Ernest Hemingway Indian Camp Essay
In Ernest Hemingway's short stories "Indian Camp" and "Soldier's Home," young women are treated as objects whose purpose is either reproduction or pleasure. They do not and cannot participate to a significant degree in the masculine sphere of experience, and when they have served their purpose, they are set aside. They do not have a voice in the narrative, and they represent complications in life that must be overcome in one way or another. While this portrayal of young women is hardly unique to Hemingway, the author uses it as a device to probe the male psyche more deeply.
"Indian Camp" opens with an all-male convoy of rowboats heading across the lake, with young Nick, his doctor father and his Uncle George off to see an "Indian lady [who is] very sick." As they disembark on the other side and follow a young Indian bearing a lantern to the camp where childbirth is taking place, the men's guiding interest is not in the mother-to-be as a person, but in her physiology as a case study. When they find her screaming in bed, Nick's father dehumanizes her by saying: "[Her] screams are not important. I don't hear them because they are not important."
Bitten by the young woman during labor pangs, Uncle George reacts instinctively: "Damn squaw bitch!" She is not seen as a co-participant with the men overseeing the birth. Instead, she is merely an object they are operating on, a "bitch" soon to whelp her pup, so to speak. The "studied control of the father and doctor as rational man" (DeFalco 30), a carefully constructed pose, stands in contrast to the young woman's inarticulate helplessness in childbirth. The likening of the doctor's joviality after the Cesarean operation to "football players...in the dressing room" emphasizes the gap between the men's experience of life and what the woman has just gone through.
When the doctor's exalted pose breaks down after the discovery of the Indian husband's bloody suicide, he seeks refuge in dismissive rationalizations. Neither the woman nor her dead husband matter at this stage; the...
(The entire section is 840 words.)
Postcolonialism In Ernest Hemingway's Indian Camp
Ernest Hemingway attempts to describe the interactions of white Americans and Native Americans in his short story “Indian Camp.” By closely reading this short story using a Postcolonialist approach, a deeper understanding of the colonization and treatment of the Native Americans by the white Americans can be gained. Hemingway uses an almost allegorical story as he exposes the injustices inflicted by the white oppressors through his characters. Through his characters Hemingway expresses the traits of the colonizer and the colonized. Nick embodies innocence, the Doctor represents dismissal or denial, and George represents oppression. The nameless natives in the story juxtapose the white characters highlighting traits such as loss of identity, inability to properly cope with colonization, and fear of extinction.
Ernest Hemingway grew up on the outer banks of Michigan, a section of the country with extensive integration of Native Americans and whites. Hemingway’s short story expresses actual events that he witnessed in his everyday life. The story contains several biographical parallels to Hemingway’s life as his father was a physician who often took young Ernest fishing at a camp in the Michigan woods similar to the one in his story (244). Because of these obvious biographical parallels, Hemingway has an understanding that enables him to write in a postcolonial fashion.
Postcolonialism originated in 1970. It “piggy backed” on the already existent study of African American literature. Postcolonialism quickly progressed and now encompasses literature from any culture that has been oppressed or colonized. Postcolonialist critics attempt to view the limited views and biases of colonialized countries. They continue to analyze a colonized culture and examine it in a manner of different ways: the culture that existed before the colozination; the culture that exists after the colonization; and the hybrid creations of the two (Bressler 268).
By using Postcolonialism Hemingway is able to create characters that represent the features manifested in a colonized society. Hemingway uses Nick’s character to embody untainted innocence. Hemingway wanted to portray the cruel treatment of the Native American’s in a way that would substantially impact his readers. What better way to portray the cruel punishment than through the eyes of an innocent child. Previously unexposed to the injustices of life, Nick’s journey to the Indian camp is his initiation into adulthood. Nick is able to view this New World with fresh ideas. His naïve and inexperienced mind recognizes the cruel and unwarranted white treatment of the Native Americans. It is important that Nick be the narrator, and bearer of bad news to the audience, so the audience can endure as Nick discovers the wrongs subjected upon the Native Americans. The readers are horrified just as Nick is as he witnesses the labor and birth of the squaw woman, the...
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