Subject Material

Indian Camp by Ernest Hemingway

Published: 21.04.2014, Updated: 05.03.2017
Yanomami-indianerne spinner og vever i bomull fra regnskogen.

"Indian Camp" is a short story by Ernest Hemingway. It was released in 1925 in Hemingway's very first collection of stories. This is one of the first stories where the protagonist and narrator Nick appears.  In this story young Nick acquires new knowledge about where babies come from.

Ernest Hemingway. photo.Hemingway  For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest HemingwayFor Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Meet Nick in one more Hemingway short story (dramatized)

 The Killers 



Ernest Hemingway  

Analysis of Indian Camp  


Ernest HemingwayErnest Hemingway Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) started his writing career as a seventeen-year-old reporter in a Kansas City newspaper. During the First World War he volunteered as an ambulance driver in Italy. He was severely injured and spent a long period stuck in a hospital bed. This incident provided the setting for one of his most famous novels A Farewell to Arms. The wounded, courageous hero disillusioned by the war and the brutality of modern society soon became Hemingway's trademark. His preoccupation with bullfighting and deep sea fishing is also evident in his stories. As a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War and a reporter, he developed a particular style of writing characterized by spare dialogues and understatements.




The protagonist, Nick, is with his young and vulnerable appearance, one of Hemingway's favorite characters. He appears in many stories in which he is often exposed to cruelty that he has to find a grown-up way to cope with. In this short story he is on his way to an Indian camp where one of the women is going to give birth. If Nick ever thought babies were delivered by storks, his experience this night crushes the illusion. This is also the night where he learns how fragile life is.



About Genre

  1. The story opens like this:
    "At the lake shore there was another rowboat drawn up. The two Indians stood waiting."
    What effect does this opening have? What do we call this kind of opening? Why do short stories often open in this way?
  2. Typical for Ernest Hemingway's writing is his ability to express essential matters in very few words. Read the text closely, and give some examples. What effect does this technique have on the reader?
  3. If you read about his personal background, do you think there is anything in his life that inspired this minimalistic style?
  4. Poets are often obliged to use a concise writing style. How does this text differ from a poem?
  5. The story has many common features with a blog. What is similar and what is different?

About Point of View

  • What is Hemingway's point of view in "Indian Camp"? How do you think a different point of view would have changed the story?
  • How would the story differ if the story was narrated by Nick's father or Uncle George?
  • Choose one paragraph and rewrite it by replacing the point of view. Does it make the story more interesting?

About Theme

  1. Here are some words that may describe possible themes in "Indian Camp". Have a look at them and rank them according to how important you find them:
    • new life
    • relationships
    • safety
    • growing up
    • suffering
    • death
    • gender roles
    • cultural differences
  2. Give reasons for your ranking. Compare your list with the ranking of some of your fellow students. Discuss the differences.
  3. How do the grown-ups in the story look upon the Native Americans? Do Nick's father and Uncle George act differently? Find examples in the text to illustrate your points.

Role Play

Sit in groups of three. One of you is Nick, the others are friends who ask Nick questions about what happened that night. When answering the questions, Nick should include actual events, his emotions and reactions.
After you have talked together in the role play, go out of your roles and analyze the following:

  • Was there anything that was difficult to talk about?
  • Is Nick's experience a good way to learn about life and death?
  • What did you learn about cultural differences in this story?
  • Explain Nick's feelings at the end of the story.
  • Give a characterization of Nick's father
  • From whom and how do children and young people learn attitudes and values?


  1. Make a blog entry where you post your thoughts about a defining moment where you as a child realized what the adult world was about. Suggested title: No Child Any More
  2. Find other Hemingway stories where Nick appears as a protagonist and narrator. What do the stories have in common? How would you characterize Nick? Why do you think Hemingway uses Nick to convey his message? Is Nick any different from teenagers today? Write an essay.