What would have Epictetus said?
If each character in the short story had looked through Epictetus’s perspective, would no one have been harmed? The young father supposedly acted out of impulse when he killed himself. Presumably because of the unbearable events that were happening in front of him—whatever they may be. The father actually proved Epictetus’s point that hating sickness, poverty, or certain aspects of ones life that one cannot control will lead to disappointment. Therefore he should focus on things in his control so that he is not begot with emotions that can distract and worry him of useless things—useless because they are beyond his control. Destructive emotions from the father, which led to his death, resulted from errors of judgment. This is because if he had not hated the circumstances he was in and had looked at things in a more positive light, he would not have been disappointed and, most likely, would not have killed himself. Epictetus would have advised the young father to take a step back before doing anything and look at the bigger picture. As he says in Enchiridion: “When you are about to take something in hand, remind yourself what manner of thing it is.”
Not as obvious to the reader were Nick’s actions. He seemed to take the role of a spectator. But because of the things he saw as an observer, he thought about death in a way that Epictetus would disagree with. Even the question “ Is dying hard, daddy?” is a question that sounds childish. However, if Epictetus answered that question, he would most likely say: “It will hurt only if you think it hurts,” or: “It's irrelevant. You should only be concerned with will—what you alone can control.” However, his father’s response only leads Nick to stating that he would never die. If Nick would have not been preoccupied with the thought of death and immortality, as so many people are, he could have more easily enjoyed the pleasures of life in the present time.
Also, reason is a big part of Epictetus’s Socratic philosophy. Reason, he explains, leads to happiness. Did either character reason through their situation? Most likely this is not the case. The evidence from Indian Camp shows how they acted out of impulse. The young father proves to have acted out of impulse and not reason because he was not able to remind himself of what he is about to do or look at a bigger picture. He simply acted. Nick might have thought about death but this does not mean he acted out of reason. Instead he let certain events affect his final thoughts on death. In this way he acted out of impulse. If these characters could not even take control of their impulse, which is something in their control, how can we expect them to be able to control things out of their control? This proves once again the need for detachment from the things they cant control like their bodies, property, and reputation and a need to take control of their thought, impulse, and will to avoid/get.
Basic stoic concepts ignore the quantity or longevity of life for an overall enhancement of the quality of life. These principles may have helped characters like the young father and Nick live more fulfilling lives. However, to say that a human being should treat family and certain things as “passers-by treat an inn” is a bit of a stretch. As Aristotle says, human beings are political and social animals. To treat nothing with importance—besides one's own thoughts—is irrational and impossible to be done realistically.