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.

Pre-Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises

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

Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises

The words and expressions in our Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1800 word list are: bark, , cigar, , , , mist, , , pocket-knife, rowboat, sew up, , stitch, , and .

There is also a word that is in our Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. In the opening line, we read that “at the lake shore there was another rowboat drawn up”. Here the word means to move towards something.

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 plural 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. (ขึ้นอยู่กับ) 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. (หมอก) 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'. (มีดเล็กที่พับได้) 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. (เท) 2. [only with 'it' as subject] To rain heavily. It was pouring this morning. (ฝนตกหนัก) 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. (ภูมิใจในตนเอง) 2. Having a (too) high opinion of oneself; arrogant. She was too proud to talk to us. (หยิ่ง) 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. (ความภาคภูมิใจ) 3000

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

row rowing

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

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. (กรีดร้อง) 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. (ปิดโดยการเย็บ; ซ่อม) 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. (จัดการอย่างสมบูรณ์).

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

bunk(n: bunk pl bunks) Either one of two single beds that are placed one above the other; either one of the beds in a bunk bed. 5000

dew(n: dew, noncount) Drops of water that form outside at night on grass, trees, etc. 7000

kettle(n: kettle pl kettles) A metal pot for heating or boiling liquid, usually with a lid and special part for pouring. Put the kettle on (the stove) so we can have a cup of tea. (กาน้ำ) 3000

lantern(n: lantern pl lanterns) A light for outdoors that has a glass covering to protect it from the wind, rain, etc. and can be carried by a handle. (ตะเกียง) 8000

oar(n: oar pl oars) A long pole that is flat and wide at one end and is used for rowing and steering a boat. (ไม้พาย) 6000
They are usually used in pairs, with one on each side of the boat.

pale(adj: pale, paler, palest) Having a skin color that is closer to white than is usual or normal, either because it is your natural color or you are sick or scared at the time. (ซีด) 3000

shanty(n: shanty pl shanties) A small, simple building that is roughly made from sheets of wood, iron, plastic, etc., used as a house by poor people. (กระท่อม) 9000

stroke(v: stroke, strokes, stroked, stroking) To rub gently and repeatedly in one direction along or over something, especially as a sign of affection. (ลูบ)
(n: pl strokes) One of a series of repeated movements of your arms in swimming or rowing that you make to move you or the boat through the water. (พายจังหวะ) 3000

talkative(adj: talkative) Describes someone who talks a lot or enjoys having conversations with people. (ช่างพูด) 9000

(v: draw, draws, drew, drawn, drawing) 1. To make (a picture, image, etc.) by making lines on a surface, especially with a pencil, crayon, etc. but not usually with paint. He drew a picture of a flower. 2. To move (something) by pulling. The carriage was drawn by two horses. 3. To move towards or away from someone or something. Christmas is drawing closer. 4. To choose (a thing) from a group without knowing which one you are choosing. We drew names from a hat to decide who would go on the trip. 1000

draw hansom cab

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