Nick’s Psychological Development in Ernest Hemingway’s “In Our Time” In Hemingway’s collection of short stories, In Our Time, we follow a character by the name of Nick Adams. We are introduced to Nick in “Indian Camp” as a young boy, and follow him to adulthood in both Parts I and II of “Big Two-Hearted River”. Through this we see Nick develop and learn about some major facts of life. Nick is a character who changes through the effects of war on many different levels. Although Hemingway hardly mentions the war, he uses the stories to express different effects and emotions caused by the war.
In “Indian Camp” we meet Nick as he joins his father to help a pregnant Indian woman in labor. Nick’s father, a doctor, brings him to experience this as a sort of initiation of life. His father wants him to learn about life and wants to teach his son about being a doctor. While doing this, Nick’s father is unconsciously presenting Nick with life while trying to shield him from death. When the Indian man commits suicide, Nick’s father does not want him to see it. A man who commits suicide lacks courage, and that is not something that Nick’s father wants him to learn. Nick’s father did not say much to him about this incident. This strong, silent masculinity reappears throughout these stories. When this happens, Nick’s behavior also changes. Nick quickly refers to his father as “daddy” instead of “dad” as he did earlier. He is looking for his father to fix what has happened and comfort him. This tragic incident scars Nick more than even his father understands. Witnessing suicide was too disturbing to Nick at his young age, thus restraining his psychological development. Reacting to this, at the end of the story “… [Nick] felt quite sure that he would never die” (19). This makes it obvious that although Nick witnessed death first hand, that he still does not fully understand it. Hemingway is introducing the theme of masculinity in the story, and how Nick is going to struggle with this throughout his life. Nick’s father stormed into a typically female situation (giving birth) and turned it into a male-dominated environment. This introduces Nick to prefer a masculine life rather than a feminine life.
In the story “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” we briefly see Nick’s family life. All three of the Adams are living in separate worlds. Nick’s mother is…
…h are the two hearts of the big river, making their battle bring them closer together rather than further apart. The reason the two can connect is because they are both male. Even after all that Nick has gone through, he still has not allowed females into his life. He still believes that there can be no unison with women in a masculine life. It is here when it is obvious that regardless of all that he has been through, Nick has still not completely accepted the way traditional society works. He has shut out civilization and has begun the end of his life in solitude.
Hemingway used many different emotions in this book to describe what people go through during war. Nick Adams is a character who never really finds peace in society. Instead, he finds contentment in solitude. Had Nick let women into his life and taken a risk of getting hurt, then he might have not spent the rest of his life fishing alone. Nick made the decision that he did not want the domestic life that Marjorie wanted. Now he must spend his days reflecting on his life and the decisions that he made. Whether he is at peace with the decisions he made is questionable, but anything is better than being at war.