Lesson Plan: The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife By Ernest Hemingway

Level: intermediate-advanced

Time: approximately 1 -2 hours.

Materials: Copy of story The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife biography of Ernest Hemingway Components for  Literary Analysis.

Objectives: Students will achieve a better understanding of the short story “ The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” by learning literary devices and terms (e.g., imagery, symbolism, protagonist, antagonist, setting)  used for analyzing stories. They will also learn how to analyze the relationship between characters, and events in the story using these literary devices.

Reading Strategies: Students will make predictions based on the title; draw conclusions and make generalizations about what they have read by utilizing background knowledge, looking for the main ideas, making notes, highlighting or underlining specific information, and by answering questions. They will learn new vocabulary through inference, highlighting unknown words, using the dictionary, and graphic organizer for assistance.

I. Pre-Reading

Background information for students: Some points to help students make connections to the story:

This story is a continuation of Hemingway’s story Indian Camp and the The doctor in this  story’s title refers to Dr. Adams, a central character in Indian Camp. In that story Nick (the doctor’s son) was  a young boy who witnessed his father deliver an Indian baby with surgical instruments that were less than perfect. This short story reveals the relationship between Dr. Adams and his wife. We also see more of the doctor’s relationships with the Ojibway Indians. Although Nick does not appear until the very end of the story, we get a glimpse of his feelings towards both of his parents.

Stimulating Background Knowledge

Another idea for stimulating background information for students is to  use the KWL chart. Example questions:

  1. Who was Ernest Hemingway?
  2. What other stories did he write?


Prediction of Story Outcome Chart

Directions: Students may use this reading chart by Pace High School as a pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading tool to aid their comprehension of the events in the story.Pace High School- Prediction Outcomes Chart

Character Recognition Chart

Directions: Students may use this chart by Pace High School as a pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading tool to aid their comprehension of the characters in the story.Pace High School- Character Prediction Chart

II. While reading Activites

Directions: Place students in groups so that they can help each other with the following activities.

 Vocabulary In Context 

Have students review the following sentences taken from the story and infer  the meanings of  the words in bold font. Highlight any other unknown words. They can use the Vocabulary graph by Education Oasis as a guide. Word Chart By Education Oasis


  1. Eddy was carrying the long crosscut saw.
  2. The logs had been lost from the big log booms.
  3. They sunk the ends of their cant-hooks into one of the logs.
  4. He was very lazy but a great worker.
  5. If no one came for them they would be left to rot on the beach.
  6. Nick’s father always assumed that this was what would happen.
  7. “It’s driftwood.”
  8. “I’ll knock your eyeteeth down your throat.”
  9. “Don’t get huffy, Doc.”
  10. The doctor was very uncomfortable.

Directions: Review the terms from the handout Components for Literary Analysis with students. This is an excellent review of components for analyzing pieces of literature. The terms are handy for helping students understand  literary pieces.  Depending on the  level of your students, you can decide how much you would like them to analyze the stories and poems they read.

Questions for Comprehension

  1. List  the main characters in the story.
  2. What job were the Indians doing for Dr. Adams?
  3. Why did Doctor Adams get angry at Dick Boulton?
  4. Did Dick have proof that the logs did not belong to the doctor?
  5. Why  does Dr. Adams refuse to fight Dick Boulton?
  6. What reason does the doctor give his wife for the argument with Dick?
  7. Does Mrs. Adams believe her husband?
  8. Why did Dr. Adams lie to his wife?

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss answers the following questions.

1. Who is telling the story?

2. Themes often explore ideas that are both cross-cultural and deeply rooted in the human condition [e.g., loneliness, coming of age, love, friendship, betrayal] what are some of the themes presented  in this story?

3. A simile is a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used in writing to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion, crazy like a fox). Give an example of a simile from the story.

4. In your opinion, by declining to fight Dick Boulton (because he knows Dick would beat him) is Dr. Adams a coward?

5. At the end of the story why does Nick prefer to go with his father rather then go see his mother as she requested?

6. Why do you think Hemingway entitled the story The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife?

Writing Assignment

  1. Students could choose one of the themes and write an essay
  2. Characterization are the choices an author makes to reveal a character’s personality, such as appearance, actions, dialogue, and motivations.  Have students choose two or three  characters and write a short description for each.
  3. Have students write a different ending for the story.


ANSWER KEY: The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife