Hills Like White Elephants
Symbolism and Meaning of Liminal Spaces in “Hills Like White Elephants”
Since its publication in 1927, Ernest Hemingway’s seemingly simple short story “Hills Like White Elephants” has readers arguing over the ever-present issue of a woman’s rights. At first glance, “Hills Like White Elephants” appears to be about a man and a woman having drinks and a shallow conversation whilst awaiting a train. However, the seemingly light and airy time is actually much more serious and a matter of life or death for the woman and her unborn fetus. As the American and Jig take in the desolate scenery around them, the American continuously tries to convince Jig to get an abortion because “’it’s really a simple operation… it’s not really an operation at all.’” (Hemingway 590). The meticulous setting of this short story ultimately mirrors the three possible outcomes of Jig and the American’s relationship.
First, there is the setting of the train station bar, the liminal ground, in which the pair are the majority of the story. This liminal space mirrors the fact that Jig and the American are undecided in whether to keep the baby or rid themselves of it. Second, there are the dry and infertile-looking hills, which would ultimately mean Jig getting rid of the baby. The final option for the pair would be the beautiful lush forest by the Ebro that Jig explored by herself, which would mean Jig having the baby and leaving the American. As the characters explore these possibilities they grow farther apart from each other, and each end up coming to their own conclusion. Throughout the text, the liminal train station and change in setting allows both characters to explore what their futures may hold, and face the truth that Jig ultimately holds the power to make the decision to keep her baby or to get rid of it. Throughout the text, Jig and the American use the setting surrounding them in the train station to mirror their inner, liminal state. As the story opens, Jig and the American sit at a train station that on one side had “no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun.” (589). This train station, which is set between two lines of rails allows for the conversation of liminality. Jig and the American could quite literally go one way or another with their decision to keep the baby or not.
In addition to the liminal space of the train station, Jig and the American are also sitting “at a table in the shade, outside the building.” (589). Herein, there is a contrast between the station being in the sun and Jig and the American sitting in the shade. The station, which is illuminated by light, symbolizes truth or realization. However, where Jig and the American are sitting in the shade, can be read that they are quite literally shaded by denial and doubt—at the beginning of the story the pair are not ready to face the light. While outside, the “girl was looking off at the hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.” (589). Again, the sun illuminates the hills, which cannot only symbolize the stomach of a pregnant woman, but also, the fact that they are white means that they have positive connotations and are pure, compared to the desolate brown country surrounding them. Yet, Jig and the American are still in the shadows, illustrating both the liminality and avoidance of the issue of her pregnancy. Within the story, the liminal setting begins to revert the American into the past, and force Jig to think about her future.
Separating Jig and the American from the inside is the liminal structure of the beaded curtain with “Anis del Toro” painted on it (589). Since alcohol has been such a prominent part of Jig and the American’s previous relations, one could assume that the beaded curtain symbolizes the pair’s past—and going back through the curtains means reverting to their past party-going ways and not having the baby. Jig comments, “’that’s all we do isn’t it—look at things and try new drinks.’” (590), herein, she focuses on the desolation and shallowness of her and the American’s relationship. If all Jig and the American do is run around drinking and being irresponsible, is it really love or a quality relationship that could sustain a child? As Jig comes to the realization the she and the American will separate, she begins to humanize the baby, saying “’they’re lovely hills… they don’t really look like white elephants,’ I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees.’” (590). By calling the hills lovely, Jig is romanticizing her pregnancy and starting to appreciate that having a child would not be as bad as the American makes it seem, but rather having a child with the American would be bad. Though Jig has made her realization, the American is still stuck in their party days and has the persistent mindset that Jig will get the abortion. As Jig sends the American to bring their bags to the other side of the station he, “did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.” (592). First, the fact that the American brings the bags to the other side of the station could suggest that he is indeed changing his mind about making Jig get the abortion, but the fact that he romanticizes the hotel labels forces one to believe that he is still fixated on not being tied down. This quote reinforces the American’s perpetual liminal state of mind, though Jig seems to clearly make up her mind, the American never comes to a concrete conclusion.
Through the progression of the story, Jig interpretation of her surroundings allows her agency to move from the liminal space. Ultimately, the conversation between Jig and the American goes nowhere, and Jig begins to have agency and is able to move out of the liminal space. Out of frustration: The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees. (591) At the end of the station, the imagery is lush and fertile. By leaving the liminal bar and walking off by herself, Jig is able to clear her head and find a positive place, where there is life and presumably happiness, as opposed to the dry, infertile country inhabited by the American. In fact, as Jig returns to the bar where the American resides, the imagery once again becomes desolate: “they sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table,” (592) herein, the American becomes linked with the negative infertility of the hills. The pair’s different interpretation of the setting surrounding them leads to tension. As the story closes, Jig has come to the conclusion that she will have the baby, and the American just looks around and sees other people, “waiting reasonably for the train,” (592). This quote makes it seem as if the American is stuck perpetually in the past, in a state of adolescence. Instead of moving on, growing up, and having a family like most “normal” people, he wishes to travel, have guiltless sex, and drink alcohol excessively. By the end of the story, it is clear that Jig is drawn to the fertile forest, and the American is just drawn to the bar.
In “Hills Like White Elephants,” Hemingway suggests that the current human condition is strained. Relationships are shallow and filled with misconnections. Especially relationships such as Jig and the American’s, it started out as liminal, something that was not serious, but also was not completely blasé—but then when Jig got pregnant neither knew how to properly deal with the situation. Through the use of the liminal settings, Hemingway allows Jig and the American to explore their different options for the future. Though the American keeps trying to convince Jig to get an abortion, she finally comes to the realization that she does not have to listen to him and she has the autonomy to do what she pleases with her own body. Unfortunately, though this story was written in 1927, there is still a controversy concerning a woman’s rights to contraception, abortion, etc. today.
The Significance on What is Left Unsaid in Hills Like White Elephants, a Short Story by Ernest Hemingway
The great American author Ernest Hemingway is well-known for his unique style, which places the greatest significance on what is left unsaid. Among his works, and in his typical fashion, is the short story “Hills Like White Elephants.” This narrative focuses on a couple travelling in Western Europe and the unspoken problem that is straining their relationship. Although not specifically stated, the dialogue suggests that the girl is pregnant and considering terminating the pregnancy. While the girl remains uncertain of what to do, the man accompanying her is steadfast that she should have “the procedure.” In Hemingway’s story, “Hills like White Elephants,” an uncomfortable atmosphere, choppy dialogue, and the sharp contrast between the central characters’ desires creates tension as the girl struggles to make a difficult decision regarding the future of her relationship and her unborn child.
