Hills Like White Elephants
Analysis of Hills Like White Elephant and Sonny’s Blues: Plot, Setting, and Characters Essay (Critical Writing)
The variety of literary works can easily teach the reader or make to change the reader’s mind and attitude to a situation. On the one hand, the works and their messages differ because of various authors, periods of time, and interests.
On the other hand, the similarities between the works of absolutely different authors are united by their messages to help the reader evaluate this life and make the necessary improvements.
The analysis of Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin proves that different approaches to life and its challenges, unique visions of the writers, and certain writing techniques may lead to one purpose – promote the reader to think about people around and grasp the ways of how to understand each other.
Such fiction elements like plot, characters, and settings in the two short stories are perfectly described and serve as powerful means to explain the essence of the stories: plots of the stories touch upon the relations of two relatives (a couple in Hills Like White Elephants and brothers in Sonny’s Blues), who need to takes important decisions and think about their future lives in spite of rather depressive and disappointing settings.
The success of the story usually depends on a properly chosen author’s technique. In case with the works of Hemingway and Baldwin, their choices of techniques are justified and rather effective. The plots of the stories under discussion are all about human relations and the necessity to find out the connection and understanding.
The peculiar feature of Baldwin’s plot is the idea to use flashbacks and add to the plot more captivating details and facts. It may seem that the reader knows enough to accept one more idea, however, a new flashback adds another circumstance that should be evaluated on a new level, and the relations between two brothers become more interesting and understandable.
Hemingway describes a certain period of time between two people, who are going to make one of the most important decision in their lives. And even in the situation, when the decision should be taken by both, male domination is still evident, and a girl does not have enough powers and skills to live in accordance with her own principles and demands.
In Hills Like White Elephants, a young couple is bothered with an idea of having a baby. A girl believes that “things are like white elephants” so strange, so innocent, and so beautiful (Hemingway 121). She wants her unborn child help her to accept this world as it is and enjoy its beauty and charm.
However, her couple is not ready to forget about his interests and desires and devote his life to their baby. Almost the same is observed in relations between two bothers in Sonny’s Blues. Sonny tries to demonstrate his brother the beauty of music and the grounds of his choice, but it is hard for the elder brother to follow his brother’s dreams and thoughts.
Settings of the stories deserve more attention, especially the one used by Hemingway. His idea to unite setting with symbolism is winning and more noticeable in comparison to Baldwin’s attempts. Though “there was no shade and no trees” (Hemingway 119), the situation seems to be uncertain.
Everything is not as it should be, and the characters should be ready for a new challenge. The author does not give concrete descriptions but it becomes clear that the idea of abortion is burning. The setting of Sonny’s Blues is clearer: “the people, the houses, the music, the dark, quicksilver barmaid, with menace” (Baldwin 11). The author does not want to use specific setting to attract the reader but relies on his powerful use of flashbacks.
Both reading unite all fictional techniques in a proper way; each writer uses one certain technique better that makes these stories captivating and effective in their own ways. Flashbacks in the plot make Sonny’s Blues more captivating and intriguing for the reader, and powerful examples of symbolism in setting cannot stop amazing the reader of Hemingway’s works.
Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” In Sascha Feinstein and David Rife The Jazz Fiction Anthology. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009.
Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills Like White Elephants.” In Margaret Bishop Single Scene Short Stories. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2007.
Hills Like White Elephants – Ernest Hemingway Analytical Essay
People often face situations that require them to make tough decisions and they have to live by them for the rest of their lives. In the story Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway writes about a couple that is in a dilemma about an unborn child and they have to decide on the best decision to take regarding the pregnancy.
Jig and his companion the American are in Spain at a rail station taking drinks while awaiting a train. The American tells Jig to abort the fetus because the procedure is simple. He does not entertain the thought of becoming a parent. After, the deliberation on the issue, Jig decides to carry out the procedure.
Jig and the American man is an unmarried couple who have consummated their relationship and as a result, Jig is pregnant. Her boyfriend the American tells her to get rid of the pregnancy even though the author does not use the word abortion we can deduce its meaning from the conversation, “It’s just to let the air in” (Hemingway 1). The man tells Jig, “It’s really an awfully simple operation. It is not an operational at all” (Hemingway 1).
The American wants the fetus aborted because he does not want it to interrupt his adventurous lifestyle. He is a man who likes to travel from one place to another, their travel bags had labels from the various hotels they had checked into during their travels (Hemingway 1). On the other hand, Jig wants to have the baby as she hints in the conversation. She seems to be tired of the adventure and wants to settle down.
The American man manages to manipulate Jig psychologically by telling her not to abort if she does not want to because he senses her hesitance, “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” (Hemingway 1). He tells her that after she aborts they can have everything they want in the world.
However, she does not agree with him and tells him that, “No, we can’t” (Hemingway 1). She is aware that once she loses her child she can never have it back, “And once they take it away, you never get it back” (Hemingway 1). In spite of that knowledge, she seems like she is willing to go through with the procedure not to lose her American. Jig seems afraid of losing the American man “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me” (Hemingway 1)?
The question shows that she is not ready to lose him and says, “Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me” (Hemingway 1). The only thing she cares about is being with him and his love. She also wants to make him happy and reduce his worry because he says the only thing making them unhappy is that baby. Therefore getting rid of the baby will remove the hurdle to their happiness.
