Summary and structure

Here, we will focus on the summary and structure of “The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife” by Ernest Hemingway.


Dr. Henry Adams hires three Native Americans (called Indians in the text) to cut some logs on his property. The logs, however, do not belong to the doctor but got separated from a larger load of logs being dragged along the lake by the steamer Magic. When one of the Native Americans, Dick Boulton,...



The short story “The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife” does not follow the traditional plot structure typically used in short stories. Instead, it is organized in three scenes (parts). The first scene illustrates a male-to-male conflict, the second scene, a female-to-male conflict, and the third scene illustrates male-to-male cooperation.

The story is structured around the main character’s outer and inner conflicts which remain open and unresolved. The doctor enters a conflict with the Indians he hired but leaves the argument because he knows he cannot win.



The story begins in media res, in the middle of the action, describing three Native Americans coming to cut some wood for the doctor: "Dick Boulton came from the Indian camp to cut up logs for Nick's father. He brought his son Eddy, and another Indian named Billy Tabeshaw with him." (ll. 1-3)



The middle of the short story, divided into two scenes, develops the conflicts the doctor has with the Native Americans and with his wife.

In the first scene, the doctor enters an argument with one of the Native Americans, Dick Boulton, who jokes about the doctor stealing the logs. However, the doctor is offended by the man’s accusation, and tension increases: " ‘Well, Doc,’ he said, ‘that's a nice lot of timber you've stolen.’ ‘Don't talk that way, Dick,’ the doctor said. ‘It's driftwood.’ " (ll. 35-36)

The more Dick argues that the logs are stolen, the more enraged the doctor becomes, as his reputation and image are at stake. Ultimately, he asks the Native American men to leave if they consider him a thief: " ‘Take your stuff and get out.’ ‘Listen, Doc.’ ‘If you call me Doc once again, I'll knock your eye teeth down your throat.’ " (ll. 55-57)

Their conflict remains unresolved as the doctor heads to his cottage and the Indians take their tools and leave the doctor’s property.



The ending of the short story comprises the third and final part of the narrative. The scene takes place outside the cottage in “the hemlock woods” (l. 112) and involves the doctor and his son Nick.


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