Indian Camp

by

Ernest Hemingway

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Nick’s Father Character Analysis

Nick’s father is a doctor who travels to an “Indian camp” to help deliver a baby. He brings his son Nick along on the trip, hoping to teach him lessons about life and work. He’s a decisively masculine figure, and reacts to his world with self-assurance, stoicism, and grit—and not a small amount of male chauvinism. Regarding the pained screams of the woman in childbirth, Nick’s father says that he doesn’t hear them “because they are not important.” Ultimately, Nick’s father’s emotionally distant behavior both supports and undermines his goals; it helps him successfully perform a complex operation in an intense situation, but prevents him from empathizing other people, leading him to treat the Indian woman and her husband without care and to put Nick through a traumatic situation, exposing him at a young age not only to the gruesome realities of a complicated birth, but to the even more gruesome realities of death and suicide.

Nick’s Father Quotes in Indian Camp

The Indian Camp quotes below are all either spoken by Nick’s Father or refer to Nick’s Father. 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:

He was feeling exalted and talkative as football players are in the dressing room after a game.

“That’s one for the medical journal, George,” he said. “Doing a Caesarian with a jack-knife and sewing it up with nine-foot, tapered gut leaders.”

Uncle George was standing against the wall, looking at his arm.

“Oh, you’re a great man, all right,” he said.

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

“Ought to have a look at the proud father. They’re usually the worst suffers in these little affairs,” the doctor said. “I must say he took it all pretty quietly.”[…]

The Indian lay with his face toward the wall. His throat had been cut from ear to ear.

Related Characters: Nick’s Father (speaker), The Indian Woman’s Husband
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’s Father Character Timeline in Indian Camp

The timeline below shows where the character Nick’s Father 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 Indians” are... (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 woman... (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 with... (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 men... (full context)
Birth and Death Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...the surgery, Nick holds the basin of water for his father. After a long procedure, Nick’s father successfully delivers a baby boy. However, Nick is unable to watch the surgery, despite the... (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 back... (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 these... (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 on... (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 beautiful... (full context)