She also decides to abort because maybe she knows that marrying a man who is not wiling to settle down would only mean a difficult marriage. The American hints that he is ready to settle if she decides to keep the baby,
“You’ve got to realize …that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to. I’m
perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you” (Hemingway 1).
This does not reassure her because the American keeps bullying her into procuring an abortion by drumming in the message that the procedure “is perfectly simple” (Hemingway 1). Thus, she chooses to have the abortion as it seems as the only way out of her current predicament. They do not discuss other options of dealing with the pregnancy such as giving up the baby for adoption and hence she might have decided to abort.
Finally, I think Jig should not abort simply because I belief that abortion is morally wrong. She does not seem to have her own voice. She is controlled by the American because she is willing to go along with his suggestions even if she does not agree with them.
She should keep the baby because she hints that she knows of people who have gone through the procedure and they are not happy. If she goes through with the procedure, she will live with regrets for the rest of her life because she will never be able to bring back her dead child to life again as most of the women who have gone through the procedure attest.
Even if, keeping and raising the child will be a burden she should be willing to bear the consequences of her actions instead of trying to look for an easier way out. She should be firm and tell the American that she will keep the baby and that it is time they stopped their adventurous lifestyle. On the contrary, if she goes through with the abortion she should take precaution not to become pregnant again by using contraceptives because she will find herself in the same predicament yet again.
Hemingway, Ernest . Hills Like White Elephants. gummyprint.com. n.d. Web.
Was Ernest Hemingway a Misogynist? A Sexism Research Paper
The debate on whether Ernest Hemingway is a misogynist still rages with critics and adherents backing their side of the story. Nevertheless, an essay with a closer investigation into his books might give a hint or two concerning this controversial topic that has refused to exit from scholarly circles.
According to Johnson, “misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female (1); therefore, a misogynist is someone who upholds this culture. From Hills like White Elephants to The Short Life of Francis Macomber, Hemingway’s style of writing is full of misogyny. It becomes effortless, therefore, to state with clarity Hemingway’s perspective towards women in general.
Firstly, in the majority of his short stories, unhealthy man-woman relationships are prevalent, characterized by imperfections and doomed to failure. Interestingly, in all these cases, women are to blame, as they appear nagging, inadequate, domineering, and selfish. Generally, in Hemingway’s eyes, women are utter failures plunged in emotional apathy by their inability to express their feelings. In short, Ernest Hemingway’ssexist nature is exposited in Hills like White Elephants and The Short Life of Francis Macomber.
The Short Life of Francis Macomber
The main character in this story that turns out to be pathetic is a woman, Margot Macomber. As the story opens, Margot is domineering, literally dictating the life of her husband, Francis. Interestingly, when Francis wields courage to rise above his wife Margot, she cowardly takes his life. What a timid way of dealing with the struggle for power.
Nevertheless, in this case, Hemingway mentions that the only way women can remain in power is through intimidation. As aforementioned, at the beginning of the story, Margot is tyrannizing, while Francis is intimidated. Wilson, the hunter, is the only man who exudes any trait of manhood. Hemingway uses Wilson deliberately as an ideal man that Francis would be if Margot got out of the way.
Hemingway does not hide the uselessness of Wilson in the eyes of Margot; she only uses him as a toy, and even after they have sex Hemingway still questions it. He says, “What’s in her heart, God knows, Wilson thought. She had not talked much last night. At that, it was a pleasure to see her” (Hemingway 21).
Even Wilson feels his uselessness in this woman’s life as he concludes only God knows her intentions in taking him to bed. In this incidence, Hemingway depicts Margot as an emotionally incompetent being who cannot express her feelings freely and earn her place in a man’s heart by merit. She has to employ the only tool she has, intimidation. This is just but an introduction to many of Hemingway’s misogynist nature through Margot.
Francis finally starts to show gradual change towards reclaiming his position as the head of the family only to face a stubborn and scheming Margot. Being the man he is, Wilson sees and applauds Francis’ efforts towards becoming a man, albeit minimal. Pointing at Hemingway’s misogyny, Weeks offers, “Wilson… is the man free of woman and fear. He is the standard of manhood…His dominance over the lady is apparent from the moment she sees him blast the lion from which Macomber ran” (Weeks 120).
Not that Margot cares or even loves Wilson; far from it, she is only interested in the boldness, a trait of masculinity that he possesses. Unfortunately, due to her weaknesses, Margot cannot contain a permanently dominating man in her life; she can only have one on demand, and Wilson comes in handy in this case. Hemingway hates Margot by virtue of being a woman, and this underscores the misogynist he is.
Hemingway’s choice of words exposes his dark side, the grimy side of a man who would otherwise pass for a good writer of all the times. At the slightest show of Macomber’s courage, Francis becomes “clearly a changed being, one who will never allow his wife’s domination again. Complementing this reversal of roles, we find that Margot had been afraid during the chase, and now, feeling nauseous, wants refuge in the ambiguous and evasive shade” (Monk 136).