From the beginning, Hemingway creates an uncomfortable atmosphere to suggest to readers that there is already friction between the girl and the man. The story is set in an unfamiliar place, both for readers and for the characters. The man is identified as an American travelling in Spain. Although readers are not told where the girl is from, it is clear that she is not from Spain, as the man must translate to the woman who is serving them. Within the first moments, both characters are drinking alcohol. Not only are they drinking, but the girl asks, “Big ones?” and the man agrees. The presence of alcohol and the staccato quality of their initial dialogue contributes to the uncomfortable atmosphere of the story early on. As the story continues, the two order additional drinks in what seems like a very short time. They order “Anis del Toro,” and another round of beers, which helps to establish the edginess that both characters have in anticipation of their conversation. When not used in reference to social drinking, alcohol generally suggests uneasiness, acting as a buffer for difficult conversations. In this story, the alcohol leads into their discussion of whether or not the girl should have an abortion.
In addition to the tension created by the uncomfortable atmosphere, Hemingway also uses dialogue to build tension between the two characters. The longest sentence on the first page is only five words up until the man snaps, “Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything,” in response to her comment about seeing white elephants (475). This first sentence of considerable length reveals some of the tension already building between the two. While discussing their Anis del Toros, the girl makes a simple joke and the man appears short with her. She responds, “You started it…I was being amused. I was having a fine time.” He then says, “Well let’s try and have a fine time” (476). This text suggests that they were having to work at acting normal and appearing “fine.” At this point, they are still concealing their true emotions and the reason for their discomfort. The word “fine” appears again at the very end of the story when the girl appears to have lost the argument and the man asks if she feels better. The girl responds shortly with, “I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine” (478). Although she claims to be “fine,” her repetition of the phrase and the word choice of “fine” suggest that she is anything but.
The choppy dialogue throughout the story is accompanied by a sharp contrast between the two characters and their motivating desires. While the man is quite clear about what he wants, the girl is torn between conflicting desires. In the very beginning, the girl comments that the hills “look like white elephants,” a term indicating an unwanted or troublesome possession, which in this case would be the unborn child (475). This initial statement seems odd at first, which is comparable to their peculiar relationship. However, the girl retracts her statement later on when she says, “They’re lovely hills…they don’t really look like white elephants” (476). This is the first indication of her inner struggle. The man, however, quickly assures her, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig. It’s not really an operation at all” (476). Jig’s uncertainty continues when she asks the man if things will be like they used to be and whether or not he will still love her. Although the man says he loves her now, reassurance comes with a reason to go on with the procedure. He tells her, “That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy” (476). Even when he tries to sound supportive, he still insists it’s the best thing to do. In response to her continued uncertainty, he says, “I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to” (477). Each of these statements suggests that the man has a clear idea of what he wants. Even amongst the girl’s uncertainty, he continues to push her. Finally, not wanting to discuss it any further, the girl says, “Would you please please please please please please please stop talking” (477). The man’s continued insistence contrasted with the girl’s apparent reluctance further contributes to the tension of the story.
Like many of his greatest works, Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” places significance on what is left unsaid. Although many of the important facts in this story are not clearly stated, the dialogue provides clues into what the characters are discussing and insight into the nature of their relationship. This story is dominated by a feeling of tension, created by the elements of atmosphere, dialogue, and character. The tense atmosphere comes from the foreign environment and the large amount of alcohol. The short, indirect dialogue expresses the discomfort each of the characters feel, and the conflicting desires of the characters make an easy resolution impossible. All of these elements combine to build the tension throughout the story as the girl struggle to come to decision about whether or not she should keep the baby, and, furthermore, what to do about her relationship with the man. Although the decision is not clear, the tension remains even in the end.
Communication in Hills Like White Elephants
Communication in relationships, especially intimate romantic ones, is very vital for the progressive sustenance of the bond between the two parties involved. Ernest Hemmingway’s Hills Like White Elephants presents a narrative of a couple struggling with communication breakdown between them which threatens their relationship and prevents them from solving pressing issues between them. One of these issues, though subtly implied rather than directly mentioned, is abortion which the American man wants but the girlfriend does not appear to favor Both Jig and the American struggle with communication breakthrough in a bid to come to terms with the conflict in their relationship with each having different views and opinions. The story delineates a couple at an emergency point in their relationship. They battle, in broad daylight, to convey their opposing perspectives on the course their relationship should take. The narrative opens with the two main characters waiting for a train while trying to talk out the conflict and issues in their relationships. However, from the very first moments, one can tell that neither listens to the other and poor listening and communication is going on which worsens the existing crisis in their life. Jig notes that the hills behind the train station“…look like white elephants” and when her boyfriend states he has never seen a white elephant, she responds rudely (Hemingway, 40).
Her rude reply could be because of the pressure she is feeling from her boyfriend, the American, who insists that she procures an abortion as she is pregnant with his child. He has not shown signs that he would like to marry her and although she pretends as if the subject of abortion does not bother her, she is very scared and frustrated about it. She therefore unconsciously directs her frustrations, pressure, and fears by being rude and uncommitted in conversation with her boyfriend. Fear and uncertainty of prospects, plans, and state of things after the abortion is a factor that causes strain in the relationship between the two lovers. This strain is manifested in the poor communication seen in the rude, strained, and unproductive conversation between the two. Jig’s main fear is whether she will be okay or the same after the operation as she asks “Then what will we do afterward?” and the American vaguely answers that “We will be fine afterward, just like we were before.” He does not seem to address her fears that the abortion might not be safe or how it will affect their relationship whether it fails or succeeds. In truth, she likes the American a lot, and she is concerned that the abortion might affect how they relate after losing the baby from abortion. It is reassuring for her to hear everything will still be the same but still harbors uncertainty after she asks him “how sure are you?” in his response that it will be just like it used to be before when they do the operation (Hemingway, 40).
