Indian Camp

by

Ernest Hemingway

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Water Symbol Icon

Water appears throughout “Indian Camp” as a medium that separates Nick’s family from the native people who live in the shantytown. Nick, Nick’s father, and Uncle George must cross a lake to arrive at the camp and return from it. This trip evokes the transatlantic voyages chartered by Europeans to the Americas in which white settlers came into contact with native peoples for the first time. This miniaturization of the original voyage encourages the reader to interpret this story as an allegory for the European settlement of the Americas, highlighting the racial and cultural divides that form the subtext of the story. Moreover, within the shanty, water also becomes an index of cultural differences between the Native Americans and the Adamses. When Nick’s Father takes over the birthing process, he finds the hygienic conditions in the shanty unsuitable, and orders water to be boiled so he can sanitize his tools to his medical standards. Thus, throughout the story, water highlights the differences (and distances) between Native American communities and white American society more broadly.

Water Quotes in Indian Camp

The Indian Camp quotes below all refer to the symbol of Water. 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

“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:
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Water Symbol Timeline in Indian Camp

The timeline below shows where the symbol Water 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 waiting with rowboats. Nick and his father board one boat, while... (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 is going... (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... (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 details about natural world in the morning.... (full context)