Ernest Hemingway pulled from his past present experiences to develop his ownthoughts concerning death, relationships, and lies. He then mixed these ideas,along with a familiar setting, to create a masterpiece. One such masterpiecewritten early in Hemingway’s career is the short story, “Indian Camp.
“”Indian Camp” was originally published in the collection of “inOur Time” in 1925. A brief summary reveals that the main character, ateenager by the name of Nick, travels across a lake to an Indian village. Whileat the village Nick observes his father, who is a doctor, deliver a baby to anIndian by caesarian section. As the story continues, Nick’s father discoversthat the newborn’s father has committed suicide.
Soon afterward Nick and hisfather engage in a discussion about death, which brings the story to an end. With thought and perception a reader can tell the meaning of the story. Thecharters of Nick and his father resemble the relationship of Hemingway and hisfather. Hemingway grew up in Oak Park, a middle class suburb, under the watchfuleye of his parents, Ed and Grace Hemingway. Ed Hemingway was a doctor who”occasionally took his son along on professional visits across Walloon Laketo the Ojibway Indians” during summer vacations (Waldhorn 7).
These medicaltrips taken by Ernest and Ed would provide the background information needed tointroduce nick and his father while on their medical trip in “IndianCamp. ” These trips were not the center point of affection between Ed andErnest, but they were part of the whole. The two always shared a closefather-son bond that Hemingway often portrayed in his works: Nick’s closeattachment to his father parallels Hemingway’s relationship with Ed. The growingboy finds in the father, in both fiction and life, not only a teacher-guide butalso a fixed refuge against the terrors of the emotional and spiritual unknownas they are encountered.
In his father Ernest had someone to lean on (Shaw 14). In “Indian Camp,” nick stays in his father’s arms for a sense ofsecurity and this reinforces their close father-son relationship. When Nick seesthe terror of death, in the form of suicide, his father is right there tocomfort him. From this we are able to see how Nick has his father to, physicallyand mentally, “lean” on, much like Hemingway did (Shaw 11). Hemingway’s love for his father was not always so positive though, and he oftenexpressed his feelings about his situation though his literature.
WhenHemmingway was young, his father persuaded him to have his tonsils removed by afriend, Dr. Wesley Peck. Even though it was Dr. Peck who performed the painfuloperation, Hemingway “always held it against his father for taking out histonsils without an anaesthetic” (Meyers 48).
Hemingway saw the opportunityto portray his father in “Indian Camp” as the cold-hearted man who hadhis tonsils yanked out without anaesthetic. In a reply to Nick’s question aboutgiving the Indian woman something to stop screaming, his father states,”No. I haven’t any anaesthetic. .
. But her screams are not important. I don’thear them because they are not important. ” (Tessitore 18) Hemingway lashedout at his father one more time before the story ends. In “IndianCamp,” Hemingway uses the conversation between Nick and his father,concerning the suicide of the Indian, to show his distaste for his own father’ssuicide: ‘Why did he kill himself, Daddy?’ ‘I don’t know Nick.
‘ ‘He couldn’tstand things, I guess. ‘ ‘Do many men kill themselves, Daddy?’ ‘Not very many,Nick. . . ‘ ‘Is dying hard, Daddy?’ ‘No, I think its pretty easy, Nick. It alldepends.
‘ (Hemingway 19) Hemingway saw his father as a weak working man whoserved his wife, Grace, unconditionally. Ed worked a full day to come home toclean house, prepare food, and tend to the children. He had promised Grace thatif she would marry him, she would not have to do housework for as long as helived. Ill and depressed, Ed committed suicide in 1928. Hemingway later referredto the situation by stating: “I hated my mother as soon as I knew the scoreand loved my father until he embarrassed me with his cowardice. .
. My mother is anall time all American bitch and she would make a pack mule shoot himself, letalone poor bloody father. ” (Meyers 212) Hemingway uses “IndianCamp” to express his feelings that his father was a coward. He did this byhaving Nick’s father refer to suicide as being “pretty easy,” which iscomparable to a coward’s way out of life. Therefore, Hemingway uses the story toportray his father’s death as cowardly. The characters and setting of”Indian Camp” are undoubtedly influenced by Hemingway’s Childhood.
Inmuch of the same respect, Hemingway’s second novel, A Farewell to Arms, hasinfluences from his adult years spent in the war. A Farewell to Arms is a tragiclove story in the midst of war. The main character, Fredrick Henry, is anambulance driver in World War I who is wounded in the trenches. Henry, now acasualty, is sent to recover at an American hospital in Milan. During his stay,henry falls in love with a nurse by the name of Catherine Barkley. The couplethen heads for Switzerland to escape the war and have a child.
The novel takesan evil twist at the end though. Catherine dies while she is in labor, leavingHenry alone in the world. When comparing Ernest Hemingway and the characterFrederick Henry, there are some very obvious resemblances. After not beingallowed to join the army due to bad vision in his left eye, Hemingway joined thewar effort during 1918 in Italy as an ambulance driver. Likewise, Hemingway madesure that Henry was also an ambulance driver in A Farewell to Arms. The mostnoticeable similarity is Hemingway’s war wound.
While passing out chocolate andcigarettes to soldiers at night, Hemingway was hit by a mortar shell. Wounded,but not dead, Hemingway picked up an nearby casualty and began carrying him offthe battlefield. He succeeded in making it to the first aid center but was hitin the knees by machine-gun fire while on his journey. During his recover inMilan, Hemingway recorded his firsthand account of the action in a letterwritten to his parents.