This is a sign that she is still distressed and not fully comforted. Both the characters have different perspectives and opinions on what direction their relationship should take which they struggle to show the other while still respecting the other’s views. While the American appears not able to fully express himself in the best way possible, it is evident that he cares a lot about his girlfriend when he openly tells her what he thinks she should do. She makes it clear that she does not want to force her to do anything “…I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to” referring to the abortion. He tells her that to assure her that he is not going to force or infringe on her wishes thus reassuring her that she doesn’t want her to do something that she is not comfortable with in respect to the abortion. He tells her that he will respect her decision if she does not want to go ahead with the abortion. The take away from this is that the American man cares deeply for her enough not to force his opinion on her. Equal and shared opinion decision making is applied in a bid to solve the issues facing the couple. One primary conflict between Jig and her lover is the divergent views in sharing parenthood. Jig does love her American lover, but at the same time, she is frustrated that the man does not want to share parenthood with her. She walks away to the end of the station frustrated with his sentiments that after the abortion, they will be free to go anywhere that they want to emphasize that as long as the operation is done “we can go anywhere.” To this, she retorts that “No, we can’t it isn’t ours any more.” Jig is referring to the world she thinks they share as a couple which will cease to be theirs in case that the operation destroys magic. The conflict here is that the man does not idealize shared parenthood with Jig and this destroys any image Jig has of a magical world post the abortion (Link, 68).
A closer look makes reveals that while the two couples are trying to achieve a convergent place to live their life and steer their relationship into a stable place, there is lack of proper attention and active communication. After her first remark about the hills looking like white elephants is ignored, Jig repeats the statement to her lover saying “I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright” The last questions shows that she is somehow still in doubt about herself and how the American feels about her. She then later comments that all they do is look at things and try new drinks in a way that shows she is tired, bored, and frustrated by their life. Her lover does not seem to read this properly and nonchalantly answers “I guess so.” When she goes ahead to comment that the lovely hills do not “really look like white elephants” and that she “just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees” he responds in a completely different tone and subject saying “should we have another drink?” (Hemingway, 56). Their communication lines are very different, and they lack that synergy and relation in how they talk. One can say they are both poor listeners who do not take time to listen to respond appropriately (Link, 68).
In summation, the two characters in the Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants struggle with communication issues in their bid to resolve conflict in their relationship. The primary issue was causing a rift in their different perspectives on the issue of abortion and shared parenthood. Also, poor communication which is manifested in poor listening skills and wanting interpersonal, verbal skills exacerbates the existing rift in their communication. At the core of it all, both genuinely care about each other and want to be with each other only that while Jig thinks having the baby will cement their shared parenthood, the man thinks that it will not be necessary. With time, they both come to learn how to compromise on different issues and come together in a more open and accepting relationship.
The Literary Technique of Minimalism in Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
In Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville, both pieces of literature contain a technique called minimalism, an extreme simplicity used to iterate a deeper meaning in the text. Both authors use this writing style to their advantage. Each piece centers on two characters, (so as to focus on the message the author wishes to convey). Hills Like White Elephants introduces, Jig, a childish woman who have been impregnated by her controlling lover, The American’s child, unfortunately, the couple is unmarried and this child will be born out of wedlock unless there is some way to make sure the pregnancy remains covert. “Bartleby the Scrivener” contains the static self-destructive main character Bartleby and his curious boss who resumes the position of narrator throughout the short story. Melville and Hemingway each employ minimalist techniques in their short stories; however, Hemingway uses minimalism in his description while Melville uses minimalism as a theme.
“Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville depicts Bartleby, a hardworking man who one day decides to give up. His downhill spiral is eminent,“Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable…” (Melville 26). The short story, written and set in 1853 follows the life and duties of this not-so-average scrivener, who would once copy the words onto the paper perfectly but now rarely accomplishes anything at all. During his slump Bartleby isolates himself from the rest of society,“[he] sat in his hermitage, oblivious to everything but his own particular business” (Melville 32). A normal person would get fired if they told their boss that they would “prefer not to” when asked to complete a task, but not Bartleby. His boss, often called The Master of Chancery, is so shocked by this response that Bartleby gains the sympathy of his employer and is offered help to get himself out of a dark situation, that he does not fundamentally take, his success or failure will be on his own terms and it is this stubborn attitude that leads him down this path of deterioration. This simplistic response, leaving room for little explanation, is so shocking, breaking down the social contract that society has set in place. The author keeps this singular phrase so brief, as a reflection of his minimalistic stylings. The story, as a whole, utilizes the setting, dialogue, and characterization to depict minimalism as a theme.
In Hills Like White Elephants, a conversation between an arguing couple with a big decision to make is narrated through a third-person point of view. Two young people with thirsting wanderlust traveling along a spanish railroad are deciding on whether or not they should choose to have this unexpected child or not. It is revealed through the narrator’s statements that the couple has had problems prior to this and likely would not have made so far without the baby, but the American, the male lead, seems to think otherwise, "That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy." (Hemingway 50) he says, meaning that their problems are only circumstantial, surely not any of their own doing is responsible for the bickering. As the reader progresses through the story two settings are revealed on each side of the tracks, one side representing fertility, “the fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro”(Hemingway 37) and the other representing death and baronity, “The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white.” (Hemingway 1). After ages of bickering, they come to a compromise and choose to keep their own version of a white elephant, something that nobody wants but in this case turns out to be a precious accident. Hemingway never uses the word abortion, though that is the main argumentative topic covered in the story, he instead uses and details of the setting to communicate the weight of this decision the lack of options for the characters reflect the fact that Hemingway’s use of minimalism is in the description itself.
Hemingway’s literary techniques entail the fate of the main characters by foreshadowing the differences of each outcome using the description of the setting. While Melville has one direct path followed throughout the story until Bartleby, an unfixable lost cause, meets his ultimate demise. Melville’s minimalism, embedded within the theme of the story, is from the few simplistic words spoken by the main character himself, Bartleby. Almost everything Bartleby says is so concise that there are many different forms of interpretation, but it is ultimately what drives the curiosity for the narrator to continue on with the story. Both works contain minimalism but each author uses it in a different way to provide a structural anomaly within the text.