What more could a weak, insufficient, selfish, and emotionally pathetic woman do? Well, Hemingway knows better, and the best one can offer in reciprocation is hatred, which is something that he offers philanthropically. He hates women with passion; no wonder, Margot could only be a failure in this story. To cap her weaknesses, Margot kills Francis after realizing his growing dominance in their relationship. Evidently, Francis’ life is shorter than what Hemingway evokes in the title of the short story, courtesy of Margot.
Hills like White Elephants
The unlucky woman in this short story is Jig, an incompetent woman incapable of communicating her feelings or making any independent judgment. Hemingway introduces Jig as ‘the girl,’ “the American and girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building” (Hemingway 87).
Jig here passes for a nameless girl, at least in Hemingway’s perspective. Throughout the short story, Hemingway fails to bring out the “girl’s” emotions or attitudes concerning anything that happens around her. Hemingway paints Jig as a clueless, pathetic, and tasteless woman who cannot make simple decisions like what to drink. She admits that it is hot; nevertheless, she cannot state with clarity what drink to take.
Instead, she asks, “What should we drink” (Hemmingway, 87). As aforementioned, Hemingway deliberately chooses his words to belittle women at every encounter. The fact that Jig cannot take a stand and say I will take this or that opting to consult the American is a strong indication of how frail she is. Jig’s naivety comes out clearly; after it emerges that, she cannot even order the drinks, for she does not understand Spanish.
Therefore, she has to depend on the male figure in this case. One can conclude that feminism in Hemingway’s works is not present in any aspect. As opposed to The Short Life of Francis Macomber, where Margot is domineering, Hemingway uses Hills like White Elephants to show how voiceless and weak women are by their failure to stand on their own. The indecisiveness of Hemingway’s female characters stands out conspicuously when the issue of abortion raises in this short story.
Jig knows for sure she does not want to abort her child; however, she chooses to remain silent about the issue. When the American suggests, “I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It is not anything. It’s just to let the air in” (Hemingway 90), Jig remains silent. She finally gives in citing, “I don’t care about me…I care about you” (Hemingway 90).
In this case, Hemingway gives the impression that women are indecisive, bound to compromise their principles in the name of love and care. If Jig does not care about herself, she cannot probably care about anyone else. One cannot give what she/he does not have. How can she care about the American if she does not care about herself? Hemingway uses this instance to ridicule women and satisfy his misogyny.
Reducing women to such humbling levels is tantamount to stripping them of their dignity and self-worth. Nevertheless, the reason why Hemingway does this is that he hates women with a passion for purposes best known to him. The reader can only speculate, and the only valid speculation here is that he hates women by virtue of being women, and this underscores him being a misogynist.
To some extent, Jig is also gullible. She keeps on changing topics even in the middle of a seemingly essential discussion. For instance, she keeps on referring to the ‘bead curtain,’ which is unrelated to the point in dispute; that is, abortion. Portraying women this way strips Hemingway of any respect for women exposing the misogynist novelist that he is.
Whether Hemingway is a misogynist or not, is no longer a point of debate; his works speak it all as exposited in this writing. Women, just like anybody else, have shortcomings and strengths alike; unfortunately, Hemingway is blind towards the strengths, he can only see the weaknesses.
Consequently, he writes what he sees viz. weaknesses, and this explains why his writings concentrate on exposing women’s weaknesses. Margot, in The Short Life of Francis Macomber, rules her husband only to silence, inferiority screams that rage within her. On the other hand, Jig in Hills like White Elephants cannot make even a simple decision like choosing the drink to take. At his best, Hemingway is a misogynist, a woman-hater for no apparent reason.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Scribner, 2003.
Johnson, Allan. The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology: A User’s Guide to Sociological Language. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Inc, 2000.
Monk, Donald. “Hemingway’s Territorial Imperative.” The Yearbook of English Studies 8.1 (1978): 125-140.
Weeks, Robert. Hemingway: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1962.
A&P and Hills Like White Elephants Essay
The choice of a narrative mode shapes the way in which readers perceive the actions of the main characters. This paper will include an analysis of two short stories, namely Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and A&P by John Updike. These literary works exemplify different story-telling techniques which enable the writers to achieve various goals. Overall, it is possible to say that these authors are able to choose an approach that best fits their purposes. This is the main point that should be discussed more closely.
First, it should be mentioned that these writers use different story-telling techniques. In particular, Updike relies on the first-person narration. The readers are prompted to look through the eyes of a teenage clerk, Sammy, who works at an A&P supermarket.
The main advantage of this approach is that the writer can throw light on the inner world of this character. For instance, this story-teller seems to be a cynical person. At first glance, one can say that he despises other people who he regards as slaves. Nevertheless, it is possible to argue that this first impression is very delusive.
For instance, the narrative indicates that the protagonist desperately wants to produce a favorable impression on the girls who enter the A&P store. Moreover, it becomes evident that Sammy is a romantic or even naïve individual. One can say that the first-person narration helps the writer to illustrate the conflicting motives that drive the behavior of the protagonist. Additionally, this character represents a wide group of young people who chose to rebel against the consumer culture.
In his turn, Ernest Hemingway takes a different approach to story-telling. He relies on the third-person objective narration which means that the writer does not speak about the thoughts, emotions, or attitudes of the character. To a great extent, readers are prompted to reach their own conclusions about the plot and characters.
