“Indian Camp” Essay In Hemingway’s short story “Indian Camp”, the use of light and dark symbolism is apparent throughout. Two different races are seen in the story, the white man, and the dark skinned Indians. The white man seems to be living the life, while the Indians live in a life of oppression and despair. The white man is clearly “superior” to the Indians, however Hemingway’s greater purpose of this symbolism is seen in the enlightenment of Nick Adams.
When Nick Adams begins the story on his way to this camp he is already taken into the dark upon his initial journey along with his father and Uncle. Led by an Indian guide, Nick has no idea of what to expect or where he is being led. Upon their arrival to the camp several symbols of light and dark are seen quite clearly. Hemingway touches on a few characteristics including the Uncle’s cigar, and Indian guide leading them with his lantern. In the cigar, it burns and sheds light in a dark world, a world these white men are not accustomed to and have no knowledge on.
He then attempts to share his cigars with the Indians, perhaps showing he is willing to share his knowledge with them as well. Later, Hemingway describes how the Indian guide uses his lantern during their journey to the camp, however once they reach the road, he blows it out signifying how that road built by the white man now sheds light on where he is, and that is the Indian Camp. Upon their arrival, Nick’s father finally finds Shanty, the pregnant Indian he must perform surgery on. The Indians in this scene, step away from the lit road, and sit in the dark.
Perhaps they are more comfortable in the dark and have no desire to be under the white mans light. Or in this case watch the white man perform surgery. Later, the woman’s husband is found dead, and Nick’s father tries to hide this harsh reality from his son, but Nick experiences it all in one night. At the beginning of their journey, Nick was led to the camp by the Indian guide with the lantern. Upon his departure, he reaches enlightenment on life in the light of a new day. He found a new understanding thanks to a dark skinned Indian guide with a lantern.
Symbolically he was guiding Nick to his new perceptions and understanding, at least in my opinion. The metaphors are quite apparent in Hemingway’s writing. Two opposing cultures, races, and people contrasted throughout in “light” and “dark”. Nick had to take the darkness to eventually receive the light. He had to see a different side of life to reach clarity and understanding. Hemingway displays the racial differences and thoughts of both the Indians and white men with his symbolism in this story.
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