Formalism and Geography in Hills Like White Elephants, a Short Story by Ernest Hemingway
When one hears the title, “Hills like White Elephants”, what comes to mind? Maybe a visual representation of ginormous white hills or maybe something that looks to be an elephant. In fact there are such things as white elephants. White elephants are considered sacred and rare in nature. The short story “Hills like White Elephants”, by Earnest Hemmingway, is being told through a conversation between an American man and a woman that is answering to the name of Jig. The two are waiting for a train to Madrid and as they wait a conversation sparks up between them about a difficult decision that has to be made. Hemmingway’s short story can be viewed through the critical lens of formalism. Formalism is a literary theory that focuses on the context of the story and or literary work, making the context of the story clear and understandable. The use of formalism is to take aspects such as symbolism, tone, characters, and structure to create the overall meaning behind the story.
Geography plays a major role in literature. Geography can develop characters, can be a part of the plot, symbol, mood, tone, and/or symbol (Foster). Geography in this short story shows the positive uplifting side of the situation at hand but as well shows the downfall and negativity. The setting contributes to the conflict and the tension that lies between the couple, showing the literal and figurative aspects of the situation (O’Brien). The station, an important attribute, lied between two lines of rails in the sun, I felt like this represented the two different point of views of the operation. . The couple sit facing the side of the valley where there are no trees, there is a country side in the distance that is brown and in much need of water. On the opposing side of the valley, there are “fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro.” But as she watches the scene, “the shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain,” foreshadowing the death of her unborn child (Johnston). I also feel like when the girl said that the hills look like white elephants, she looked upon the hills like they were beautiful in every way, something sacred and so giving to the earth. All the while she feels the same about the decision she has to make. She feels that it would be no change between her and the man, she feels that they can still love the same. As for the guy when he states that he never seen a white elephant, I felt like he didn’t view the hills as she did, like he didn’t care as much as her for him to be the person pushing the girl to go forward with the operation, he doesn’t want change. I truly believe that he feels that if she doesn’t go forward with the operation then their relationship won’t be the same and he doesn’t want to be around when whatever happens, happens.
Another thing to keep in mind is the cultural aspect of the setting. Hemmingway placed his story in Spanish territory. It may be a bit ironic that Hemmingway placed his characters in this setting. Most Spanish speaking countries are mostly catholic countries, which means they don’t agree with abortions. “However, the girl does not understand Spanish, a fact which helps to reveal her essential helplessness and dependency. She is a stranger in a foreign land where her male companion is her only interpreter and guide.” Their luggage shows that they are not from around the area and their luggage also hints that they have two options once they leave the station. They can go towards Madrid and become a family or go to the same place and get the abortion (Johnston).
Another Symbol that is being used is White Elephants. “White elephants are paradoxical in nature” (Weeks). “A white elephant, in one meaning of the term, is anything rare, expensive, and difficult to keep; any burdensome possession; an object no longer esteemed by its owner though not without value to others” (Johnston). This aspect and view of the elephant is how the man feel towards the unborn child. It seems as if he is ignoring the fact that it’s a child’s life. White elephants are sacred yet a burden to the ones that keep them. Elephants in general are very valuable and sacred but white elephants are rare and were used to show justice and fairness in Asian countries (Weeks). These elephants are a burden because people believed that these elephants should not be used for work but they had to be fed and token care of which cost a lot of money. Jig’s reference to white elephants; The fact that she feels like they can still have the whole world means that jig would accept the consequence a lot more than her supposed significant other, he feels it’s a burden that is going to keep them from having the world. It is both barren and fruitful (Johnston).
What kind of operation was Jig supposed to be having? At first I didn’t recognize what kind of operation the man was trying to get the woman to go through with, I actually had to read the story twice. It’s a certain part in the story that made me feel like the man was trying to convince the girl to get an abortion. When the man said “I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.” I instantly tried to think of what operation let’s air in, but then as I continued to read and the story described the way the woman reacted to the topic of having an “operation” I realized that maybe she wanted whatever it was not the same as the man but I did realize that they were talking of an abortion. They are always trying new things, the baby would have been a burden upon their relationship. The couple was not ready to commit, well at this moment it seems like the American man is trying so hard to make her choose the decision of going through with the operation. The choice of words that Hemmingway uses when the male talks to Jig are much repetitive. Using words like “just”, “really”, and “reasonably” shows which side the man stands upon with the idea of abortion, even though his words were describing everything else around him. Hemmingway used these words to show an exaggerated typical male view on life (O’Brien).
Jig is an important character in Hemmingway’s short story. The name Jig, means a dance, music for the particular dance, or something that is to be taken as a joke. Her name develops central conflict. The way the man treats her and speaks to her is kind of like he doesn’t care, like everything she is saying is irrelevant. Jig can also mean many other things. Her name could be associated with “jigger” which refers to the whisky measures, or even a phrase like “thinger ma jigger” in a way dehumanizing her making her seem like she is a tool or object. Hemmingway knew what he was doing when he purposely had the first appearance of Jig come up after the idea of having an operation (O’Brien)
The whole story is about having something that can be very beautiful and can bring much joy but can also stop you from doing the things that one would love to do or can even become a burden. Choices and decisions can be very difficult to make but reading this story also shows how people can be on two totally different paths in their life. Like how the station sits between two lines of rails, the couple could be on two different paths of life. Hemming way used significant words, techniques, and word play to bring his story to life. No one really knows how this short story ends, but it creates such a cliff hanger that it gives the reader no other choice but to use their imagination, and the dialog between the characters to create an ending of their own.
Men’s Authority Over Women In Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants
Humanity is setting so much tension on individuals to achieve success and be someone they can’t be, that people are behaving in any way they can achieve that goal. Men repeatedly use authority and dominance to prove that they are important and that they can impact the world. The short story by Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants represents men’s authority over women. Ernest Hemingway’s brief story, Hills Like White Elephants expresses the power of men over women. In this story, it allows the reader to take a look at the lives of two individuals, a man and a woman on their journey to a place where the man can persuade her to abort. Hemingway uses a few literary forms like conflict, theme, and plot layout in this suspense-filled short story to highlight a choice that a pair will face about life or death.
The story occurs in a bar close by the train station, while ‘The American and the girl,’ a couple sitting at a table talking and appreciating beer while waiting for the train. This delineates a more established man connect with a more youthful young lady. The woman is apparently pulled back as she looks all through a section of hills and says, ‘They seem white elephants. This articulation suggests that if a white elephant is given, by then an undesirable and insignificant present is given to them.
