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"Indian Camp" is one of Hemingway's Nick Adams stories; and, like other Nick Adams stories, it is a tale of initiation into the realities of culture-clash, birth, and death.
After an Indian woman has been in labor for two days despite the aid of other women, Nick's father, who is a physician, is asked to come to her aid, but Nick's father simply tells his son that a woman is ill. A rowboat manned by Indians takes his father and Nick along with his Uncle George, who gives the two Indians who transport them across the lake two cigars. After they arrive on the other shore, a resident holding a lantern, leads the way for the Adams men. Then, when they come to the logging road where it is lighter and easy to follow, the lantern is blown out. Dogs approach them as they round a bend, and soon they spot a light in the window of a shanty.
Inside on a wooden bunk lies the woman who is in painful labor.
"This lady is going to have a baby, Nick," he [his father] said.
"I know," said Nick.
But, Nick's father explains that Nick does not understand exactly what is going on, that she is unable to push this baby out with her muscles. When her screaming disturbs Nick, he asks his father if he cannot give her something; his father replies that he has no anesthetic. His saying "I don't hear them because they are not important" suggests both his professionalism and his insensitivity to the Native American woman. Interestingly, little attention is paid to the husband of the woman who, oddly, lies in a bunk above her as three other Indians and Uncle George hold her still. When the doctor cuts her in order to perform a Caesarian operation, she bites George, who curses her with racial invective.
After Nick's father delivers the baby, he cleans him from the basin of water and stitches the mother, saying he would return in the morning and the nurse from St. Ignace should arrive by noon and bring the medical supplies. Feeling proud of himself, he remarks to George,
"That's one for the medical journal....Doing a Caesarian with a jack-knife and sewing it up with nine-foot, tapered but leaders."
Rather snidely, George responds as he looks down at his arm, "Oh, you're a great man, all right." Then, Nick's father remembers the husband on the upper bunk and remarks that he should look at him. Pulling back the blanket, he discovers that the man whose face has been turned to the wall is dead. His throat has been cut ear to ear, and an open razor lay in the blankets.
Nick is immediately taken out, and his father apologizes for bringing him. Nick asks why the man killed himself. "I don't know, Nick. He couldn't stand things, I guess." Nick then asks if many men or women commit suicide. Then, he inquires about the whereabouts of Uncle George. "He'll turn up all right," his father assures him, while they head out in the rowboat. As they cross the lake back to their side, Nick's hand trails in the warming water, and he decides that he will never die.
(See the link on another homework/help question about this story below)
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