Hills Like White Elephants can be viewed as a good example of this technique. In this case, the text of the short-story is mostly a dialogue between the two characters. The author does not try to evaluation the actions or arguments made by the protagonists. Additionally, the readers can only make conjectures about the subject which the characters discuss. For instance, one can suppose that the man tries to persuade the girl to undergo some form of surgery, probably abortion. However, one cannot say it for sure.
The main detail is that Hemingway refuses to make any comments about the relations between these characters. This use of third-person objective narration enables the writer to intrigue the readers and arrest their attention. The main advantage of this method is that it helps the writer to pose thought-provoking questions to the audience. For example, one can reflect on the future relations between the two characters. This is why the use of the third-person objective narration is quite justified.
Thus, these examples show how different narrative modes can be applied. In particular, John Updike’s use of the first-person narration is critical for describing the inner world of an adolescent who cannot adjust to the consumer culture. In turn, Ernest Hemingway’s approach is critical for engaging the readers who are prompted to think about the motives that underlie the words or actions of the main characters. These are the main issues that can be identified.
Iceberg Principle and Landscape Symbolism Reveal the Development of the Character Explicatory Essay
The short story by Ernest Hemingway “Hills Like White Elephants” can be regarded as one of the best examples of the use of the iceberg principle and the role of landscape symbolism. The author manages to reveal the development of the woman’s character without revealing her ideas and thoughts. All the reader has is the landscape and the dialogue. The author depicts a short episode from a couple’s life.
The man (the American) is trying to persuade the woman named Jig to undergo an operation. The woman hesitates as she wants to start a new life which is meaningful and complete. The woman soon becomes reluctant to continue the conversation. She focuses on the landscape to avoid talking about the matter.
The author does not reveal the decision made by the two. The conversation stops abruptly. However, it is rather clear that the woman makes up her mind. The author makes it clear that the woman undergoes some important changes during this short conversation.
The Iceberg Principle and the Landscape Symbolism
The iceberg principle makes the story really expressive. The author manages to say about the two people’s conflict without mentioning the exact reason of the argument. Likewise, the author never explicitly depicts the woman’s thoughts. He does not even describe her actions. There is a kind of motion picture which enables the reader to see the facts. Ironically, this specific incompleteness makes the reader clearly see the change that takes place in the woman’s head.
First, the woman tries to discuss the situation and she keeps asking: “Then what will we do afterwards?” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 230). However, soon the woman stops arguing: “Can’t we maybe stop talking?” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 231) These words signal that the girl needs to think.
She is focused on her own thoughts and she does not want to let the man in her world. She simply gazes at the hills thinking over the issue. The author does not depict her face. He does not reveal her thoughts. However, it is clear that the woman manages to make up her mind. Her nervousness is gone as she knows the right answer to her questions. Her smiling at the end of the story suggests that she has made the decision, which has nothing to do with the man’s arguments or his desires. She is calm and content.
Apart from intensity achieved with the help of the famous principle, the author makes use of landscape symbolism to reveal the change in the woman. Thus, she looks at the “line of the hills”, and the hills are “white in the sun” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 229). The hills perform several roles.
However, in the first place, the hills can be seen as the symbol of pregnancy. Thus, the pregnant woman who is trying to make up her mind looks at the hills and sees white elephants as her mind returns to the issue over and over again: “They look like white elephants” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 229).
On the other hand, the white elephants can be regarded as the woman’s own world. They can be seen as her way to escape from the necessity to make the difficult decision or even the necessity to talk about it. In fact, Jig starts speaking about the white elephants to start some kind of talk. She knows that the conversation is inevitable, but she wants to postpone it making the man think of other things. She starts their conversation with a rather bewildering phrase: “They look like white elephants” (Hemingway, 1927, p.229).
She continues referring to the hills throughout their entire conversation. The woman is trying to avoid speaking about the matter: “The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 231). The woman tries to plunge into the world of calmness and beauty. She admires the majestic hills which make her feel better. Whenever she looks at the hills, she becomes more confident and she starts seeing things clearer.
Furthermore, the white hills can be regarded as a sign that helps the woman to make the right decision. The landscape is so right. It is so calm and easy. There is nothing more natural than the view of the beautiful hills. The woman “looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley” and this is the moment she understands everything (Hemingway, 1927, p. 231).
This is the moment when the woman gets enchanted by the calm beauty of the hills. This is the moment when she changes. She becomes confident and she understands that she does not want to listen to the man. She wants to feel what is really important. She wants to take in the power of the majestic hills.
Thus, the landscape plays rather essential role in the short story as it inspires the woman to make the right decision. The reader can also follow the changes taking place in the woman’s character. Obviously, the landscape is the symbol of nature and natural things like having a baby.
The pure beauty of the hills makes the woman feel better. She finally understands: “There is nothing wrong with me” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 231). The landscape makes the woman solve the issue. The woman accepts her mission in this world. She is ready to make her choice and make her life meaningful.
Remarkably, the author enhances this idea of the rightness contrasting two pictures. The woman inevitably compares her present life which is nothing more but looking “at things” and trying “new drinks” and her possible future life filled with meaning (Hemingway, 1927, p. 230).
