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An Analysis Of Ernest Hemmingway's Hills Like White Elephants

1476 words - 6 pages

Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” tells the tale of a man and a woman, who at first might seem to be having a normal and rather dull conversation at a train station, but it is only when you look closer into what is actually being said by the characters and find the small clues that Hemingway cleverly knit into the story, that you realize how heavy the conversation actually is. Unlike many authors, Hemingway leaves it to the reader to delve deeper into the story and decipher the situation for themselves, and a seemingly simple story can become something so much more. The woman in the story is contemplating whether to stick to the life she knows or begin a brand new chapter in her life that could change her relationship with the man forever. Sometimes one’s true intentions are not always clear.
The story begins at a bar in a train station in Spain. A man and a woman order some drinks and begin to have a conversation. Though there are no descriptions or narrations as to what the conversation is actually about, through subtle hints in the story we can infer that the conversation being discussed is about an abortion, whether to go through with one or not. The first major hint is in the title of the story itself. A white elephant is defined as a possession that is useless or troublesome, something that is expensive to maintain and or difficult to dispose of. One can definitely assume that the term “white elephant” in the title serves as an analogy to the baby that is being carried by the woman. Hemingway drops a second hint when the conversion take a sudden turn, going from the couple making small talk of beer, to the man bringing up what seemed to be the random subject of an operation, “It’s an awfully simple operation, Jig…It’s not really an operation at all” (Hemingway, 526). This leads us to assume that this is much more than just a casual conversation at the bar, there is something much more substantial being talked about by the man and woman. Most of the story is made up of dialogue between the man and the woman with only slight observations of their surroundings. There are no obvious or clear statements in the conversation, much of what is being said is left to the reader to infer.
There is no clear protagonist or antagonist in the story. Although the story might take place in the late 1920’s when it was written, one could argue that in today’s society, the American would serve as the antagonist. For most of the story, he is encouraging the girl into getting the abortion. He basically wants to take the innocent life of the fetus, while the girl is unsure about whether to go through with the decision to abort or not, thus making her seem innocent and she could be interpreted as the protagonist. What is also interesting is that the woman is the only one in the story who seems to have a name, as she is referred to as “Jig” by the man. The man on the other hand is not given a name and is simply referred to as just the man or “the...

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