Analysis of Hills Like White Elephants Essay
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Analysis of Hills Like White Elephants “Hills Like White Elephants”, by Ernest Hemingway, is a short story published in 1927 that takes place in a train station in Spain with a man and a woman discussing an operation. Most of the story is simply dialogue between the two characters, the American and Jig. This couple is at a critical point in their lives when they must decide whether or not to have an abortion. Certain themes arise from this story such as choices and consequences, doubt and ambiguity, and how men and women relate. Hemingway also uses many examples of symbolism in “Hills Like White Elephants”, including descriptions of the surrounding scenery, the hills themselves, and the station where the action takes place.…show more content…
Certainly the fact that abortions are not legal at this time in Spain is also playing on the girl’s mind (Short Stories for Students 159). The reader is also left with great doubt, as there is no resolution or decision given by Hemingway at the end of the story.
The final theme derived from this story is how men and women relate to each other. Most of Hemingway’s stories are masculine in nature, but “Hills Like White Elephants” shows the woman’s point of view as the more rational of the two (Short Stories for Students 158). The man is shown as being selfish and irresponsible by starting this relationship and then lacking the support Jig needs (Hamid 78). The American sees life as being very straightforward and rational, while Jig is considered to be romantic and living in an emotional world (Beacham 8). Clearly, these themes are still applicable in modern societies concerning this issue of abortion.
Hemingway uses many instances of symbolism in this short story to coincide with the themes and feelings of the characters, such as the description of the scenery surrounding the train station. On one side of the station there is vegetation and fields of grain, while the other side is dry and barren (Short Stories for Students 159). The fact that the station divides these contrasts of environments is a symbol for the couple’s decision. The choice to have the abortion symbolizes sterility, which coincides with
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Hills Like White Elephants: The Symbolism of the Setting
In Ernest Hemingway's story "Hills Like White Elephants" an American couple is
sitting at a table in a train station in Spain. They are discussing beer,
travel, and whether or not to have an abortion. The train station and its
surroundings are symbolic in this story. The station itself represents the
choice on whether or not to have the abortion. There is a set of tracks on
either side of the station, each representing one of the choices. On one side of
the station, the tracks run through a lush, green landscape full of grainfields
and trees. A wide river runs lazily in the foreground of some tall mountains.
It is almost like a paradise. This side of the station symbolizes the choice of
going through with the abortion. As it is now they travel all around the world,
drinking and staying in hotels, and seeing all the beautiful places in the world.
They have no responsibilities or schedules in their life. With an abortion,
they could continue their party- and fun-filled, although meaningless existence.
The other side of the station is dry and barren of plantlife. The ground looks
as if there has been no rain for quite some time. There are hills in the
distance that have a whitish color as the sun radiates on them. The woman said,
"They look like white elephants."(343) White elephants are known to symbolize
unexpected gifts, which is certainly what the baby would be should they choose
not to have the abortion. The barrenness of the land refers the tame life--
settling down and having the responsibilities of parenthood--that they would
have to start living when the baby came; a life that would be duller but would
have a purpose. The bead curtain represents the fact that once they choose a
side, to have the baby or not, they cannot change their minds and then switch
sides. Once the decision has been made, it will affect their lives forever.
The man wants to have the abortion so they can continue to have the luxuries
they enjoy now. On the other hand, the woman is tired of the wilder life and
wants the baby and to settle down.
Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills Like White Elephants" Literature and the Writing
Process. Eds. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 4th ed. Upper
Saddle River: Prentice, 1996. 343-46.
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