Nick Adams: A central and recurring character of Ernest Hemingway [Archives:2003/662/Education]

August 25 2003

By Dr. Bashar G. Askar
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A close study of Hemingway's novels and short stories reveals a lot of thematic and philosophical grounds. In fact, his characters are cast in a world of natural and human violence of wars. They are not only involved in the phenomena of violence, but also in what violence does to man, and in violence of death. His heroes are under tension, pressure of life and circumstances.
Nick Adams is a major character that represents Hemingway himself who abides by the values to remain “Undefeated”. Life is not an easy game to play. One should know how to live life without surrender or defeat. In this respect, one should be pragmatic about the realities of life to understand its threads and live it as it is. Nick feels a sense of alienation from the roots and values shadowed with a vision of tragedy. Nick is an outdoor man, so he learns a lot of this outdoor life. He learns the knowledge of good and evil, of right and wrong and a sense of abandoned world to man. Nick is a good representative of human plight and his life is a conflict between the individual and society.
“In Our Time” introduces us to a collection of stories that deals with the condition of man in a society upset by the violence of war. Man is the focus of Hemingway and life is governed by dark forces. Nick Adams all throughout the stage of his growth from a child into a man senses life as it is without false pretensions. He feels that there is no peace in life. It is a struggle between the powerful and the weak and between the good and the evil.
In “Indian Camp” Hemingway reveals things about Indian camps in those days. The story is about a doctor, Nick's father, who delivers an Indian woman with simple tools and even without anesthesia. This dismal scenario had its effects on Nick who was only a young boy, not interested in the shocking events. He was rather interested in their effects and outcomes on the little boy Nick watching such a painful scene. Then the father and son discussed death because the boy is curious to know more about death.
Critics say that there are a number of key events in the life of Adams tied up with the life of Hemingway. In general, Nick Adams's is an outdoor, honest, virile, and very sensitive character. Nick is the Hemingway type of a hero of which he dies thousands to times before his final death. In this sense, Nick knows how to live with his trouble and sufferings. With all his shocks, hurts, and struggle he remains essentially an “individual man” and an isolated, severed largely from his family, society and community, and even oblivious of political, social and community life around him. The greatest significance of the character is that when Nick conducts himself with courage and fortitude, with duty and dignity, with grace under pressure, his acts move towards the heroic. Philip Young finds him a sick man, wounded physically and psychically. He is the central and recurring character of Hemingway's early short stories. He is trapped in a dull life, crippled by a terrible knowledge, vitalized thin dreams of high impossible romance. It would be no exaggeration to say that he represents the ironic vision of human situation in the twentieth century.