As the pair keeps on drinking broadly, one would likewise accept they’ve got something upsetting them. As I keep on reading, I was given a piece of information to the couple’s concern. The man says, ‘You don’t need to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it. ‘ He proceeds to state, ‘If you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But it’s perfectly simple. ‘ This enables me to expect that the lady holds all the responsibility and the privilege to settle on the decision, despite the fact that it is the issue of the couple. With the argument, the couple goes to and from. The man directs sentiments toward the impact of, ‘I believe it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want really want to. ” She answers, ‘And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love love me?’ This leads me to acknowledge they’re bantering about abortion, which the man seriously concurs with, while the lady is as yet having dubious choice, which will influence their life for eternity. As the story closes, she requests to put a conclusion to the dialog about having to abort their unborn child.
In Hills Like White Elephants, they can never satisfy the connection between the American and Jig like the tracks at the train station. Jig is rationally subject to the American, as such huge numbers of females in the earlier days depended on their manly partners. While the essential target of the American is to incite the young lady to prematurely end her pregnancy, the optional goal of taking their relationship back to ordinary. The man is vain and manipulative, not keen on knowing the point of view of the lady.
Throughout the story, the couple is battling over the choice of whether to prematurely end the child. How the man keeps on persuading the lady that it’s anything but difficult to deal with the issue and desire the lady to dispose of the child causing the female to believe their life will be better. There was only the vivid and effortless images made by Hemingway with his generally basic style; indeed, the trouble that remains in his traditionally persuasive writing. He additionally elevated a more straightforward methodology to pass on his point of view to females, portraying obvious sympathy with his female characters, while his male characters appeared to be progressively self-consumed.
A Theme Of Lack Of Communication Within A Relationship In Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants
Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ dramatizes a perennial issue we have all more than likely encountered: a lack of communication within a relationship. Hemingway narrates this short story through a continuous conversation between the story’s two main characters, the American and Jig. The conflict at hand is inferred through both context clues and dialogue, and seems to be what most readers concur to be an unforeseen pregnancy. The overall issue throughout the piece is the couple’s inability to express their thoughts on the matter, specifically their differing opinions. A clear absence of communication is essentially what creates a rift between the couple, and further drives Hemingway’s take-home message of how we as individuals do not fully communicate our feelings, either to protect others or to protect ourselves. We can commence by considering the American’s point of view. From superficial assumptions, he is clearly a younger and carefree man, and makes it quite evident that he is extremely fond of his current lifestyle, specifically his ability to travel and explore new horizons as he pleases. Thus, he would not be too enthusiastic about becoming a father in the near future.
The American makes it obvious that he’d like for Jig to undergo the abortion procedure, yet his dialogue does not express this opinion to the degree it should. He interjects his opinions by stating, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig. It’s not really an operation at all… I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig”. This brief statement speaks volumes of the American’s character. In an attempt to define the reality of the situation, and draw a conclusion for the both of them, he reiterates what the operation “really” entails, twice. By suggesting how simple the abortion is, he radically minimizes the severity of the operation. Clearly his comment is false, and the hastened mentioning of the procedure cheapens said comment entirely. It ultimately makes the American out to seem deceptive with regard to the matter, since he brings the topic up in a blunt manner. If the operation had truly been as minor as he implies it to be, he would have no need to exaggerate its simplicity, nor would Jig have the emotional response she does to his suggestions.
The American’s stance on the matter shines through repeatedly in the story. In one instance, he replies to Jig’s hesitation by stating, “Well, if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple”. The American frequently makes passive-aggressive comments towards Jig, perhaps to protect her feelings, or to protect his own image. His communication to her can, without a doubt, be interpreted as manipulative. Whilst he’s admitting that the decision rests with Jig, he still manages to find a way to promote the safety and simplicity of the operation. In spite of the fact that he never lucidly states what he wants to happen, he does not stop bringing the idea up, in hopes to persuade her. Rather than showing his true colors, he treads lightly when discussing the topic, and leaves the decision-making entirely up to Jig. The American’s statements throughout the piece illuminates the theme of miscommunication, and how it plays out within the story.
Conversely, we can devise an assumption that Jig was contemplating keeping the child, but was hesitant out of fear of what the American would think of her. She specifically states, “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?”. With this statement, it becomes apparent that Jig is extremely concerned about keeping her relationship intact throughout this time. At one point in their conversation, her fear is apparent with her claim “-we could have all this”, implying a happy and nonchalant life with one another, “-we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible”. Jig is aware that having the child could very well take away that opportunity.
Thus, she feels a need to protect her relationship from this “hiccup”, for lack of a better term. When the operation begins to be brought up more than once in their conversation, with credit to the American’s persistence, Jig cuts him off by saying, “Can’t we maybe stop talking?”. Despite her becoming uncomfortable, the American resumes speaking, even after she pleads him to stop repeatedly afterwards. This clear disregard for her wishes, shows that even though the American believes the conversation needs to be had, they both are not listening to one another or communicating in the way that a couple should. All in all, Jig’s opinion throughout the story seems to be neglected, and as readers, this assumption is confirmed when she states, “I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine” (Hemingway 206). We are not made aware of whether she’s “fine” with the abortion, or with remaining pregnant.
It’s clearly a defining moment in the story, yet the audience is still left with an inconclusive ending. Jig has come to a decision by the story’s end, and it most likely is not a choice she made with her own wellbeing in mind, but rather for the relationship. Unmistakingly, and indirectly, literary components, such as narration, setting and symbolism, also contribute to the development of the overall issue of miscommunication in this story. “Hills Like White Elephants” is written in the third-person objective point of view, meaning that the story offers no insight into the thoughts of characters; the plot is told mainly through observations. Having the narration in this fashion does not allow the audience access to exactly what each of the characters are thinking with regard to the surgery. We, as the audience, are forced to work off of their dialogue and body language in order to get a sense of where the character’s heads are at, with regard to the idea of aborting their child.
