Hemingway biographer Carlos Baker writes that Hemingway learned from his short stories how to "get the most from the least, how to prune language, how to multiply intensities, and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth".[30] The style has become known as the iceberg theory, because, as Baker describes it, in Hemingway's writing the hard facts float above water while the supporting structure, including the symbolism, operates out of sight.[30] Benson believes Hemingway used autobiographical details as framing devices to write about life in general—not only his life.[31] The concept of the iceberg theory is sometimes referred to as the "theory of omission". Hemingway believed the writer could describe one thing though an entirely different thing occurs below the surface.[32]

Hemingway learned from Ezra Pound how to achieve a stripped-down style and how to incorporate the concepts of imagism in his prose. He said Pound "had taught him more 'about how to write and how not to write' than any son of a bitch alive"; and his friend James Joyce told him "to pare down his work to the essentials".[33] The prose is spare and lacks a clear symbolism. Instead of more conventional literary allusions, Hemingway relied on repetitive metaphors or metonymy to build images. The caesarian is repeatedly associated with words such as "the blanket" and "the bunk" in a series of objective correlatives, a technique Hemingway may have learned from T.S. Eliot.[34] Tetlow believes in this early story Hemingway ignored character development; he simply places a character in a setting, and adds descriptive detail such as a screaming woman, men smoking tobacco, and an infected wound, which give a sense of truth.[12]

"Indian Camp" is constructed in three parts: the first places Nick and his father on a dark lake; the second takes place in the squalid and cramped cabin amid terrifying action; and the third shows Nick and his father back on the...