The bags symbolize her present and hills symbolize her possible future. The girl makes up her mind and her decision is clear. The man is preoccupied with the bags taking them “over to the other side of the station” (Hemingway, 1927, p. 232). However, the woman keeps looking at the hills. She definitely chooses the meaningful life. She is going to let the man go if necessary. She is committed to start a new better life which is as majestic as the hills resembling white elephants.
To sum up, the short story is one of the finest examples of the role of landscape symbolism and Hemingway’s iceberg principle. The author does not say explicitly what the problem is. This makes the story more expressive. The reader is free to make any conclusions and evaluate the problem in any way. This freedom makes the short story so strong.
More importantly, the author uses really expressive symbols. The hills (the nature itself) make the woman change. Thus, a carefree girl having a meaningless life turns into the mature woman who is ready to make the right decision and to feel her life with meaning. The reader can trace the change which is taking place in the woman’s character. The hills which are calm and pure make the woman strong and committed.
Hemingway, E. (1927). Hills like white elephants. Retrieved from Hamilton Elementary Web site: https://www.hamiltoncps.org/
Theme and narrative elements in “Hills like white Elephants” Essay
The narrative elements in a story are a large consideration of plot, conflict, climax, resolution, and dialogue. Theme is not just a plot or a summary of a story. It tells one what the story talks about. Theme is a representation of what lies behind the story. In order for one to identify the theme of the story, there is a need to look beyond the plot. When writing a story, the characters, actions, and other elements make it come alive, and it can be broadly recognized.
In the short story, “Hills like white Elephants” the plot is as follows; the main characters are: the girl and an American man. They sit outside a hotel under a warm shade. Jig and the American man have been sleeping in the hotel for several nights. They are asking for beer a bottle after the other while watching football.
They are holding a conversation. It is about abortion. The man is encouraging the girl to abort. He even tells the girl that they witness people who aborted and are living happy lives. He is trying to show the girl how easy it is for abortion to take place. He is telling Jig that being pregnant makes them unhappy. According him, he takes care of the girl by doing this. His insincerity has significantly contributed to fulfilling the theme of the story. He is telling the girl that, this is to make him and her live a happy life (Clugston, 2010).
This conversation shows that the girl is in a dilemma. Therefore, when the man sees that his girl is not into this idea of abortion, he tells her that she can do it if it is out of her will and that he is not forcing her to do it. Her answers to the questions that the American asks her show her frustration with him.
Her strength is the one which can help her resolve the dilemma. The girl ends up not supporting the idea of abortion which frustrates the American man (Gates, 1996). The way these two people have been asking for beer throughout the story is to try and take away stress. This conversation, however, has not ended with a conclusion.
Characters in stories have different behaviour, which forces the fullness of the theme. Characters of the involved people in the story affect the narrative theme. The conversation between the two characters has a great effect to narrative theme in the short story “Hills White like Elephant”. Jig’s sarcasm, which expresses her feelings when the American praises abortion, establishes the theme of the story. Also, frustration of the girl when she is in a dilemma on what to do about abortion has helped to build the theme of the story.
In this story, the distant hills symbolize a place of escape. They always remind her about consequences of any decision she can make. This helps in building the theme of the story. The hills were traditionally a symbol of beauty while they are now not symbolising beauty according to the girl. This affects the theme of the story. Also, setting of the story helps to identify the theme. In this story, the setting is in a hotel which clearly builds on the theme of the story. They are drinking beer to relieve their stress on abortion.
Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey into literature. Ashford: Bridgepoint Education.
Gates, H. L., & McKay, N. Y. (1996).The Norton anthology of African American literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway Essay
Published in 1927, Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” is a pinnacle of conversation; that is, more under the surface of the interaction between a girl named Jig and an American man. At first glance, this seems like a simple, sometimes intense communication between two adults waiting for their train, which is going to Madrid. However, a closer reading reveals that they are discussing whether Jig should undergo a “procedure.” At a time when abortion was illegal in most parts of Europe and America and where women might have been weaned from the Catholic Church if they had an abortion, suddenly the conversation between the American man and Jig becomes one of the most important, both for their beings and for their relationship. However, no one wants to communicate what choice they would like to make openly. This article discusses topics of choice, communication disruptions, and gender roles.
Characters and Theme
The plot of the story develops in such a way that the word “abortion” itself is never pronounced. In various situations, only the phrase “white elephants” appears, highlighting different facets of its meaning. The great writer’s style, like the underwater part of an iceberg, hides not only the word “abortion” but also the fear of a young girl, unaware of pain for an unborn child, her flesh from her flesh, which is not destined to see God’s light. The girl’s dream of a child is inextricably linked with her vision of happiness and measured family life. These properties are genetically embedded in every woman, they are the essential purpose and obligation to be the parent, the one who gives life and the very name of the first woman “Eve” means “life.” For the heroine, abortion is the collapse of last hope, leading only to the continuation of a meaningless life.
Let us recall how masterfully Hemingway draws hills whitening in the sun, scorched by the mercilessly blazing sun, the earth and green fields, the shady banks of a rivulet, and the moving shadows of clouds. These different frames are full of functional significance. These are the stages of the girl’s state of mind, which is likened to scorched earth. At first, the comparison of the hills with white elephants evokes admiration for the girl. In the middle, this image reappears, but this time there are notes of heartbreaking doubt. In the final part, white elephants appear, but the girl’s gaze only sees how they descend into the scorched valley. Together with the dream of a child, the colors of the world and hopes for happiness die for the heroine: they fade together. Making a decision, which is to kill her unborn child, turns into the most profound psychological stress, and the girl subconsciously knows that she says goodbye to the highest value.
