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Ernest Hemingway's Hills Of White Elephants

1038 words - 4 pages

Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" was published in 1927. This short story is mostly told through dialogue. The beginning of the story describes the atmosphere and setting in Spain. It is hot, there are no trees or shade and you see a train station between two train tracks. There are two main characters, an American man and a girl. The story is told as they are sitting at the station waiting for a train to Madrid. It consists of the conversation that this unmarried couple has about their unwanted pregnancy and the girl's impending abortion.The use of dialogue in this story makes clear a sense of division between the two characters. While there is little input from the narrator, the reader is forced to interpret the feelings of the characters from what they say and, more importantly, from what they don't say. While waiting, the girl notes distant white hills against the warm, dry country, and comments that they look like white elephants. The title of this story is a simile as the hills are symbolic of the pregnancy because they are like protruding masses of unwanted gifts. The hills represent the woman's stomach and the white elephants represent the gift of a baby that the man definitely does not want.The couple begins to discuss the operation and the man is controlling and tries to manipulate the girl's feelings. He appears to patronize her and he talks to her as a child rather than as his mate. There is no question that he does not want the child to be born, yet he speaks like it is totally the girl's decision. "I don't want you to do anything that you don't want to do -' Then the man says, ".... But I don't want anybody but you. I don't want anyone else. And I know it's perfectly simple." Reinforcing the idea that the relationship between the two of them would be stronger without a baby and all of this can be achieved by a simple safe operation. "It's not really an operation at all." he tells her. The truth is that back in the 1920's, abortions were extremely risky.Leaving the table the girl goes to the edge of the station and looks at the scenery. In contrast to the scenery already noted, on the other side of the tracks she sees fields and trees, even a river. Her mood seems to change when she returns to the table. The imagery of the landscape has mirrored their immediate choices. On one side of the station, the land is parched and desolate, and on the other side of the station, there are trees and fields of grain. The choices are fertility and life or death and being alone. Also, I believe that the description of the distant landscape metaphorically represents that the couple's future and how it depends on the choice that will be made in the next few minutes. The shadow of a cloud moving across the field represents that there is sometimes darkness with good things, but...

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