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The True Meaning Of “Hills Like White Elephants”

1033 words - 5 pages

“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway uses symbolism to illustrate the topic of conversation between a couple, although they never mention it directly. Symbolism is shown as the couple is at a bar in the train station and the girl notices the hills like white elephants. There are many aspects such as drinking beer, the hills like white elephants, and repeating the number two that play a role in fully understanding the story. All of these elements combine together to play a role in the author’s purpose, as well as the plot of the story.
A symbol is an image with a significant meaning which needs to be decoded to fully understand its meaning. Also, there are many symbols in the story that can be interpreted at as having a larger meaning in the story. One example of a symbol is the “Hills Like White Elephants.” In today’s society, many people use the term “there is a white elephant in the room” as a topic of communication, something that is unwanted, or something they do not want to talk discuss. In this selection, the “Hills Like White Elephants” do not actually represent the hills; instead readers can infer that it means the operation that the couple is trying to avoid discussing. When the girl initially makes a comment about the hills, she is saying it in order to be able to begin a conversation regarding the operation. She feels the operation is something they have not discussed, but need to discuss deeply. In this story, a reader can infer that the operation is the white elephant in the room.
There are several elements of symbolism in the story; however, “The deeper levels of this story are disclosed by examining not only what is implied through the irony but also what is indicated by symbolism and repetition” (Holladay). Along with the white elephant hills, the couple is drinking beer, which can also be a symbol. From the beginning of the story, the reader sees the couple is constantly ordering alcoholic drinks. At one point in the story, the woman says, “Let’s drink beer.” in which the man follows with “Two big ones.”(Hemingway 240). A reader can assume the couple is continuously drinking in order to avoid discussing their problems, or even having a friendly conversation together. However, when the couple does engage in conversation, they do not talk nicely, listen to, or understand one another. Instead of having a sincere conversation, the couple continues to argue about what they should do regarding a procedure. This plays an important role because the reader sees the couple arguing about what decision will have the better outcome. This is seen when Jig asks, “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?” (Hemingway 241). From this quote, implication is that the girl will have the operation just to make her American boyfriend happy. Perhaps the girl is giving in just so her boyfriend will be quiet, and the discussion can be dropped.
Also, from seeing the couple drink to...

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