I believe Hemingway used this narrative point-of-view to additionally make his audience feel uncomfortable, as well as to mimic the sense of being an eye-witnesse to the event; further placing his audience into the shoes of the couple. Moreover, the setting of “Hills Like White Elephants” serves as a symbolic contribution to the piece’s theme of communication. The train station is representative of the fact that the couple’s relationship is at a crossroads. The station is a stopping point between Barcelona and Madrid, and the main characters must decide where to go. In their situation, it’s a choice of whether to go to the place of the operation or to stay; thus, deciding to keep the child. Furthermore, the contrast between the white hills and barren valley described can highlight the difference between fertility and sterility, alluding to the choice Jig faces. The story explains Jig’s appreciation of the landscapes, as she states, “They look like white elephants. They’re lovely hills. They don’t really look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees”. Further into the story, she admires the landscape on the opposite side of the station, “The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. On the other side, were field of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro”. Jig seems to be torn between the two landscapes, just as she is with regard to the operation.
An additional note, the waitress at the train station speaks solely in Spanish, and the narrator acts as a translator for the audience; likewise, the American translates for Jig during the story. This serves as an ironic, playful jab to the matter of miscommunication in “Hills Like White Elephants”. In sum, Ernest Hemnigway depicts an apparent lapse in an individual’s capability to always communicate to their full potential. In the piece, the couple experiences a difficulty in letting their opinions be known on the topic of an issue they’re facing. By not being able to express themselves, mostly out of fear for their own separate reasons, the couple creates a fault in their relationship. Doubly, the story ending on a note in which readers are forced to devise their own conclusions as to what the couple has decided, is representative of a theme of miscommunication. Ernest Hemingway does not communicate to his audience what is to come next for this couple, if they decide to take the train for the procedure or keep the unborn child, just as the American and Jig were not entirely verbal about their feelings to one another. Perhaps this was done as a way to replicate the true confusion the couple faced during this time, and their inability to communicate efficiently, much like many people do in any relationship, not just romantically.
Historical And Social Contexts In Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants
“They look like white elephants” says a girl, referring to a burden that is never called by its name in the story. Although, the girl and her companion have a conversation through the story, neither of the speakers truly communicates with the other, highlighting the distance between the two. Both talk, but neither listens or understands the other’s point of view. 1920s has a political, and social phenomena clearly influenced Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”. In 1918, a year after graduating from high school in Oak Park, Illinois, Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) volunteered as an ambulance driver in World War I. At the Italian front, he was seriously wounded. This experience haunted him and many of the characters in his short stories and novels. In Our Time (1925) is a collection of short stories, including “Soldier’s Home,” that reflect some of Hemingway’s own attempts to readjust to life back home after the war. The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) are also about war and its impact on people’s lives. Hemingway courted violence all his life in war, the bullring, the boxing ring, and big game hunting. When he was sixty-two years old and terminally ill with cancer, he committed suicide by shooting himself with a shot-gun.
Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” concentrates on the couple on their way from Barcelona to Madrid. They are waiting for a train at a bar, and having a conversation about the decision they have made. A couple who are considering an abortion is an American man who is quite sure in that decision, and a girl Jig who is hesitant. The short story ends up with an indeterminate ending, giving a chance to think up the story independently. Hemingway’s use of symbolism in “Hills Like White Elephants” illustrates that they continued their intended way, and that historical and social context has a big influence in this story.
Hemingway presents two main characters. An American man is older, and he speaks Spanish. For him “everything” seems to mean a freedom, so when they are intensely speaking about it, he is threatened to lose it. A girl nicknamed Jig is younger, she does not speak Spanish and needs a help of the man to understand the world outside, for her “everything” seems to mean a baby, settling down with making a family with the man near her. The girl’s inability to speak Spanish with the waitress shows her dependence on the American, but also the difficulty she has expressing herself to him. Both characters are flat, their characteristics are simple and can be briefly described, though Jig towards the end becoming dynamic.
Jig refers to a child, “… And once they take it away, you never get it back”. While the American thinks that they will be happy without a child, “… You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it”. To that Jig sarcastically answers, “So have I.” “And afterward they were all so happy”. They are arguing about their “everything”, which actually means their different points of view to the world. “Everything” in the story illustrates that the American surely wants Jig to have an operation. Though he says ‘If you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to,’ he is not sincere. His honesty in this dialogue is questionable. From his earlier statements, it is obvious that he does not want to settle down, nor does he want to take responsibility for an operation; it is clear, he strongly wants her to have this operation and surely seems to remain deaf to her desires. The beginning of a story has a description of land with a train station located in Spain.
There are two sides of rails where Jig and the man waits for a train: “On this side there was no shade and no trees …”. And “… on the other side, were fields of grain and trees …”. The author describes the shadow of a cloud across the field of grin where Jig stood up. The shadow of cloud can be accepted as a literary symbol of impending trouble. The setting is important in this story. It indicates two possible results out of Jig decision. The road to the Madrid where they are heading to has a negative description of the land with no trees and no shade, that if Jig will go through with the abortion. The ground looks dry, as if there has been no rain for quite some time. There are hills in the distance that have a white color as the sun shines on them. And a road to Barcelona that has a vivid description of life. The Ebro River represents life, as it irrigates the fields. The fields of grain and trees also represent fertility and fruitfulness. The story unfolds in the 1920s, which is in history known as “Roaring Twenties,” with its alcohol prohibition, flapper culture, bohemian life and extended women rights. The prohibition was caused by the women, believing it would protect families, women and children from the effects of abuse of alcohol.
The prohibition has been successful only in some parts of the country, whereas more had its “side effects,” such as alcohol poisoning, and an increase in lawlessness. Mafia became more powerful because of prohibition. Arguments raged over the effectiveness of prohibition. The more people are restricted, the more they eager to do it and crave to find a way. That is how flapper culture appears, mostly recognized by a women’s short hair-cuts, unlikely for the ladies behavior as smoking the cigarettes, and becoming more sexually free than generation before. Modern society was appearing in fashion, jazz and women getting rights to vote. That was a start of propaganda women’s beautiful life in Hollywood, in its turn advertising a freedom among people also known as bohemian people. Bohemian lifestyle rejected permanent residence, pursuit of wealth, alcohol and sexual freedom restrictions. As the characters in “White Hills Like Elephants” lives in the 1920s, they are affected by a time of prohibition and bohemian lifestyle. It can be seen by them travelling in Europe, drinking and having a freedom in choosing a partner. “… there is a common bond between Jig and the man;… We know the couple were lovers, which means at one point in their lives they had a common ‘level’ of communication…”. The relationship between Jig and the American clearly represents Bohemian lifestyle.
