Dependence to Independence in Hills Like White Elephants
In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” the lives of Jig and the American, the main characters, are put on display for a brief period of time. Jig and the man have had a romantic relationship for quite some time, and now their future together is in jeopardy. The impregnation of Jig has caused the American to pressure her into getting an abortion. We find these two individuals in the Valley of the Ebro. Traveling from Barcelona to Madrid, the couple takes these few minutes to discuss the future of their baby. Jig now must make one of the most important decisions of her life – to have the abortion and stay with the American, or to have the baby and end the relationship with the male. The forty minutes of dialogue we observe detail the need both have the control the situation. The dialogue between these two individuals, and the comments by the narrator gives reference to the dry and despair atmosphere that flows throughout the setting of this event.
The introductory narrative provides a prophetic setting for this forty-minute glimpse into the life of Jig and the American. The names of the two characters offer insight into the relationship of the two individuals. A “jig” is a “fast, springy dance.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, p.320) This is reminiscent of the abortion. The decision to have the abortion will have to be made quickly. The lack of a name for the man also provides insight to his character. By leaving the male nameless, Hemingway does not allow the reader to personalize the man. Thus, it is easier for one to dislike him.
“On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun.” The lack of shade and trees, and the presence of the sun hint at the overall theme of barrenness and infertility that pervades throughout the encounter between Jig and the man. The presence of the sun symbolizes the “rays of truth”. “The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade.” Hiding from the inevitable truth – the inevitable topic of discussion, Jig and the male sit in the shade of the rail station.
During Jig and the American’s first conversation, the girl is “…looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry…. ‘They [the hills] look like white elephants,’ she said. ‘I’ve never seen one,’ the man drank his beer. ‘No, you wouldn’t have.’ ‘I...