Indian Camp

indian campThis story by Ernest Hemingway tells how a young boy “comes of age” as he witnesses the saving of a woman’s life, the birth of her baby, and the death of her husband… all over the space of just a few hours. A feature of Hemingway’s short stories is that important details are often left unexplained. In this story we come away wondering why the woman’s husband killed himself. Some people suggest that the boy’s Uncle George may have had something to do with it. You can read more about this in our Comments below.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

General Comments on the Story

In “Indian Camp”, most people are left wondering what Hemingway had in mind when he had the pregnant woman’s husband kill himself. When the young boy asks his father about it, the answer is: “I don’t know, Nick. He couldn’t stand things, I guess.” However, we are not told what those things are.

Many readers put it down to the stress of the man having had to look on for two days as his wife suffered great pain. The narrator tells us that “The (other) men had moved off up the road to sit in the dark and smoke out of range of the noise she made.” The husband could not do this as he had a badly injured leg. Supporters of this view claim that Hemingway was contrasting how Western and American Indian cultures react to pain in others. The doctor is all business and, although he saves his patient and her baby, he blocks out her screams. “I don’t hear them,” he says, “because they are not important.” The husband on the other hand is so in touch with his wife that he can not stand to see her in such pain. Her pain is unbearable for him, and he kills himself to kill the pain he felt coming from his wife.

Another suggested reason for the suicide is shame associated with the fact that Uncle George may be the father of the baby. George clearly has close relations with the Indians. The opening lines suggest that he came from the Indian camp with the two Indians to bring back the doctor. Next we see him handing out cigars to the Indians, an American birthing tradition which is believed to have come from Indian culture. During the operation, the woman bites George on the arm. Was this because she associated George with the pain she was going through? Or even worse, could she have fallen pregnant because George forced himself on her? The young Indian seems to know the answer, as he has a good laugh over the bite. Finally, we see George remaining at the Indian camp after the birth.

One sign of a good author is the ability to write stories in which different people can see such different things. “Indian Camp” was one of Hemingway’s earlier short stories, and the first in his famous “Nick Adams” series. He was only 26 years old at the time; a sure sign of the great stories to come.

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(n: bark pl barks) 1. The outer covering of a tree. 2. The loud sound made by a dog when it is angry or excited.
(v: bark, barks, barked, barking) 1. To make a loud sound like that made by a dog when it is angry or excited. The dog barked at the stranger. 2. To shout or say (something) in a loud and angry way. The captain barked orders to his men. 5000

tree bark barking dog

boil(v: boil, boils, boiled, boiling) 1. To heat a liquid (or a container with liquid in it) so that bubbles are formed and rise to the top. I'm boiling water to make coffee. 2. To cook by boiling. I've boiled some eggs.
(adj: boiled) Used to refer to things that have been cooked by boiling. boiled eggs 2000

breathe(v: breathe, breathes, breathed, breathing) To move air into and out of your lungs; to inhale and exhale. He was breathing hard from running.
(phrasal verb: breathe deeply) To take a lot of air into your lungs. 3000

camp(n: camp pl camps) 1. A piece of ground with tents pitched on it. 2. A collection of buildings, huts or tents in which people stay temporarily for a certain purpose. A fishing/holiday camp. 3. A place where soldiers live and work; a military barracks etc. 2000

cigar(n: cigar pl cigars) A roll of tobacco leaves that is smoked, which is longer and thicker than a cigarette. 4000

it depends(phrasal verb: it depends) [in relation to a decision or future happening] To be decided by something. 1000

mist(n: mist pl mists) A cloud of water in the air close to the ground, which makes it difficult to see a long way. 5000

pocket-knife(n: pocket-knife pl pocket-knives) A knife with one or more blades that fold into the handle so that it can be carried in the pocket. Also known as a 'jack-knife' or 'pen-knife'. 10000

pour(v: pour, pours, poured, pouring) 1. To [cause to] flow in a steady stream. She poured the milk into a bowl. Water poured down the wall. People were pouring out of the factory. 2. [only with 'it' as subject] To rain heavily. It was pouring this morning. 2000

proud(adj: proud, prouder, proudest) 1. Feeling very pleased because of something you have done or own, someone you know, etc. She felt proud as she watched her daughter graduate. 2. Having a too high opinion of oneself; arrogant. She was too proud to talk to us. 2000
(n: pride, noncount) A feeling of pleasure and satisfaction at one's achievements, possessions, family etc. She watched with pride as her daughter graduated. 3000

(n: row pl rows) A straight line of people or things that are next to each other.
(v: row, rows, rowed, rowing) To move a boat through water using poles that are flat and wide at one end [oars]. 2000

row rowing

rowboat(n: rowboat pl rowboats) A small boat that is moved through the water using poles that are flat and wide at one end {oars].

scream(v: scream, screams, screamed, screaming) 1. To suddenly cry out in a loud and high voice because of fear, pain, surprise, etc. 2. To say something in a loud and high voice because you are angry, afraid, etc. 3000

sew(phrasal verb: sew up) To close or repair something by using a needle and thread. He sewed up the tear in his shirt. 2. To do the final things that are needed to complete something, or to make something certain. They're sewing up the details of the agreement. His last goal sewed up the game.

stitch(n: stitch pl stitches) A special piece of thread that is used to hold a large cut or wound closed. (เย็บติด) 3000

throat(n: throat pl throats) 1. The front part of the neck. (คอ) 2. The back part of the mouth connecting the openings of the stomach, lungs and nose. (ช่องคอ) 3000

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