When an author writes a short story, they often use symbolism to convey what they mean in as little words as possible; or to spread a message that is easier for others to grasp. “Young Goodman Brown,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and “Hills Like White Elephants,” by Ernest Hemingway, are two such short stories that make great use of symbolism throughout the work. “Young Goodman Brown,” a story that is nearly all symbolism, has to be interpreted properly; so that the reader might understand and learn from what he is reading. “Hills Like White Elephants,” a story that uses less symbolism than the previous story, is a story that uses symbolism to talk about something that was forbidden at the time that this story takes place. Both stories use different styles of symbolism, and hidden meanings, to convey what the author is trying to get across to his readers.
The symbolism in “Hills Like White Elephants” is very exclusive, but effective. Throughout the story, the hills are said to appear like white elephants, though only in color. The white elephant was a very rare and precious gift, but it was also very costly and could not be used as a beast of burden or killed (Weeks 77). So then we know that something is either seen as precious or as a very costly annoyance. This story starts out with a man and a girl having a conversation while waiting at a train station. The couple is enjoying drinks at a bar and the girl is talking about how the hills look like white elephants, although only in their color. The man seems to ignore her, since he has other things on his mind. The man then tells her it is “An awfully simple operation… It’s just to let the air in (Mays 790).” We now know what the white elephant is a symbol for, a child. The man wants to get rid of the “burden,” and the girl wants to keep the “priceless treasure.”
The symbolism of the hills in this story is an image that Lewis Weeks best describes as “A fully pregnant women, nude and probably lying on her back, with her distended belly virtually bursting with life and with her breasts, engorged by the approaching birth, making a trinity of white hills (76).” Although that might sound a bit graphic, it is a great representation of what the mother is longing for, and what the father is pressuring her to give up. So as we have seen, Ernest Hemingway has created a masterful piece of work in “Hills Like White Elephants,” and the symbolism in it is quite helpful to get a grasp of what he is trying to convey to us. Children are a priceless treasure to some, and a burden that must be gotten rid of to others.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” is a short story comprised of nearly all symbolism; and everything must be double checked for meaning in the story. The story starts with Young Goodman Brown walking out of his house in Salem village, and saying goodbye to his wife, Faith. The story then says that she is aptly named, so as to hint that she stands for Goodman Browns own faith (Hawthorne...