An analysis of Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants”

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Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”: Summary & Analysis

Read this. Help Login Sign Up. Through close examination, it is evident that the character of Jig is revealed not only through her own actions, but also through the contrasting descriptions of her surrounding environment and her subtle mannerisms. By strategically scattering these faint clues to Jig's persona though out the story, Hemingway forces the reader to overcome common stereotypes and examine ambiguous dialogue before being able to discover the round, dynamic character that is Jig. Initially, Jig's character is referred to as the girl, Hemingway 3 implying stereotypical attributes.

Close Reading "Hills Like White Elephants"

Her seemingly childish dialogue and actions strengthen her two-dimensional image, and helps guide the casual reader down a misinformed path. An overly simplistic view of Jig may notice the naive overtones in affirmations such as And if I do it you'll be happy and things will be like they were and you'll love me. Hemingway 6 but would fail to see the hidden cunning and manipulative side of the statement. This technique, again, gives the story a distinct indifferent feel.


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It allows the reader to explore the story on various levels instead of just zooming into one particular aspect of the story. It also prevents the audience from succumbing to the temptation of making specific conclusions about the story early on; from the temptation of simply disregarding other details in the story and focusing on the main subject matter, which is abortion. Even this particular issue is never mentioned in the piece, except in the form of symbols and indirect statements from the characters.

This particular style of writing, where the writer skimps on words, and instead, attaches multi-level meanings to the text is known as literary control. Hemingway, What this does in particular is it foreshadows the main theme of the story by presenting something decrepit or useless. This particular style combines two opposing images, that of fertility in the hills, and emptiness, in the perception of Jig. This particular exchange also gives the audience an idea of how the tone will be when the main issue of abortion comes into play. The girl here makes an indirect reference to their lifestyle — that nothing is new with them — and suddenly, when something new happens — she gets pregnant — the man refuses to accept the change.

Hills Like White Elephants Summary, Theme, & Analysis Activities

There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights. Bags are also used here to represent the emotional or mental baggage that the man is carrying as a consequence of the pregnancy of Jig. Of course, with this remark from the man, the girl becomes silent and does not react.

The string of beads as described very much look like the ones in rosaries; hence, it could be interpreted that although the girl seems to agree with the man, she is praying or hoping against all hope that abortion was not the solution to their problem. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains.

All these images represent fertility, life, and renewal, and at this point also, when the lady sees this particular scenery, she experiences a change of heart and realizes that she should at least take another chance at convincing the man that the abortion will leave her empty, which should be the main issue between the two of them, if the man was sensitive enough. And once they take it away, you never get it back.

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Notice the last statement of the girl in the above exchange; in this particular line, she is referring to the child in her womb, while earlier on in the conversation, the man is actually referring to the material and carnal pleasures that they had both been enjoying. The man says that they can have all these, but the lady disagrees. In the end, there is no closure in their argument and Hemingway leaves the audience hanging as to whether the girl decides to have the abortion or not.

What is known, however, is that in the end, the girl indicates that she is all right Hemingway, ; considering her previous arguments, then it can be assumed that she will not be going for the abortion. While the story is fairly simple in its presentation, it tackles a very deep philosophy known as existentialism, appropriately so because the writer lived in an era when this philosophy was in force.

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So, while we can easily say that for a superficial reader, the story is just an exchange of conversation between two people regarding an abortion, the symbols and the clever use of language comes into play to coax the reader to digest the story and interpret it a different level; at which level, the references to existentialism become clear. In closing, the story is indeed a hotbed of symbolism and a classic example of literary control.

It does not spoon-feed the audience nor takes all the thinking away from the reader. Hemingway, E. Hills like White Elephants. Retrieved March 25, , from.