Underlying Meanings in Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Though "Hills Like White Elephant," by Ernest Hemingway, is mostly composed of a dialog between two people, the reader may learn a great deal about the characters and the meaning of the story indirectly through symbolism, word clues, and tone. The passage from lines 13 through 27, reveals the tarnishing of innocence, as a girl's wanting curiosity discovers the disheartening and bitter realities of life.
Word clues in the passage illuminate the character of the girl enough so that the reader can understand her position in the story. The characters are named "man," "girl," and "woman." This alone attributes traditional qualities to the protagonist character, the "girl," as being inferior, vulnerable, innocent, inexperienced, foolish, and immature. Her conversation in the passage is limited to her observations and inquisitions such as "'What does it say?....Could we try it?....Is it good,'" much like a young child, incapable of a meaningful and in depth conversation (171). The girl's inferior position is further illustrated through her indirect contact with the "woman;" the man orders for the girl and mediates any conversation between them, again, much like a parent would speak for a child. Finally, the girl does display some resentment and rebellion in her tone when she strikes back with, "'Everything tastes like Licorice. Especially everything you've waited so long for, like absinthe,'" which shows her development out of childlike ignorance (172).
After establishing the role and position of the girl, the meaning of the passage can be further reinforced through symbolism. When intrigued about the Anis del Toro, the girl asks, "'Could we try it?'" (171). At this point she is inexperienced and is somewhat expectant that she may discover something she may like; she yearns for experience. Anis is clear in its straight form. When you add ice or water to the liquer, it turns cloudy and impure and its...