I want to know in what ways is “Indian Camp” an initiation story? What exactly is Nick’s father trying to teach his son by taking him to the Indian Camp? Was he successful at doing so? 

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

'Indian Camp' by Ernest Hemingway is thought of as a story of initiation because it contains elements of 'growing up,' entering manhood as a 'rite of passage' or being introduced to something for the first time. Young Nick Adams is taken along by his father, a doctor, on an emergency call to a native American or Indian camp. A woman is about to give birth but cannot do so because of some complications. Nick's father delivers her baby by cesarean section using only his jackknife. it is possible that he believed Nick ready to cope with the situations of everyday life in the real world of medicine and American society at the time and that he thought the birth would be more straightforward, but then changed his mind - as we see when he directs Nick not to look.

However, the advice is too late for his son to avoid seeing the two sets of violent events. Therefore the 'initiation' turns out to be a lot more brutal and bloody than perhaps we would like to see a young person exposed to nowadays. However, the trauma and pain of the dramatic birth contrast sharply with the easy suicide of the woman’s husband when he hears her screaming and serves to introduce Nick to the stark realities of a doctor's life, the lives of the poor and of birth and death in an unexpected, unplanned and perhaps rather inappropriate way because there is a hint that Nick is not ready for it after all - he turns away from the post-birth procedures. Symbols which occur often in initiation stories, myths and legends are blood, knives and 'dares' or tasks for a young man to 'prove himself.'