Male Dominance in Ernest Hemingway’s Short Story Hills Like White Elephants

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

In life people are sometimes faced with difficult choices that could change them and their life forever. From the start, Hemmingway’s Hills Like White Elephants appears as if very little is going on throughout his narrative. In actuality, this short story is astoundingly intricate.

It involves a young couple who is facing a difficult decision on whether or not the woman, Jig, should get certain procedure done. It is soon learned that the procedure is actually an abortion of their unborn child. The man who is also known as “the American” is trying to pressure her into getting this procedure done. Hemmingway doesn’t give much on the American, let alone his name. By leaving the American anonymous, Hemingway enriches the character with quality in anonymity. He isn’t worried about his well being, life or future and is just engrossed with his current presence and the conservation of what he considers to be pleasurable to only him. This gives the American the advantage over Jig; subsequently displaying his dominance.

Jig is conflicted with an emotional choice. For her, the choice is whether to terminate the unborn child or keep it. Despite the fact that she would like to proceed forward from their same old boring life: “That’s all we do, isn’t it–look at things and try new drinks?” (Hemmingway 666) and start a family, she doesn’t want to lose the man she believes she shares a romantic connection with. This is the reason Jig is willing to put her needs and wants on hold. She believes by doing so it will prevent their relationship from failing. Being between two hills, while waiting for the train to either go with her lover or go the other way symbolizes that she is stuck in the middle of her two decisions. While the American, wants her to get rid of the unborn child, she realized the thought of losing her child and the life she lives with the man she loves is confusing and uncertain to her.

It appears that both the American and Jig have a fondness for traveling, although unlike Jig, it seems as if the child is a threat to him and his lifestyle now. He consistently insists and attempts to persuade her in getting the operation done: “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig, (…) it’s not really an operation at all.” (Hemmingway 666) “I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in. (…) We’ll be fine afterward. Just like we were before” (Hemmingway 667). The subtle manipulative power that he has over Jig’s confusing thoughts transforms itself into a complete control over her decision. After finding out that she is pregnant, Jig has a difficult time weighing her options because of her dependence on the American, it isn’t long until she gives into his ways.

Although Hemmingway didn’t deliberately place male dominance in this short story, it is there. Jig altered her entire perspective due to the manipulation of the dominant man. She becomes consumed with satisfying him, and in the end she gives into his ways. Maybe Jig felt powerless or maybe she was just completely consumed with this “love” that she believes it is the right choice. Either way, it is clear that the man has the upper hand in this story and it is hidden throughout the tone.


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