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Research Report by Jenna Frazier

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Research Report: Analyzing Hemingway's Themes of Death, Suffering, and Masculinity


By Jenna Frazier, Storyboard Project Team


Tyler, Lisa. "'Dangerous Families' and 'Intimate Harm' in Hemingway's 'Indian Camp.'" Texas Studies in Literature and Language 48 (April 2006): 37-53.




Tyler's article explores the themes of life and death, suffering and violence, and empathy and hostility throughout Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time series, most notably "Indian Camp." Tyler examines the role of the family and particularly the father in propagating values about how to respond to the suffering of others--particularly women and animals--and how these various responses shape certain perceptions of manhood or masculinity. Using detailed anecdotes of Hemingway's own childhood and biography, Tyler demonstrates how Hemingway's own relationship with his father extends to the interactions between his protaganist, Nick Adams, and his father.




Lisa Tyler is an Associate Professor of English at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio who has published a book in 2001 entitled "Student Companion to Ernest Hemingway." Her article published in Texas Studies in Literature and Language in 2006 explores "men's responses to violence and their capacity for empathy" (Tyler, 37) as portrayed in various short stories in Hemingway's In Our Time collection, most notably "Indian Camp." With great attention to detail and an abundance of anecdotal information, Tyler engages in a scrutinizing close-reading of Hemingway's short stories that revolve around the main protagonist, the young Nick Adams, and his relationship with his father. Tyler argues that Hemingway's own childhood experiences with his father influenced his portrayal of Nick Adams' responses to suffering as taught to him by his father. These themes offer crucial insight to the male responses to the suffering of others in "Indian Camp," how these responses explain father-son relationships, and how these childhood impressions can shape an individual's psychological response to the world around him for a lifetime.


Throughout her article, Tyler emphasizes a profound male detachment and insensitivity towards scenes of violence imposed on members of traditionally disenfranchised groups such as women and animals in Hemingway's In Our Times, and particularly "Indian Camp." Tyler argues that "Hemingway [suggests] that men's characters are determined, in part, by their responses to human and animal suffering, and (in 'Indian Camp') especially women's suffering" (Tyler, 38). What their responses ultimately determine is their "capacity for humanity" (Tyler, 38) and whether or not they are able to empathize with the suffering of individuals who are in certain aspects dissimilar to themselves. Tyler also demonstrates how sexism and racism play a role in influencing perceptions of masculinity and in prompting reactions on the behalf of male characters towards female subjects. She says that Dr. Adam displays both qualities in his treatment toward the laboring Indian woman in the story--arguing that he objectifies her according to her femininity and furthermore according to her race--and that these qualities have a deep impact on Nick's understandings of the events as they relate to his own perceived masculinity and his capacity for empathy towards others.


The article pays specific attention to men's reactions to the suffering of women in "Indian Camp," and suggests that while there are three possible responses to this type of suffering--empathy for the woman which leads to subordination and weakness, empathy for the coldly rational doctor which leads to loss of humanity, or a conscious decision to recognize the woman's suffering and take action--male characters in "Indian Camp" recognize only the first two as viable options. While the first choice "damns [Nick] to a death of the self in endless empathy," the second choice "damns him to a cold isolation and instrumental rationality in which other human beings are regarded as objects rather than subjects in their own right" (Tyler, 38-39). The article claims that Nick chooses the second option and decides to "reject empathy and triumph" (Tyler, 39) as his father did before him. Furthermore, Tyler shows that Hemingway created, in Nick, a character that made the same choice as many young men of the "Lost Generation" who came of age around World War I. It was kill or be killed, and to remember others was to forget oneself. Empathy was a luxury not conducive to the self-preservation that many men learned the hard way, as a result of fighting to the death in bloody foreign trenches.


