Which character in "Indian Camp" by Ernest Hemingway demonstrates grace under pressure?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ernest Hemingway, known for his concise "plain" style, is credited with creating the new American hero--someone who has a code of honor, is thoroughly disillusioned, craves adventure, and who demonstrates grace under pressure.  For Hemingway, "grace under pressure" means that someone remains calm, detached, and almost emotionless when a tragedy or significant event occurs.  He or she is able to complete a mission or save lives despite everything going on around him/her.

"Indian Camp" follows young Nick as he accompanies his father on a medical trip to a remote Indian village to deliver a baby.  In the story, Nick's father, a doctor, illustrates Hemingway's idea of grace under pressure. As Nick, his father, and Uncle George enter the shanty, the soon-to-be mother's screams fill the air.  Despite the noise, horrible smell, and poor visibility, Nick's father gets to work immediately. While Nick is bothered by the screams, his father is able to block them out and give clear, concise commands.  He calmly gives his son instructions and facts as he works on the woman. When he is forced to operate, he does so smoothly and with ease, all while narrating his actions to Nick.  After the doctor successfully delivers the baby and keeps the mother safe,

"He [feels] exalted and talkative as football players are in the dressing room after a game."

He's proud of his effective, but makeshift work, and even when he and the others discover that the new Indian father has committed suicide during the birth because he could not take the screaming, Nick's father comforts him and logically answers his questions about death.

Overall, Nick's father stands out in the story because he is the only character who seems to be calm throughout even though he knows from the beginning that he is going into a risky, dire situation.  In contrast, Nick feels sick and shuts himself off from the events taking place; the new Indian father can't stand his own wife's pain and flees this life, and Uncle George flees the shanty when the suicide is revealed.

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Indian Camp

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