The Complex Relationship between the American and Jig in Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”
In Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, the American and Jig are like the tracks at the train station, they can never meet. While Jig represents fertility, life and continuity, the American represents sterility, dryness and death. Unfortunately, Jig depends emotionally on the American – as many women depended on their male counterparts in the 1940s – and lacks the autonomy and willpower required to openly affirm herself in their relationship. As they struggle to find common ground, the very discussion that can bring them together only tears them apart. The differences in each character – in their personality, means of communication and desires – truly emphasize the constant opposition that burns between them, this very opposition leads to the couple’s inevitable separation, as Jig discovers herself and her independence through the dilemma at hand.
The ubiquitous conflict between the American and Jig is underlined by the tremendous differences in their personality, communication methods and desires. In the beginning, the environment seems relaxed, neither, the American nor Jig, is speaking. Jig is looking out at the scenery that is “brown and dry” (paragraph 8) – like their relationship – as the American orders drinks. Unlike the American who is disconnected, Jig seems to be imaginative, intuitive and connected with her world, while she gazes out the window, she remarks that the hills “look like white elephants” (paragraph 9). At this point, she seems to have something on her mind: white elephants are believed to be rare and precious, although they require much upkeep, commitment and sacrifice, even though they are habitually valued, they often can be seen as a burden. When the American replies that he has never seen a white elephant, Jig answers “No, you wouldn’t have” (paragraph 11), this sparks an argument between the pair: “Just because you say I wouldn’t have, doesn’t prove anything” (paragraph 13), the American retorts defensively. Tension appears although this conversation suggests that they have been fighting prior to their arrival at the train station. Jig implies that she believes the American is stuck in his own perception and is unable to see beyond it . Since Jig is still dependent on her mate at this point when making choices, if only about drinks, she remains calm and changes the subject.
The American and Jig use very different ways of speaking to one another, they often use manipulation – differently– and subtle hints to convey their desires. For instance, as they order more drinks, Jig observes that her new beverage tastes of licorice. The American, perhaps annoyed by her analogy, replies that everything tastes of licorice. Jig agrees that his statement is true, and continues to say: “especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe” (paragraph 27). Here, Jig...