill himself, Daddy?”

“I don’t know, Nick. He couldn’t stand things, I guess.”

[…]

“Is dying hard, Daddy?”

“No, I think it’s pretty easy Nick. It all depends.”

Related Characters: Nick Adams (speaker), Nick’s Father (speaker), The Indian Woman’s Husband
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills […] In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.

Related Characters: Nick Adams, Nick’s Father
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Indian Camp LitChart as a printable PDF.
Indian Camp PDF

Nick Adams Character Timeline in Indian Camp

The timeline below shows where the character Nick Adams appears in Indian Camp. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Indian Camp
Growing Up Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Cross-Cultural Encounters  Theme Icon
Nick Adams, Nick’s father, and Uncle George arrive at the shore of a lake where “two... (full context)
Masculinity Theme Icon
Cross-Cultural Encounters  Theme Icon
...a cigar, and gives one to each of the Indians as well. The Indians lead Nick’s family across a meadow and through the dark woods by lantern light until they reach... (full context)
Birth and Death Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Nick’s father orders water to be boiled. He turns to Nick and explains that the Indian... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Cross-Cultural Encounters  Theme Icon
The older women signal that the water has boiled. Nick’s father pours half of the water into a basin, using it to scrub his hands... (full context)
Masculinity Theme Icon
Cross-Cultural Encounters  Theme Icon
Later, Nick’s father begins a Caesarian section to deliver the baby. Uncle George and three Native American... (full context)
Birth and Death Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Throughout the surgery, Nick holds the basin of water for his father. After a long procedure, Nick’s father successfully... (full context)
Birth and Death Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Cross-Cultural Encounters  Theme Icon
...are closed, she’s pale, and doesn’t know if the baby is alive or not. Meanwhile, Nick’s father is triumphant after the successful delivery. He informs the mother that he will be... (full context)
Birth and Death Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Cross-Cultural Encounters  Theme Icon
Nick’s father remarks that they should check the father because “they’re usually the worst sufferers in... (full context)
Birth and Death Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Now outside the shanty, Nick’s father apologizes to his son for taking him on the trip. Nick, trying to reflect... (full context)
Birth and Death Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
As Nick’s father rows his son back across the lake, away from the camp, the narrator notices... (full context)