Indian Camp


Ernest Hemingway

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Themes and Colors
Birth and Death Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Cross-Cultural Encounters  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Indian Camp, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Birth and Death

In “Indian Camp,” a young boy named Nick watches his father, a doctor, surgically deliver a baby without anesthetic. The baby’s mother, an “Indian lady,” is clearly in excruciating pain, but she and the baby live. Meanwhile, in the course of her labor, the Indian woman’s husband dies quietly, slitting his own throat as he lies above his wife in the top bunk. The bloody and painful birth occurs simultaneously with the…

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Growing Up

When Nick’s father brings Nick along on a trip to deliver a baby, he intends to initiate his son into adult life by teaching him explicit lessons about life and the value of work. However, the trip takes an unexpectedly traumatic turn when the baby’s mother requires an emergency surgery and her husband kills himself. In their debriefing afterwards, Nick’s father tries to tell his son how to interpret what he saw, but his simplistic…

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In “Indian Camp,” Nick’s father tries to demonstrate to Nick the characteristics of adult men. Above all, his words and actions communicate his belief that men ought to face adversity with stoic grit, responding to life’s difficulties with stoicism and emotional distance. While this disposition allows Nick’s father to handle intense emotional experiences (such as performing a difficult surgery), the story also shows that the pressure to live up to masculine ideals can limit a…

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Cross-Cultural Encounters

In “Indian Camp,” the Adams family (who are certainly white, though this is never specified) come to an Indian village to assist a difficult childbirth. The complex dynamic between these characters of different cultural backgrounds shows that such encounters often have mixed results. When people share their unique knowledge with people from a different culture, the results can be positive, as when Nick’s father’s medical expertise saves the lives of the Native woman and her…

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