II. While Reading Activites
- rowboat noun a small boat propelled by oars.
- bay noun a broad inlet of the sea where the land curves inward; a small body of water forming an indentation of the shoreline.
- beached verb [ trans. ] run or haul up (a boat or ship) onto a beach : at the water’s edge a rowboat was beached | [ intrans. ] crews would not beach for fear of damaging craft.
- meadow noun a piece of low ground near a river.
- shanties noun ( pl. -ties) a small, crudely built shack.
- *bark-peelers there was no definition for this term in the New Oxford American Dictionary. However, during Hemingway’s childhood, members of the American Indian Ojibway tribe, living in Michigan, worked for the lumber industry, stripping birch bark that was valuable for tanning hide. It can only be surmised that “bark-peelers” was a slang term used for the Ojibway people by the non-Indians. Please email if this is an incorrect assumption.
- bunk noun a narrow shelflike bed, typically one of two or more arranged one on top of the other.
- labor noun the process of childbirth, esp. the period from the start of uterine contractions to delivery : his wife is in labor.
- anÊsthetic (anesthetic) noun a substance that induces insensitivity to pain.
- interne (intern) a student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, at a trade or occupation in order to gain work experience.
- incision noun a surgical cut made in skin or flesh : an abdominal incision.
- reminiscently (adverb)- reminiscent adjective tending to remind one of something : the sights were reminiscent of my childhood.
Questions for Comprehension
- List of characters: Nick, his father (the doctor), uncle George, the two Indians who took them to the camp, the Indian woman in labor, her husband, the old Indian woman who assisted the doctor.
- His father was with him.
- Two Indians.
- He told Nick that an Indian woman is very sick.
- She was lying on a bunk.
- She’d been in labor for two days and was having difficulty with the birth.
- The old women in the camp.
- They sat some distance away so, they could not hear her screams.
- In the bunk above her, smoking a pipe.
- He had cut his foot very badly with an ax.
- He rolled over against the wall in the upper bunk.
- She bit his arm.
- Nick’s father.
- He had committed suicide by cutting his throat.
- Nick asked his father was dying hard.
- That he was never going to die.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- A third unknown person is narrating, and they are telling the story from Nick’s point of view.
- One conflict was that the Indian woman was having trouble with her delivery, and it wasn’t certain the she or the baby would survive. Another conflict was Nick’s struggle to understand everything he saw, beginning with the labor, and then the Indian husband’s suicide.
- Some of the themes are childbirth, fear of death ( Nick “quietly tells himself that he will never die”) emergence into adulthood (Nick has experienced adult situations) prejudice (the rude remarks made by the white men about the Indians) suicide (the Indian husband kills himself).
- The setting was an Indian camp in the woods, the exact location isn’t revealed in the story. We know from the background reading the story takes place in Michigan. As for the time, Nick, his father and uncle George arrived at night ( reference: The two boats started off in the dark, Uncle George was smoking a cigar in the dark, the young Indian stopped and blew out his lantern). At the end of the story it states, (“It was just beginning to be daylight when they walked along the logging road back toward the lake.”) Based on this information, it can be assumed that all of the action in the story occurred in one night.
- Symbolism: Prejudice. Uncle George referring to the Indian woman as a “damn squaw” after she bite him. Coming of age. In the beginning of the story we see Nick behaving child-like with his father, “Nick lay back with his father’s arm around him.” By the end of the story Nick is asking questions about death and dying.
- Imagery: In the beginning of the story Hemingway especially uses the words “dark” and “mist” several times to invoke an air of mystery “ The two boats started off in the dark… Nick heard the oar-locks of the other boat quite a way ahead of them in the mist.” “It was cold on the water… Uncle George was smoking a cigar in the dark… The men had moved off up the road to sit in the dark…” Hemingway also invokes tension, “ She screamed just as Nick and the two Indians followed his father and Uncle George into the shanty…The room smelled very bad… Just then the woman cried out… He pulled back the blanket from the Indian’s head. His hand came away wet.”