Tyler also spends considerable time in her article researching Hemingway's youth and childhood and relating his experiences, especially those relevant to his relationship with his father, to the young Nick Adams of his stories. She cites numerous sources which suggest that Hemingway's father, Clarence, was "clearly a demanding father" (Tyler, 43) who was "harshly judgmental" (Tyler, 45), "cruel" or severe, (Tyler, 45) and often held unrealisitically high expectations for his son and made him feel inferior if he could not meet them. Tyler speculates that Hemingway then may have inherited these paternal qualities and passed them on to his own children, becoming "a demanding father in his own right" (Tyler, 47). Regardless, Hemingway learned to "suppress his own emotions" (Tyler, 47) and embrace stoicism as a sign of strength. This relationship can easily be seen as a parallel to Nick and Dr. Adam's in "Indian Camp," where Dr. Adams perhaps inappropriately and prematurely introduces Nick to a traumatic situation he may or may not be ready to handle. Nick, then, sides with his father and believes that his own detachment from the suffering of others makes him immortal, and "quite sure that he would never die" (Tyler, 39).


Tyler’s article offers an in-depth, comprehensive, analytical view of many important themes and features of Hemingway’s “Indian Camp.” Her commentary on both the story itself and on Hemingway’s own biographical information provide a thorough exploration of the what the story says about racism, sexism, violence, suffering, and how they relate to perceptions of masculinity.




Our team is experimenting with Adobe Dreamweaver and other storyboard-building programs to create a chronological, in-depth model and analysis of Ernest Hemingway's short story, "Indian Camp."  We will display a series of 8-9 icons representative of various scenes in the short story, that link out to several different modes of analysis and interpretation along with sources of outside information.  Some of the issues we plan to explore in our analysis include the themes of sexism, racism, violence, suffering, and perceptions of masculinity.  Because Tyler's articles provides so much insightful analysis about the story, it will be a good research tool for us to reference throughout the storyboard as we engage in close-reading with the text.


We also planned to consider including additional material related to the text, for example, information related to the author's biography.  Tyler provides a great deal of primary source details about Hemingway's childhood, as well as speculation about how his own life experiences may have paralleled or influenced his writing.   This may be a source of interesting additional information to include during our analysis of each scene, or as a separate addition to the storyboard.  The article includes a wealth of firsthand information about Hemingway's life that our group may not have had acccess to otherwise, or would have had to search for among many other sources.  Although an author cannot be said to be the narrator of his work, his own life experiences undoubtedly influence his writings and biographical information can only enhance the quality of a holistic textual analysis.


Although Tyler's article is an incredibly helpful resource regarding the analysis of our short story choice, it does not offer any technical guidance for the storyboarding aspect of our project.  For this reason, we have researched other sources that give more insight to that aspect of our work.  Examples of these include the website for the program, Adobe Dreamweaver, as well as an online tutorial guide about storyboarding by Jane Stevens.  Each of these sources provide knowledge about the actual program and methods we will be using to enact our project into a real storyboard, however they lack the scholarly insight of the article by Tyler--as well as other academic sources we have researched, like Jeffrey Meyers' article, "Hemingway's Primitivism and 'Indian Camp.'"  What each of these resource tools lack in usefulness towards our project, another one makes up for with the missing information.  We believe we have accrued a well-rounded collection of resources to thoroughly and professionally create a storyboard resource guide for "Indian Camp."



Resources for Further Study


1. Tyler, Lisa. "'Dangerous Families' and 'Intimate Harm' in Hemingway's 'Indian Camp.'" Texas Studies in Literature and Language 48 (April 2006): 37-53. View article


2. Meyers, Jeffrey. "Hemingway's Primitivism and 'Indian Camp.'" Twentieth Century Literature 34.21988 (Feb. 2005): 211-222.  View article


3. Stevens, Jane. "Multimedia Storytelling." Knight Digital Media Center 2007. Regents of the University of California 2007.  View article


4. "Adobe Dreamweaver." Adobe. February 13, 2008.  View product website 


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