There is a perception of meaninglessness, absurdity, an irreplaceable void of life, a sense of terrible spiritual poverty. In order to show her emotional conflict and struggle to explain it, Jig says: “Can’t we stop talking?”1. She feels that life will become unstable, lose stability, love will become soulless and will turn into bitter loneliness. In this life, fiction will take the place of genuine values. The gloom is already spreading not only around the person, and it is already powerfully penetrating the person himself. A man has nothing to rely on, and no one is waiting for him. He is powerless before the power of chaos, “No, we can’t. It is not ours anymore,” – this bitter remark of Jig describes the spiritual condition of a young woman in the best possible way2.
It seems that the story is an excellent example of understanding the controversial bioethical problem: the problem of abortion, mother, and fetus, in which many aspects can be distinguished. This is a problem of the status of a human embryo, as well as the question of whether it is an individualized human life from the moment of fertilization. This question can be approached from different perspectives: biology and genetics, sociology, law (civil or criminal), psychological, historical, cultural, theological, and moral. From a bioethical perspective, all of the above positions should be combined to draw a solid conclusion.
Some readers, summing up the laws of genetics and embryology, might conclude that the fetus from the moment of conception has its determined biological reality. It is a fully distinguished human individual in development, which autonomously, step by step, continuously creates its form, carrying out, following the plans laid down in it, the project outlined in its genome. This fact is scientifically established and should be accepted as given, not like anyone else’s opinion. Since the embryo is already a developing individual, which will become a specific person, we can freely talk about the ontological and ethical value of the newly conceived fetus. Starting from the first instant of the emergence of human life, the human individual is a human person. Any criticism of this position will be a denial of the ontological approach to personality.
From the very first days, the embryo enters into a special kind of dialogue with the mother’s body, blocking the production of hormones through specific signals to the pituitary gland and other internal organs. Thus, the process causes a combination of changes in the mother’s body, forcing it to “recognize” the presence of a new life, a unique personality3. Psychoanalysts prove that the fetus is in social relations with the mother, accumulating in-depth experiences, feelings, positive and negative impulses that, even in adulthood, will leave their imprint on it4. Sociologists say that it is not relationships that determine the reality of the subject, but the existence of the issue that makes interpersonal relationships possible5. However, a human fetus does possess a partial form of consciousness due to its responsiveness to outside signals.
It is critical to note that the given book gives a clear perspective on the issue of abortion. Under the current legislation, affirming the unrestricted right of every woman to have an abortion, is an example of a misunderstanding and use of freedom. The main character does not precisely show her stance on the issue, but either way, one’s independence will be limited. In the framework of the strict logic of personalistic philosophy derived from the book, we can summarize that the embryo or the fetus, as a result of a continuous process of development programmed from the inside, is a unique human individual possessing actual social value. Besides, the embryo or the fetus has a genuine connection and a true destiny to become a person. Consequently, abortion is a crime against the life of a human person.
Cornell, Drucilla. The Imaginary Domain: Abortion, Pornography and Sexual Harassment. New York: Routledge, 2016.
Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants. New York: Men Without Women, 1927.
Sanger, Carol. “Talking About Abortion.” Social & Legal Studies 25, no. 6 (2016): 651–666.
Sisson, Gretchen, and Katrina Kimport. “Depicting Abortion Access on American Television, 2005–2015.” Feminism & Psychology 27, no. 1 (2017): 56–71.
- Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants (New York: Men Without Women, 1927), 3.
- Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants, 3.
- Carol Sanger, “Talking About Abortion,” Social & Legal Studies 25, no. 6 (2016): 658.
- Gretchen Sisson and Katrina Kimport, “Depicting Abortion Access on American Television, 2005–2015,” Feminism & Psychology 27, no. 1 (2017): 64.
- Drucilla Cornell, The Imaginary Domain: Abortion, Pornography, and Sexual Harassment (New York: Routledge, 2016), 112.
Hills Like White Elephants. A Short Story by Ernest Hemingway Essay
Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story “Hills like White Elephants” has lately become an important short story, despite being ignored for more than 50 years due to its lack of conventional literal characteristics. From a critical view, the story has several in-depth meanings that were previously ignored. In particular, the feministic view of Hemingway’s society is evident in the story. Hemingway attempts to express the feministic movement of the mid 20th century.
Using Jig as an example, the author has attempted to show how the early 20th century European and American societies viewed females. The story provides an example of male dominance over females in all aspects, which makes women unable to make their own decisions. Arguably, the author uses Jig to portray the development of women rights and feminist movements against the male-dominated world, which is demonstrated by the American boyfriend.
Jig is probably 19 or 20 years, judging from her perceptions and expression of ideas. She seems to be naïve but ready to settle down for marriage or bring up her children. On the other hand, she is afraid of her American boyfriend, and cannot express her ideas, fearing to disappoint him. However, her character changes significantly towards the end of the story.
