The Transition from a Woman to a Mother in Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like white Elephants”
In “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, the author utilizes various fictional elements to provide his readers with the information necessary to further explore and discover the depth of the short story’s significance. The story is set up as a dialogue between two characters, the American and Jig. The American has gotten Jig pregnant and the two are debating on whether or not to keep the baby, and inevitably become parents, or have an abortion and try to rehabilitate their relationship. Having to make a decision will have an impact on each of the characters and their lives, but most importantly Jig. Through setting, symbols, and characterization, Hemingway provides his readers with the essentials needed to effectively analyze how Jig’s character transforms from an accommodating young girl into an independent woman with maternal instincts as a result of the couple’s unplanned predicament.
By further examining the setting of the story, the reader is able to obtain unwritten information about Jig and the American’s dilemma. The narrator informs the reader of the couple’s location in a train station waiting for a train to arrive and take them to Madrid (196). Spain, and its surrounding territory, is predominantly known for practicing Catholicism. Since Catholics are not allowed to use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, it can be assumed that abortions were more common in Spain than in America. During this time period in America it would have been socially unacceptable to have a baby out of wedlock, much less have an abortion. By analyzing the location and time in which the story takes place, the reader can come to a better understanding as to why it the couple would be traveling in Spain.
The various symbols located throughout the story provide the reader with a deeper meaning than what is simply visible on the surface of the text. When looking at the landscape and hills nearby the train station, Jig states “They look like white elephants” (196). Jig initially views her pregnancy as an obstacle, or a hill, on the journey throughout her life and the controversial topic of abortion would an example of an elephant in the room, something most everyone knows about but does not want to openly discuss. The train station itself is a symbol for a crossroad the couple has come to in their relationship and Jig ultimately has to decide which track she wants to take. In the beginning of the story, the narrator mentions the differentiation of the land on each side of the tracks....