Themes and message

Initiation and growing up

Initiation has to do with moving through life stages as you grow up. This theme has to do with the main character Nick and his psychological development. In the course of one night in the camp of the Native Americans, he witnesses the clash of two cultures as well as the violence of both childbirth and suicide.

In the beginning of the story, Nick is still an innocent and naive child. We see this from his father’s protectiveness as Nick nests in his father’s arm in the boat and as his father initially avoids telling him that they are in fact going to assist in a childbirth without anaesthetic.

However, during the dramatic night in camp, Nick is exposed to the different lifestyle and culture of the people living in the shanties. Here, the author explores the age-old topic of the conflict between the civilized and the savage: For example, the woman has been in labor for two days before a doctor is called, and Uncle George reacts in a superior, derogatory manner towards her when she savagely bites him during labor.

In the camp, Nick is also exposed to the universal theme of life and death. His father intentionally exposes him to a childbirth, but it soon becomes clear that it will not be a natural one. Inst...

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