Cultural and Racial Inequality in Hemingway's Indian Camp
Hemingway's "Indian Camp" concerns Nick Adams' journey into the unknown to ultimately experience and witness the full cycle of birth and death. Although Nick's experience is a major theme in the story, cultural inequality also is an issue that adds to the the story's narrative range. Throughout this short story, there are many examples of racial domination between Nick's family and the Indians. Dr. Adams' and Uncle George's racist behavior toward the Native Americans are based on the history of competition between Caucasians and America's indigenous peoples.
"Indian Camp" begins at the shore where Nick, his father, and Uncle George are picked up by Indians in rowboats. When Nick and the men get into the rowboat, the Indians row them to the Indian Camp, with no help from the doctor or Uncle George. This evidence is the first example of cultural domination in the story. Once across the lake, Uncle George gives the Indians cigars. Uncle George's action could be a gift or a congratulatory gesture for the baby about to be born. Amy Strong explains that "gift exchange may be the idiom of competition and rivalry" (21). For example, Uncle George gives the Indians two cigars knowing that this gift is more than the Indians can reciprocate. This first exchange between the cultures identifies a subtle, unequal dynamic of dominator and dominated (Strong 21).
Doctor Adams goes to a place distant from civilization to deliver a baby. Darkness, wilderness, and dirtiness are images presented throughout the story that apply to the appearance of the India Camp. The description of the Indian Camp highlights racial inequality between the two cultures. After Dr. Adams delivers the...