Postcolonialism in Ernest Hemingway's "Indian Camp"

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, United States, Colonialism Pages: 5 (1751 words) Published: December 14, 2001
Ernest Hemingway attempts to describe the interactions of white Americans and Native Americans in his short story "Indian Camp." By closely reading this short story using a Postcolonialist approach, a deeper understanding of the colonization and treatment of the Native Americans by the white Americans can be gained. Hemingway uses an almost allegorical story as he exposes the injustices inflicted by the white oppressors through his characters. Through his characters Hemingway expresses the traits of the colonizer and the colonized. Nick embodies innocence, the Doctor represents dismissal or denial, and George represents oppression. The nameless natives in the story juxtapose the white characters highlighting traits such as loss of identity, inability to properly cope with colonization, and fear of extinction.

Ernest Hemingway grew up on the outer banks of Michigan, a section of the country with extensive integration of Native Americans and whites. Hemingway's short story expresses actual events that he witnessed in his everyday life. The story contains several biographical parallels to Hemingway's life as his father was a physician who often took young Ernest fishing at a camp in the Michigan woods similar to the one in his story (244). Because of these obvious biographical parallels, Hemingway has an understanding that enables him to write in a postcolonial fashion. Postcolonialism originated in 1970. It "piggy backed" on the already existent study of African American literature. Postcolonialism quickly progressed and now encompasses literature from any culture that has been oppressed or colonized. Postcolonialist critics attempt to view the limited views and biases of colonialized countries. They continue to analyze a colonized culture and examine it in a manner of different ways: the culture that existed before the colozination; the culture that exists after the colonization; and the hybrid creations of the two (Bressler 268).

By using Postcolonialism Hemingway is able to create characters that represent the features manifested in a colonized society. Hemingway uses Nick's character to embody untainted innocence. Hemingway wanted to portray the cruel treatment of the Native American's in a way that would substantially impact his readers. What better way to portray the cruel punishment than through the eyes of an innocent child. Previously unexposed to the injustices of life, Nick's journey to the Indian camp is his initiation into adulthood. Nick is able to view this New World with fresh ideas. His naïve and inexperienced mind recognizes the cruel and unwarranted white treatment of the Native Americans. It is important that Nick be the narrator, and bearer of bad news to the audience, so the audience can endure as Nick discovers the wrongs subjected upon the Native Americans. The readers are horrified just as Nick is as he witnesses the labor and birth of the squaw woman, the actions of George, and the suicide of the Native American man. Nick is the only character in the story that expresses any kind of remorse or empathy for the tribe: "Oh, Daddy, can't you give her something to make her stop screaming?" (240). Provided by Hemingway, the Doctor is representaive of the colonizer's mentality for denying and dismissing their unconscionable actions forced upon the Native American culture. Throughout the story the white characters exemplify the altitude of insignificance toward the Native Americans. The Doctor dismisses the pains of the Native American woman while she is in labor when he says, "No. I haven't any anaesthetic. But her screams are not important. I don't hear them because they are not important" (240). The Doctor fails to validate the screams of this Native American woman. He continues to scoff at her when he performs her caesarian section in a barbaric and savage manner, "That's one for the medical journal, George. Doing a caesarian with a jack-knife and sewing it up with...
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