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How does Hemingway's "Indian Camp" demonstrate the theme of coming of age? Coming of...

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batechen | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 8, 2010 at 3:53 AM via web

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How does Hemingway's "Indian Camp" demonstrate the theme of coming of age?

Coming of age,understanding thatlife can be bad as well as good, is a theme of several stories

Explain the coming of age of (Nick Adams) in "Indian Camp," (Jem Finch) in To Kill a Mockingbird and (Sylvia) in "The White Heron."

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 8, 2010 at 4:08 AM (Answer #1)

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In "Indian Camp," one of Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, Nick's dad--a doctor--takes Nick with him to a camp so that he can help an Indian woman with a difficult delivery.  Nick does not seem to be very enthusiastic about the whole task, but is used to his father's "mentoring" him. After a difficult C-section, Nick's dad successfully delivers the baby while saving the mother's life, but the baby's father (at some point during the crude operation) kills himself because of the horrid screams his wife emitted.  Up until that point, Nick had not had much interest in what was going on, but he asks his father why the Indian man killed himself and later if it is difficult to die.  Nick's father simply tells him that he doesn't think that it is hard to die, and Nick ponders that as they paddle away from the village.  He thinks to himself that he is not going to die anytime soon.

Hemingway incorporates the theme of coming of age or losing one's innocence through Nick's having to witness the aftereffects of suicide and his uncle's reaction (he runs outside), and his dad's answers.  Nick is no longer a young, disinterested boy; he sees how and why someone would choose to die and has a new perspective on what his dad does.

In regards to To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem has much the same attitude toward Atticus and his profession as Nick does to his dad.  While Jem certainly respects his dad, until Tom Robinson's trial, he doesn't really see the value of what his dad does or how wise he truly is.  After Atticus loses the trial, Jem is angry that life is not fair, especially for Tom and his family, and begins to question Atticus about the way the justice system works. Scout mentions that Jem is sullen and that he changed from being a typical boy who likes to shoot animals and creatures with his air rifle to one who doesn't even want to kill a bug.  In general, the trial and the subsequent events cause Jem to be disillusioned with human nature and most of his towns' people.

In regards to Sylvia in "The White Heron," her coming of age is similar to the boys' but not quite so dramatic.  For her, look at how she responds to death or the thought of death and what she learns from it. 

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