Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants is a story set in Madrid, Spain, about a man and a girl, later revealed as an unmarried couple, who argue about whether or not to keep the baby that the woman is carrying. The story begins two characters waiting on a train station while having their conversation. The man who made her pregnant, only known as the American, is trying to persuade the girl, Jig, to abort the baby, but latter is hesitant to do so. The American man insists that the baby will only cause a rift between them and ruin their relationship.
On the other hand, the girl, Jig, believes, although not explicitly stated in the story, that she must keep a baby as a consequence of her actions. The story mostly revolves around the dialogue of the couple and ends without really saying if they kept the baby or not. Analysis The story basically reflects about choices and their corresponding consequences made in the real world and the two character’s opposing opinions regarding the choices they have made. However, to further add depth and to better emphasize the division of views, a lot symbols were used in the setting.
One of the first important symbols described in the story was that the couple were in a train station in between two tracks of a train. In reality, trains running on opposite tracks never meet as their tracks don’t intersect. This is a clear interpretation that the couple have opposing views about their unborn child and that they will never meet at any point in time. The American chooses a path which he believes is the best for them, which is to abort the baby, while the girl decides to go the other way and keep the baby as a consequence of her actions.
Furthermore, this means the couple has trouble communicating with each other. Another symbol used to depict their opposing views in the story is the description of the setting on both sides of the train station where the couple was drinking liquor. On one side were the white hills and on the other side was dry land with no shade. When the couple first began their conversation, Jig noticed that white hills were like white elephants, which in reality is attributed to an expensive, but unnecessary burden She also insisted that the American man has never seen white elephants.
In this scene, the girl saw and understood the “white elephant” hills. Meaning to say she has accepted the heavy burden, represented by the baby she is carrying, imposed upon her. On the other hand, the man stresses that she only wants to spend his life with the girl and really doesn’t care about the baby. He basically viewed the “white elephant” as a burden that he does not intend to carry. Moreover, during a short silence after their conversation, the girl looked at the dry, barren land on the other side of the tracks.
This could signify that even though she wanted to keep the baby, she sees that there is emptiness in her future with the man due to his insistence that she undergoes abortion. The emptiness she sees could also mean that the abortion would in fact cause her womb to also be empty as the baby would no longer be there. In addition, her observations of the surroundings speak a lot about the future of their relationship, which when taken into context, is doomed to fail. Generally, the author did not directly convey what meant in the story, rather, he used symbols that the readers would interpret.
He used a form of storytelling where almost everything is like icing on the cake or the merely the tip of an iceberg. It is up to the readers to eat and taste the rest of the cake and discover how big the iceberg really is. For example the author never used the word “abortion,” in the story. Rather, he used terms like “operation,” “let the air in,” and “lots of people have done it,” to convey his message. It is also evident that when the man said, “lots of people,” it meant that setting took place when abortion was still legal.