Hills Like White Elephants Theme Essay Example

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, a Theme Analysis Essay

1243 Words5 Pages

Ernest Hemmingway uses time, place, and symbolism in "Hills like White Elephants" to intensify the central dilemma in a story about a man and a woman deciding on whether to go through with an abortion. Although a literal reading of the title may not seem to have any relation to the story, the title is rich in implications. Critics suggest that "Hills" refers to the shape of a woman's stomach when pregnant, and Webster's 21st Century Dictionary defines white elephant as: "[An] awkward, useless possession." The term is also defined in Webster's as an item that is worthless to some but priceless to others. According to Victor Lindsey, the child in the story is a white elephant in the view of the man, who is trying to convince the girl to…show more content…

The train depot is surrounded on both sides by fields: one side with trees and fields of grain, and the other contains nothing but dust (Hemingway 324). The two sides of the train tracks represent the choice Jig will have to face between pregnancy and abortion.

Every time the man or the woman try to change the subject and avoid talking about the abortion, they end up saying something that refers to or alludes to the baby or the abortion. The woman suggests that the hills look like white elephants (324), which the man fails to acknowledge. The lack of clear communication between the two causes tension and arguments at every turn. When the woman agrees sarcastically that the man has never seen white elephants, he says, "Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything" (324). The woman is clearly annoyed at the insensitivity of the man's negative feelings toward her pregnancy. For her, the baby is a priceless treasure, but for him it is a worthless fetus.

Time and place are very significant in the story. The author describes where the train is boarded and where it is headed to, but he never tells the reader where the man and woman are at the moment. Hemingway notes that the train "stopped at this junction for two minutes and went on to Madrid" (324). Baker argues that "this limited time symbolizes the time she has to have the abortion" (Baker, 145). Baker further

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