Indian Camp and The Garden essay

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The scene is full of hope and joy, and the use of light helps to illuminate this mood.

Once Laura crosses the road, the scene is described quite differently. At first it is "smoky and dark," however Laura does manage to see in some of the cottages flickers of light in the shadows. These flickers of light represent flickers of hope, but they are far less luminous than those which were presented during the garden party.

"The Indian Camp" also makes use of light and dark imagery as a means of signifying elements of the initiation process. Nick and his father start off their journey in the dark of night, which signifies the lack of knowledge that surrounds Nick, and his blindness to the events that are about to take place in the shanty in the Indian camp. Like Laura's experience in the village, Nick too is able to see specks of light within the darkness, coming from the lanterns, but they are neither steady nor extensive. This is representative of the intermittent and limiting aspects of Nick's initiation -- he does gain specks of insight and maturity but they are quickly snuffed out by his desire to stay in the comfort of the dark -- in the ignorance of bliss.

When Nick and his father walk back to the boat it is "just beginning to be daylight" it is not yet made clear if Nick's initiation was successful; whether he understood the events of the night and if he learned anything valuable from it. Then in the boat, the sun comes up over the hills and together with the idyllic picture of the lake that is painted in the end. This shows Nick's withdrawal into his childhood immaturity, he does not want to deal with the pain and suffering of life and death and the events he experienced, thus for him everything remains light and innocent despite his dark experiences at the camp.

3.0 Comparison of Themes

Three prevalent themes appear in both The Garden Party and in Indian Camp. These are: life vs. death; innocence vs. insight and activeness vs. passiveness.

3.1 Life vs. Death

Understanding the cycle of life and death is an important lesson in the coming of age of children and a vital part of their initiation. Thus it is not surprising that both stories explore these themes at length. In "The Garden Party" Laura sees what it looks like to be dead, which ultimately changes her perception of life. When she sees how utterly peaceful Mr. Scott looks as has been "given up to his dreams" (57) she crosses the threshold of her initiation. It is at this point that she truly matures and comes to understand the meaning of the life cycle. Laura has to accept the simultaneity of it all, death and life happen side by side and there is beauty in death, too.

In "Indian Camp," Nick also experiences the simultaneous nature of life and death, as a child is brought into the world at almost the same moment when another life is taken from it. However, unlike Laura, Nick is not willing to look at what is happening and is therefore unable to cross that threshold of knowledge the way that Laura did. The following exchange indicates Nick's desire to remain innocent and avoid maturity.

"See, it's a boy, Nick," he said. "How do you like being an interne?"

Nick said, 'All right." He was looking away so as not to see what his father was doing.

"There. That gets it," said his father and put something into the basin.

Nick didn't look at it (9).

It is as if Nick somewhere deep inside himself understands that if he accepts his initiation and seeks to make sense of the cycle of life and death, this would mean the destruction of his harmless and untouched world, and thus he represses it.

3.2 Innocence vs. Insight

Laura and Nick both have not experienced much of life outside of their comfort zone, and thus they both begin their stories in a protected childhood bubble; in a state of innocence. But in "The Garden Party," Laura is forced to overcome her family's sheltered and ignorant ideals to be able to understand life for herself. She has a moment of innocence when she accepts the hat her mother gives her, the emblem of class, but she later feels guilty when she recognizes its symbolism. She even winds up apologizing for the hat to the deceased Mr. Scott because she now understands that is just a frivolous and meaningless representation of personhood.

In "Indian Camp," Nick is offered the opportunity for insight but instead opts for the comfort of innocence. He is not yet ready to cross that line and begin looking at life through the discerning and often cynical eyes of an adult. Thus, essentially, his initiation is a failure because he does not, as Marcus describes, "fall through knowledge to maturity" (222). Instead, he simply falls short.

3.3 Activeness vs. Passiveness

In "The Garden Party," Laura seeks out her own initiation. She matures on her own when she leaves her family's house and goes to the cottage by herself. Although she is frightened and wishes to turn back around several times, she realizes that she cannot. She must proceed forward or remain as ignorant as the rest of her family. She is ready for her initiation, which was already indicated when she talked and supervised the workmen in the garden. Her family tried to shield her from the outside world and from experiencing the reality of the world by only keeping her in their house on the hill trying to impose their worldview on her. She longed to see another way to look at the world and she set out on her own to find it.

Nick, on the other hand, is has been dragged to the camp by his father and really has no interest in having any type of initiation experience. He is therefore only a passive participant in the initiation process, which is likely a large part of the reason that it was not successful. Had maturation and enlightenment been something he wanted from the start, he would likely have been far more receptive to the lessons made available.

4.0 Conclusion

Both "Indian Camp" and "The Garden Party" focus on the initiation process that Marcus describes in his article. Both Nick and Laura set forth on a journey that involves the confrontation of life and death. Both have lived sheltered lives that are about to be disrupted by events outside of their control. Both have experiences with light and darkness and all that it represents. However, despite these similarities, it is clear that the outcome of each young protagonist's experience varies considerably. While Laura takes a proactive stance in her initiation and winds up having an epiphany that makes her view both life and death from a new perspective, Nick leaves the camp feeling as innocent and naive as he ever was. Therefore, while Laura's initiation can be considered a resounding success, Nick's is unfortunately, a failure.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. "Indian Camp." Stories of Initiation. Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Sprachen GmbH, 2009. 7-12..

Mansfield, Katherine. "The Garden Party." Stories of Initiation. Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Sprachen GmbH, 2009.…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Indian Camp And The Garden" (2010, January 31) Retrieved December 10, 2016, from

"Indian Camp And The Garden" 31 January 2010. Web.10 December. 2016. <>

"Indian Camp And The Garden", 31 January 2010, Accessed.10 December. 2016,

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