According to Renner (1), the development of Jig’s character and perception is a representation of the development of women through feminist movements and can be divided into four basic stages. The first step concerns the submissive and passive presentation of Jig’s behavior, which was a social expectation of women before the early and mid-20th-century feminist movements. In this particular situation, the author portrays the gender roles of the time. In particular, the dominance nature of the male is evident.
While Jig realizes that she is not ready for the “small operation” that the American suggest and insists, she is unable to express her concern and decision not to take the “small operation.” She is submissive right from the first time. For instance, the story starts with Jig asking the American boyfriend, “what are we going to drink?” (Hemingway 572).
The American replies by ordering drinks for the two without asking what Jig wanted. This proves the dominance of males at the beginning of the story. As Hemingway continues with the narration, the audience is introduced to several other aspects that show how males dominated females in society.
For instance, Jig wants to try ‘Anis del Toro,’ her favorite drink for the day. However, she cannot order it without the man’s approval or permission. Thus, she requests him for permission to try the drink. In reply, the man takes the responsibility of asking the drink from the waiter. This further proves that Jig, as an example of female plight before the 20th-century feministic movement, is respecting the man such that she cannot order the drinks of her preference.
Moreover, when Anis del Toro is brought, the waiter asks whether they would like to take it with water. The American asks Jig whether she wanted it with water, but she replies that she did not know. She asks her boyfriend whether “it is good with water,” to which the man replies, “It is alright.”
Thus, the man seems to be responsible for what the young girl drinks. This is a further reflection of the character of the society at the time when males influenced or dictated even the simplest decisions that women were supposed to make about their welfare.
It is also evident that the American man does not give Jig a chance to express her answers to the waiter. He dominates the conversation, which is meant to let every customer express his or her preferences. The man is deciding for Jig, even without considering her preferences.
From a critical view, it is clear that the man’s behavior is a step towards the analysis of his behavior towards the girl when it comes to more important issues. The author uses the first section of the story to show that the man was dominating every decision the girl makes right from the beginning. In the second step, the man expresses his oppressive and dominating nature when the issue of abortion is placed on the table.
He also seems to have a chauvinistic attitude regarding the “operation,” which is most likely used about abortion, which the girl is being made to consider. According to Renner (3), the American is so high-handed about the “procedure” that he pretends to know everything about it. Despite being a man and unable to know the procedure, he tells the girl that it “…is a really simple procedure…like letting the air in” (Hemingway 573).
He seems to ignore the risks involved in taking abortions, especially at the time when it was a risky, illegal, and unethical act. He does not consider the trauma involved or the possible mental, moral, legal, and religious conflicts likely to arise after the operation. It appears that all that he wants is to have the Jig maintain her girlish status. He also wants to avoid children to have her on his side as he makes leisure trips around the world. He attempts to downplay the procedure in all aspects.
In the second step of Jig’s personality evolution, Jig expresses her attitudes but avoids invoking a conflict or disobeying her boyfriend. She says that she will take the procedure because she “does not care about me.” Hemingway attempts to show the selfishness in the man and Jig’s ability to show her attitudes. She wants to express her feelings towards the procedure and the man’s continued dominance in decision-making, even those that concern her more than him.
In this case, she seems to have evolved a step further because she has realized that the man is forcing her to take a risky procedure, which she knows is not only risky but also morally, socially and ethically illegal. At this stage, both individuals are portrayed as happy. However, Jig has only agreed to the man’s decision to please him. She seems to be happy, yet she is still aware of her boyfriend’s selfish behavior.
In the third step of Jig’s evolution of personality, she mentions that the hills above the railway line look like white elephants. From a shallow perspective, she was referring to the hills that were surrounding the area. It seems that the setting was in summer in Spain, which made it possible for the couple to move around for leisure. Nevertheless, a deep examination of the meaning reveals that Jig was using the phrase to symbolize her perceptions of the man’s decision to take an abortion.
She was making him note that the procedure is a difficult task to her, despite his constant argument that it is a small process. Also, it is possible that the “white elephant” was used about an unborn child, which is rare, precious, and sacred. In the normal terms, “white elephant” is a term that means a rare, precious and sometimes sacred animal.
To Jig, the unborn child she is probably carrying is a rare and precious thing to her. She expects to have her child in the normal way and lead a normal life. She is also in love with the kid and holds to the belief that an unborn child is sacred and should not be killed.
Towards the end of the story, the author describes the fourth step in the evolution of Jig’s feministic personality. Here, she seems to have come to a decision not to take an abortion, regardless of the man’s reaction. The man says, “I want to take the bags to the other side of the station” when the train was almost arriving. It seems that he has realized that Jig has refused to accept his suggestion. It seems that Jig has decided not to talk about the issue anymore, probably after making her own decision.
Therefore, the evolution of Jig’s character in this story signifies the evolution of female roles and feministic movements up to the mid 20th century. Like Jig, women were initially submissive and unable to express their concerns. Later, a conflict between them and males arose when females realized that males were using their dominance to force them to take certain decisions. The arising of feminist movements placed pressure on males, making them admit that females have the right to make important decisions.
Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2006. Print.
Renner, Stanley. “Moving to the Girl’s Side of Hills like White Elephants”. Hemingway Review 15.1 (2009): 27-42. Print.
