What is the general idea of "Indian Camp"?  

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the most important ideas in the story is the respective understanding of life and death in Western and more traditional societies. Advances in medical science have saved countless lives, as indeed they help save the lives of the Indian woman and her baby. But what they don't give us is a deeper understanding of the endless cycle of birth and death and how we fit into it.

The prevailing Western understanding of life and death as epitomized by Nick's father is largely factual. Among other things, this means that some of the deeper spiritual significance of life and death has been lost, and with it our sense of connection with our fellow human beings. That would account for the doctor's clinically detached view towards childbirth. He sees it as a medical procedure and nothing more. He also seems indifferent to the significance of the man's suicide. But his coldly scientific attitude to his work generates more questions than answers, and it seems that his son Nick is keen to find out the answers to those questions. In his inquisitiveness, he holds out the prospect of gaining a much richer understanding of life and death than his father.

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hemingway's "Indian Camp" revolves around the idea of American values imposed on Native American culture.

In the story, Nick Adams, his doctor father, and uncle are called to an Indian encampment on the opposite side of the lake. A woman there is having a terrible time giving birth. Nick's father delivers the baby via a brutal caesarian section, completely disrespecting the ways of the tribe in regard to privacy and rituals. After the horrific event, the birthing party discovers that the woman's husband has committed suicide.

Hemingway is examining the tension between the necessity of medical action and the cultural demands for respect and integrity. Though the doctor may have saved the woman and her baby, her *way* of life has been forever damaged.

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