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. Clearly, this short story crosses timelines to become relevant to both the early twentieth century and modern times.
The most obvious theme recognized early in this short story is that of choices and consequences. The couple is unmarried and the girl has become pregnant, but the man wants her to have an abortion. The American obviously believes that the abortion will free the couple from any responsibilities, which is what they have been experiencing before this turn of events (Short Stories for Students 158). The man also feels that the pregnancy is the only thing that has caused them to have arguments and become unhappy with each other in the relationship (Hamid 77). Clearly, the girl is reluctant in her decision to have the abortion. She feels that either choice she makes will not have much of an effect on their long-term relationship and hopes of finding true love and happiness (Short Stories for Students 158).
Another theme found in “Hills Like White Elephants” is that of doubt and ambiguity. Although the man tries to convince Jig that he knows the operation is safe, he may not know much about the operation (Short Stories for Students 158). 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...