‘Hills Like White Elephants’ by E. Hemingway Literature Analysis Report (Assessment)
The story, set in a bar at a Madrid train station is about an American man and a Spanish woman having a conversation about possibilities of aborting their unborn child. The title itself bears the image of the hills symbolizing the distended stomach of a pregnant lady which captures the expectations on the side of the woman. Apart form the title, imagery is also implicit in the story. The pair is in a train station that is situated between two sides with variant features: one side is full of lush green vegetation, and the other one is dry and barren.
Birth brings forth life while abortion leads to lifelessness. Lack of harmony between both sides symbolizes the divergent views that the man and woman have. The man opts for abortion, which in his view will bring freedom from the responsibility of child bearing and rearing while the lady cannot wait to experience the birth of her baby which will be a new beginning.
On either side of the station, there are tracks. The fact that they run parallel to each other is an implicit image for a clash of opinions between the two. Also, at the end of the story, a decision is not made just as the tracks that run parallel never meet. The couple disperses five minutes to the arrival of a train, and the reader is left wondering whether such an arrival symbolizes the birth of a baby or beginning of freedom for a young couple as envisaged by the man.
Imagery in James Baldwin’s ‘Sonny’s Blues’
‘Sonny’s Blues’ is set in Harlem where the narrator, a teacher, exposes struggles of a young man, Sonny. The struggles within members of Harlem society are symbolized in the story, particularly as a struggle between evil or darkness and light. There is turmoil between forces of good and evil in Harlem neighborhoods where youths struggle to escape from it through drugs, crime, art, or denial.
In various instances, an image of light is brought out. In the beginning, flickering headlights of a car provide illumination for the narrator as he reads about the arrest of Sonny. Towards the end, the narrator fears that bystanders will be destroyed by too much light as they stand behind the band stand. It symbolizes the care with which they should tread in their efforts to seek truth and happiness in life. This is because the world is said to be “hungry as a tiger”, symbolizing the harsh realities of life in Harlem.
Darkness symbolizes ignorance and suffering; people that are on edge seek nourishment through song, dance, and drugs. At one time the narrator mistakenly blames jazz as the cause of his brother’s addiction only to see the ‘light’ at the end when he witnesses his brother perform which serves as an awakening of sorts. After the performance, Sonny places scotch and milk on the piano, and the narrator sees the glass glow reinforcing the awakening.
Another image of light is the moonlit road which the narrator’s mother remembers as he informs her sons about an uncle who died earlier. Light symbolizes a break from the past; where their mother is ready to reveal secrets. Apart from light and darkness, ice is mentioned concerning the shock of receiving news of Sonny’s arrest. The image of ice settling on the narrator’s berry is one of an unpleasant experience for a teacher who is struggling to understand his brother and rise from upheavals in Harlem.
Hills Like White Elephants by Hemingway Essay
In ‘Hills like White Elephants’, the author has extensively used dialogue and setting to address a personal and emotional situation. The short story revolves around a couple and one other woman at a train station. The three characters engage in dialogue to express different feelings towards an issue under discussion. The setting of this story is given as small campsite or a restaurant located near a hill and next to a railway station. The setting of the place also seems perfect for the discussion that the couple had. In this essay, the researcher seeks to determine how the author’s minimalist and obtuse approach enhance the theme presented in the story.
Dialogue is one of the widely used literary devices that most authors use when building up a theme. The dialogue between the girl and the man brings out an emotional feeling between the two. It may be easy to say that the two are in love. This is especially so when the girl says, “I love you now. You know I love you” (Hemingway 477). However, there is a twist to this love that is presented through this dialogue. The man is trying to make the girl do something that will make both of them happy.
He is using love to get what he wants from the girl. He says, “And if I do it, you’ll be happy … and you’ll love me” (Hemingway 477). The theme that comes out of this statement is misuse of love. The man is using love to find her way with the girl. The girl reminds him that she loves him even before doing it. However, he insists that the act will be the only way of demonstrating the love, and that it will generate a strong bond between the couple forever.
On the side of the girl, her statement brings out another theme that may be described as reckless love. She is convinced that she is in love with him and doing it will not change much about their relationship. However, she is willing to do what he wants simply because it will make him happy. She fails to look at some of the possible consequences of such actions.
In fact, the girl deliberately fails to put the man to task about some of the possible outcomes of their actions, and the man takes a great advantage of that fact. The author uses their dialogue to paint the picture of how the American youths always make mistakes at the early stages of their lives simply because they are not willing to put to task the people who mislead them. Hemingway uses the girl to demonstrate this.
The lavish lifestyle that is common among many Americans is also presented as a major theme in the dialogue. At the beginning of the story, the girl tells the man, “Let’s drink beer” (Hemingway 475). The couple, through their dialogue, confirms the fact that they love lavishness and the fantasy of being able to own everything. The setting of the story also helps to present the theme. The statement ‘hills like white elephant’ is a simile. The girl could be referring to a possible pregnancy that may be the outcome of their planned act. What is strange is that she seems not to fear the hills like white elephants. This demonstrates that she is comfortable with the pregnancy should it happen to be the outcome of their action.
Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants: Short Story. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2014. Print.