“Indian Camp” is a story of initiation in which young Nick Adams accompanies his father, a physician, on a call to an Indian camp, where the father delivers a baby by cesarean section using only his jackknife. The violence and pain of the birth contrast sharply with the ease of the suicide of the pregnant woman’s husband, brought on by her screams, and introduce Nick to the realities of birth and death.
The story begins in the dark, before sunrise, as Nick, his father, and Uncle George are rowed across the lake by some Indian men. Nick’s father explains that they are going to the camp to treat an “Indian lady who is very sick.” The trio follow an Indian with a lantern through the dewy grass. Their way becomes easier and lighter when they are able to walk on the logging road that cuts through the woods, and eventually they are greeted by the dogs that live at the edge of the shantytown occupied by the Indian bark-peelers. The lighted window and the woman holding a light at the doorway of the nearest hut direct the two men and the boy to the woman in labor.
Inside on a wooden bunk lies the pregnant woman, who has been in labor for two days and who cannot deliver despite the help of the other women in the camp. The woman screams as the men enter. The interior of the hut is sketchily described, except for the bunk beds, the lower berth of which is filled by the woman and the upper berth of which holds her husband, who hurt his foot with an ax three days before. The room smells very bad.
Nick’s father goes into action, demanding hot water and trying to tell Nick that the woman is going to have a baby. His condensed but rather technical explanation...
(The entire section is 691 words.)