However, as Bohemian lifestyle rejects the permanent relationship “their efforts are futile and we see, after knowing they have treated each style of communication, that their once 1iving relationship and feeling for each other is now dead and empty. It is time for them to part as two people would who had met one evening and found they had nothing in common”, their relationship needs to be defined for the defining further direction. At first the story appears to be a conversation. We see a hint about the topic in the man’s addressing to a Jig, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,”… “It’s not really an operation at all.” The American does not perceive her abortion as an operation. The title also reveals a child, meaning an elephant for the characters. Elephant figurative. A burdensome or costly objective, enterprise, or possession, esp. one that appears magnificent; a financial liability. So, from the story it is seen that a Jig is hesitating about her decision of abortion.
A child is considered a burden, and a financial liability. “As Kenneth G. Johnston writes, Jig’s ‘instincts tell her that their relationship will be radically altered, perhaps destroyed, if she goes through with the abortion. But if she refuses, she knows full well that he will leave her’. In the dilemma of having to choose between the man and her unborn child, Jig does not seem to even consider the option of unwed motherhood”. Though, at the time of the story it was already more or less acceptable for the American couple to travel through the Europe unmarried, nevertheless, American society expectations still were harsh to a thought of raising a child alone. Moreover, it is practically impossible for her to have the baby without the American’s support. She is totally dependent to him, so in agreeing to the abortion she can save her relationship with him. Assumingly, finally they will have a train to Madrid. In fear to lose his freedom, the American man will say almost anything to convince a Jig to have an abortion. For instance, he tells her he loves her, and that everything between them will go back to the way it used to be. While the girl is indecisive, at one point conceding that she will have the abortion just to shut him up. When the man still insists, she finally says him “Would you please, please, please, please, please, please, please stop talking?” taking a time to think. When Jig asks the American to stop talking, she has a time to make a decision. So, when the waitress came to say that 5 minutes left and Jig smiling to her brightly means that she made a decision to succumb. Eventually when American comes, she says, “I feel fine”.
To conclude, Hemingway suggests many hints to understand his short story. The outstanding usage of symbolism to describe an abortion helps to find the main topic of the story. The setting is described ambiguously, the fields of grain and trees symbolize her current pregnant state and the life in her womb, while the “shadow of a cloud” illustrates its possible ending. Along with the conflict of the story between Jig and the American, Hemingway was able to make a story based upon the facts of life using all of these social and historical factors.
- Hemingway, Ernest. ‘Hills like White Elephants.’ The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction, edited by Ann Charters, Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2003, pp. 475-478.
- Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing, 10th edition, edited by Michael Meyer, Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, pp. 165-166.
- Oxford English Dictionary. White elephant. 26 Sept. 2019, https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/399143;jsessionid=EBF9CF37FD122F3262EA8375C 0379DB?redirectedFrom=White+elephants#eid
- Pavloska, Susanna. ‘Pregnant Parataxis: Teaching Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’.’ Doshisha Studies in Language and Culture, vol. 4, no. 2, 2001, pp. 467-487. ProQuest, https://library.pittstate.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/85556083?accountid=13211.
- Ramsey, Jeff. ‘An Interactional Analysis of ‘Hills Like White Elephants’.’ The Journal of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest, vol. 4, no. 3, 1981, pp. 260-268. ProQuest, https://library.pittstate.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/85477123?accountid=13211.
Essay On The Representation Of Women In Hills Like White Elephants By Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was an influential American novelist and short story writer who is well known for his consistent portrayal of women as a necessary presence but the weaker of the two genders. Throughout his short stories, Hemingway focuses on issues related to masculinity, and gender themes are central in his works. The question of how women are represented in Hemingway’s works can be explored by analyzing one of his short stories, Hills Like White Elephants. This critical essay will explore the representation of women throughout Hills Like White Elephants and determine why Hemingway decides to present women in this short story as pitied rather than respected. Hills Like White Elephants is a conversation between an American man and a girl waiting for a train in Spain.
As the story unwinds, the Iceberg technique displayed in the story shows the couple discussing the girl’s pregnancy. The man is coolly working to convince her to have an abortion. Throughout this work, the American presents Hemingway’s rigid concept of masculinity; The American is portrayed as omniscient and wise. He is worldly and in control of himself as well as the situation. He is presented as a cool man who feigns indifference. His insensitivity is evident when he tells the girl that he doesn’t care or not the girl has an abortion. He oversimplifies the operation as just a simple medical procedure to convince the girl to abort. He is relentless and aloof, never actually engaging with her but trying to blind her with simplistic logic. The American lacks sympathy and understanding of her needs and ignores her behavior. It displays how the girl is, in contrast, less assertive. She is perceived as helpless and confused, as well as nameless; though the man is referred to as The American, he at least has a nationality and a maturity, while ‘the girl’ is young, vulnerable and without any other outstanding characteristics.
During the time of this work, the liberated post-war American society is one of which is highlighted. The stereotyping of masculinity seeking solutions to the problems caused by women in his stories illustrates his patriarchal attitudes. Hemingway displays women as so unintelligent as to be malleable; in this story, The American decides he has to oversimplify the “painless” abortion in order to get rid of this obstacle to his continuing life as he wants it. The dehumanization of women in this short story is abundant, and the themes of discrimination and patriarchal values are smeared throughout the work. Hemingway presents women in this story as objects trying to attract attention and please others to strengthen the idea of the Code Hero. Hemingway defined a Code Hero as “a man who lives correctly, following the ideals of honor, courage, and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often stressful, and always painful.” He is an ideal man with courage, knowledge, chivalry and an individualist attitude who enjoys many drinks and women. The presentation of women in his works amplifies the patriarchal image of the Code Hero. The Code Heroes remove any possible strengths of women surrounding them and become a man with defined codes.
