In Ernest Hemmingway’s story Indian Camp, everything seems to be obvious and substantive; everything is on the surface: at the beginning of the 20th century a white man (doctor) does caesarean section using a jackknife and a nine-dried core, saving an Indian and her child from a nearby reservation. Indian woman’s husband, lying on the top bunk during a surgery, cuts his throat with a razor from ear to ear; the doctor’s son saw him doing that. This is an event plan, but there is also a different plan – two adult men of one tribe (father and uncle) put a boy in the boat and carry him through a water barrier to a different, alien world, where he in a forest hut for the first time sees the death and the birth, watching dismemberment of the human body, passes the test to courage and endurance. When rowing back with his father, the boy thinks he would never die.
All of these have the strongest influence on the worldview of the boy, being a significant step in the development of his consciousness. These elements, in the same manner, until the sensation of the boy’s immortality, is characteristic of the rite of initiation, which was held with every young warrior, who enters puberty, a full membership of the community of adult men – hunters, soldiers, defenders and those, who feed the family.
Hemmingway’s story Indian Camp was first published in the journal Transatlantic Review in April, 1924, and was included in the book In Our Time.
The story sets the main theme of the whole cycle of Nick Adams – the theme of the formation of the young hero. Figurative-symbolic system of the story is based on the initiation motifs characteristic of such plots. Initiation and the acquisition of the new status are traditionally associated with the crossing of the river, which is a boundary between two worlds. At the beginning of the story an Indian, like Charon, transports Nick to the kingdom of the dead, where he saw the death for the first time. A characteristic motif of initiation is the fact that it is the father of the young character who initiated his son to the mystery of birth and death.
According to the original plan of Hemingway, a series of stories about Nick Adams was supposed to be opened with another novel, Three Shots, a draft of which was preserved and published after his death. In this novel, in contrast to the Indian Camp, the character loses childish faith in own immortality: being alone at night in a strange place, he experienced the fear of death and realized for the first time that he would die one day.
In Ernest Hemmingway’s story Indian Camp, everything seems to be obvious and substantive; everything is on the surface: at the beginning of the 20th century a white man (doctor) does caesarean section using a jackknife and a nine-dried core, saving an Indian and her child from a nearby reservation.