Ten Indians by Ernest Hemingway
In Ten Indians by Ernest Hemingway we have the theme of love, rejection, heartbreak, innocence, loss, hope, acceptance and conformity. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by any unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Hemingway may be exploring the theme of love and rejection. Nick can’t believe that Prudence could be with another boy (Frank Washburn). It is as though Nick’s feelings for Prudence have been rejected by the fact that Prudence was in the woods with Frank. Any exclusivity that their relationship may have had is gone with Prudence not feeling the same about Nick as he does about her. If anything Nick feels heartbroken when his father tells him that he seen Prudence in the woods with Frank. Not only has Nick’s love affair with Prudence ended but most likely they will no longer be friend’s either. Such are the strong intensity of feelings that Nick has on the matter. It is also interesting how the Indian community is viewed by those in the story. They assume that because it is the fourth of July all the Indians from the camp will be drunk. In many ways this view is stereotypical of many Americans when it comes to their perceptions of the Native American Indian within their community. It may also be important that Joe Garner assumes that all Indians dress the same as this would again play on the stereotypical viewpoint that was held at the time when it came to Native American Indians. With all Indians being the same. Which in reality is untrue.
Nick also feels somewhat embarrassed to admit that he is seeing Prudence when he is teased about it by Frank. Whether this is because Nick is a young boy and is easily embarrassed when it comes to affairs of the heart or whether there is a different reason for his denial is difficult to say. Though it is possible that Nick knows that the Indians in the camp are not accepted by some in the community. So Nick may feel as though he does not want to step across the preconceived and acceptable norms that have been set by the community. In order to conform Nick may be deliberately denying that he has a friendship or relationship with Prudence. By doing so it keeps the spot light off Nick. Leaving those who may disapprove of white people mixing with Indians silent.
It is also possible that Nick has placed Prudence on a pedestal a pedestal in which she can only fall off. Though it can’t be said for certain if Prudence is Nick’s first love it is highly likely that she is. He has probably devoted all his energies to her as often happens with first love. Prudence can do no wrong in Nick’s eyes however that all changes when Nick’s father sees Prudence in the wood with Frank. The innocence that Nick had attached to the relationship is no more nor is there any purity left within the relationship. At least not for Nick. For Nick exclusivity is important as too is conformity. Two people giving themselves to each other (Nick and Prudence) without the influence of outside sources (Frank). Now that Nick knows there is a third person in the relationship he is heartbroken. Which is interesting as Nick has the opportunity to fight for Prudence’s love yet instead he internalizes all his negative feelings and the wind is knocked from his sail. Which may lead some readers so suspect that Nick’s relationship with Prudence is in fact his first relationship with a girl. There is no fight in Nick. He just feels deflated and defeated.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is still hope for Nick. When he awakes he doesn’t immediately think about Prudence or the fact that his heart has been broken. This may be important as Hemingway may be suggesting that the uphill battle that Nick felt he might face over Prudence being with Frank is not as steep as it had been the previous evening. Though there is no doubting that Nick is upset he still leaves the reader with the impression that things are not as bad as they may seem. It anything the pain that Nick feels is manageable. He is conscious of the world around him and is not internalizing his feelings as he has done the night before. Which leads the reader to suspect that Nick is going to be okay. The sense of loss he felt from the previous evening though it may still be there is not as controlling. Nick’s first thought when he woke up was not of his heartbreak which is a positive step. At the end of the story there is a sense that Nick may have learnt to accept that Prudence was with Frank and that Prudence may not be all that Nick thought she was. If anything Nick’s broken heart will mend quicker than he thinks.