In it he stated: The 227 wounds I got from the trenchmortar didn’t hurt a bit at the time, only my feet felt like I had rubber bootsfull of water on. Hot water. And my kneecap was acting queer. (Meyers 32)Hemingway survived a terrifying attack, which would serve as great material forA Farewell to Arms.
In the novel, Henry suffers from an identical wound by atrench mortar. Henry states that: My legs felt warm and wet and my shoes werewet and warm inside. I knew that I was hit and leaned over and put my hand on myknee. My knee wasn’t there. My hand went in and my kneed was down on my shin. (Hemingway 55) Hemingway recalled his war wound and wrote of the same experiencein the novel.
In both the novel and real life, it is easy to visualize the samepicture of the wound, so bloody that Hemingway’s own shoes filled up with warmblood. Hemingway does not stop there with his similarities though. He digsfurther into the past to create the love that exists between charactersFrederick henry and Catherine Barkley. In the war, Hemingway was sent to Milanto recover from his injuries. During his stay at the hospital, he fell in lovewith an American nurse by the name of Agnes von Kurowsky.
The two were veryaffectionate in their love and wrote letters to each other when separated. Kurowsky even signed up to work nights so that she could spend more time withHemingway. There was even a possibility of marriage, which later fizzled out. When Hemingway healed, he was sent home and Kurowsky fell in love with another,a devastating event that haunted Hemingway long after. (McDowell 20) Kurowskydid not come out ahead though; her newfound love dissolved only after a shortwhile. In much the same way as Hemingway’s life, the character Henry falls inlove with Catherine.
After being wounded by a trench mortar, Henry is also sentto Milan to recover from his injuries. While at Milan, he becomes romanticallyinvolved with Catherine and the two marry. Even though Hemingway and Kurowskydid not marry, the marriage of Henry and Catherine is a prelude to a moredevastating event. The sexual activity of the couple leads to the pregnancy ofCatherine, which convinces them to leave the war.
During childbirth, Catherinedies, thus leaving Henry all alone in the world: “In the novel, though notin actual life, the submissive Catherine . . . is ‘punished’ by death inchildbirth” (Meyers 41). The reason for this variation between real lifeand the novel is based on how Hemingway felt at the time.
Apparently toHemingway, Kurowsky was not punished enough for her deceit toward him. With hisfeelings full-blown, Hemingway produced a character that suffered the way hefelt she should suffer. From the wounds to the love affair, “it is fair tosay that the book is the crystallization of the war experiences” (Shaw 54). After the war, Hemingway returned to Oak Park for a brief stay at home. Mentallyand physically hurt from his war wounds and failing romance with Kurowsky,Hemingway entered into an idle part of his life.
All the returning soldiers hadgreat war stories; most of them embellished beyond truth. Hemingway fell intothis norm of lying about war experiences, which eventually made him sick ofdisgust: The deceptions he practices at home . . .
uncomfortably remind him ofthe lies he and others have been forced to tell in order to sensationalize forhome consumption the dull reality of war. (Meyers 55) Hemingway was later ableto reflect his disgust of home life when he purposely portrayed himself as thecharacter Krebs in “Soldier’s Home”. Krebs, a World War I veteran, isforced to lie about his involvement in the war just to be heard: Krebs foundthat to be listened to at all he had to lie, and after he had done this twicehe, too, had a reaction against the war and against talking about it. A distastefor everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies hehad told. (Hemingway 69) Krebs, along with Hemingway, fell into a slump afterthe war. While recalling his lost love of Agnes von Kurowsky, Hemingway produceda character troubled by female companionship.
Krebs wants a woman, no doubt, buthe was not about to work for it. Krebs considers relationships too complicatedand painful, something he has learned from a previous engagement. This previousengagement was the relationship of Hemingway and Kurowsky, a relationship thathad badly hurt Hemingway. There is no way that Krebs, nor Hemingway, is about togo through that again.
Krebs continues, without a woman, lying around at homedoing little or nothing. Tensions deepen between him and his parents and he iseventually driven out. This is approximately the same thing that happened toHemingway. Hemingway’s sister, Marcelline, wrote, “shortly after histwenty-first birthday . .
. his mother issued an ultimatum that he find aregular job or move out” (Waldhorn 9). Both Hemingway and Krebs moved outand got jobs. Beyond a doubt, Hemingway wrote from his past experiences. In”Indian Camp,” Hemingway used his own relationship with his father tobreathe life into the fictional characters of Nick and his father.
By leavinghis childhood and entering the war, Hemingway recalled his own accounts ofinjuries and love that made up the character Henry and Barkley in A Farewell toArms. And finally, with his return home after the war, Hemingway uses Krebs in”Soldier’s Home” to express his distaste for the home life. BibliographyGajduske, E. Robert. Hemingway’s Paris.
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons,1978. Mahoney, John. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Barnes and Noble INC. , 1967.
McSowell, Nicholas. Life and Works of Hemingway. England: Wayland, 1988. Meyers,Jeffery. Hemingway: A Biography.
New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985. Shaw, Samuel. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Fredrick Ungar Publishing Company,1974. Tessitore, John.
The Hunt and The Feast, A life of Ernest Hemingway. NewYork: Franklin Watts, 1996. Waldhorn, Arthur. A Reader’s Guide to ErnestHemingway.
New York: Octagon Books, 1978. Hemingway, Ernest. “IndianCamp”. In Our Time. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1970. Hemingway,Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1995.