By including passive and child-like women in his story, Hemingway further asserts the role of the Code Hero. In Hills Like White Elephants, the man has total power over the relationship. One example of when this is shown is when, between the two of them, the American is the only one who can speak Spanish. Because of this, Jig has to rely on him continually and even clears with him which drinks they will order before doing so. This displays the dominance of the man as the Code Hero and the submissive, dependent woman in the relationship. Furthermore, the audience is introduced to Jig as the name the American calls the girl. She is a girl who cannot make decisions easily without constant approval and recognition from a man. This particular man from whom Jig seeks approval is one who has impregnated her. Jig is a woman who cannot make decisions on her own which is shown throughout the story. She is depicted as dependent, weak and without independent thoughts or feelings throughout the story. Jig asks, “What should we drink?” in the opening line of the story. Just from this opening question, the audience gets the impression that Jig is a character who questions rather than acts. This shows that she is a person who is unsure of herself and also unaware of what she wishes in the relationship.
Although this is a simple question to ask and can often appear as common politeness, this is the time in the short story where the audience meets Jig. Also in the opening scene, she imagines white elephants in the surrounding hills. These white elephants symbolize an unwanted gift, and to Jig, the baby represents the gift. It is unwanted in the eyes of the man, which in turn causes Jig’s unhappiness and desire for an “imaginary life.” Many other examples demonstrate her inability to make life decisions. Further on in the short story, Jig questions her life’s purpose by saying, “That’s all what we do, isn’t it – look at things and try new things?’ She believes her life is empty and she is unsure of her ability to create her own purpose. Jig seems to have exhausted her relationship with the man and craves change in her life. Hemingway presents women as feminine objects regarded by men as passive and insipid tools in Hills Like White Elephants.
As a central though unspoken theme in this story, women are portrayed as helpless and unstable. The weakness of women is contrasted with the power and clear-thinking male characters. The contrasting gender roles represent how men are the pivotal characters in this short story and women hold only roles that support the thesis of the Code Heroes. The prominence of unstable female characters highlights the importance of the male characters. The contrasting differences in the gender roles represent how men hold the central significance in Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants and display how women are suppressing roles which add to the ambience of the Code Heroes.
Literary Essay on Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” is about a young woman and an American man having a discussion about issue of abortion and their struggling relationship. However, it is commonly misunderstood and leaves many readers confused since the word “abortion” is never mentioned anywhere. We were left with a dialogue between the two characters with little portions explaining the details of the setting to grasp the main context of the story and draw our own feelings about the characters. Although, the four page story takes place in a very short period of time, it tells a much bigger story disguised underneath. “The hills across the valley of the Ebro’ were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun…” The story opens with a description of a train station located in Spain’s Ebro valley where the landscape is shadeless, barren, and hot. Into this landscape appear a young woman, called “Jig” and an American man, who are waiting for an express train. They entered and seat themselves at a bar in the shadow of the station and begin to discuss what they should drink.
Hemingway immediately emphasis in the opening of the story the harsh nature of the setting while the girl and American man escape into the only shade accessible temporary reassurance through alcohol. The dialogue between the two characters that begin with a discussion of what to drink, suggest how central alcohol has become to avoid a real communication with each other. The descriptions of the landscape as infertile and barren hint at the idea of pregnancy and emphasis on the harshness of the sun suggest an obvious tension between the couple which they try to avoid by staying in the building’s shadow and not communicating. This shows that Hemingway’s writing is sparse with his language and does not give away any real plot points; however, the most every detail in his writing actually displays the struggle between the two characters’ minds about wether or not have an abortion. The white hills across the Ebro hills is the probably the first theme direct setting that readers will notice since Hemingway refers to them in the title.
“They look like white elephants,” the girl makes a seemingly innocent remark, to which the man responds that he may or may not have seen one. White elephant signifies a possesion that is useless and burdensome, they are typically unwanted as they bring shame and trouble to their owners more than it’s worth, and the fact that the girl so quickly sees white elephants in the most random surroundings implies that she is thinking a lot about the impending abortion. Shortly afterwards she added: “They are lovely hills… They don’t really look like white elephants.” This may be display that she is having second thoughts about going through with the operation because her baby might not be the white elephant she may once to be. This change of perception regarding the hill could instead be her denial. She may feel guilty about the procedure already, and once she starts seeing the pervasive symbol in the hills, she chooses to use logic to see that they, in fact, her unborn baby does not resemble white elephants, thus conquering her guilt on the issue.
Though the hills may be the first symbolic piece of scenery the reader notices, the train station is actually the first that the reader comes across in the story and only noticed upon re-reading it. The train station is described in the first paragraph as “between two lines of rails,” then later as a junction between Madrid and Barcelona. The meaning seems to be that since the trains run in both directions, at this particular train station, one direction leads to the place where the girl is to have her abortion, and the others do not. This symbolizes the choice they both are trying to make. Though they are at the train station and ready to travel, it is obvious from the dialogue the decision is far from made in their minds and this has been discussed repeatedly as revealed by the girl’s tone as she cuts the man off and finishes his sentences. Hemingway engages a variation of the old fork in the road scenario to symbolize the two possible paths for the characters and the verdict they must come to of which to follow. In this story, Hemmingway separates himself with traditional narrative execution where author gives vivid imagination of the characters and guide the reader through the story.
Rather, he completely removes himself and the readers were left unaware of his voice underneath. He simply referred to the woman as a “girl” and the man as “American man” which suggest that the man is somewhat older and the two are clearly not married. We are uncertain of the man’s true affection towards “Jig” but he never shows any fear for supporting a child or being ashamed of having a bastard child. He also expresses that he does not want any addition into their relationship which suggests that he’s not ready to settle and let go of lifestyle. This short story of Hemingway exemplifies the Iceberg Theory we learned in class. The words written on the page which is known as the “tip of the iceberg” is merely a small part of a much larger story that resides below the surface. We are uncertain on how the characters actually feel, yet the conversation between them convey everything that we can conclude about them.
Hemingway’s writing gives a reflection of the real world: unfair, hazy and utterly mysterious despite seemingly straightforward. His narration might seem detached and a bit cold, but still full of emotions hidden below the surface. Ernest Hemingway had made sure to use every line to demonstrate something of importance in the story and did not waste a word. His dialogue was straight forward and cleanly executed, without any fluffy adjectives or fancy description. I have to admit that it is very easy to miss the symbolism in the story as I am used to it coming slowly throughout a story and often easier to point out. But with only four, Hemingway makes his point clear without the need for explanation, as the actions of the characters and symbolic setting do the work for him. Finally, though it was not clearly addressed whether the two characters went through with the abortion, the symbolism and setting allows the reader to realize they are contemplating having an abortion.