Ernest Hemingway is a Nobel Prize-winning American author. Hills like White Elephants is a short story that was published in 1927. The story is about a conversation between an American man and a woman at a Spanish railway station. The woman is pregnant, and the couple is discussing whether or not to have an abortion.
Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. His father was a doctor and his mother was a music teacher. Ernest went to school until he was seventeen years old, when he dropped out to work for the Kansas City Star newspaper. He also served in the army during World War I. In 1918, he was wounded while serving in Italy and returned home.
After the war, Hemingway moved to Paris, where he became a part of the “Lost Generation” of American expatriate writers. He met and married Hadley Richardson in 1921. The couple had a son, but divorced in 1927. Hemingway then married Pauline Pfeiffer, with whom he had two children.
Hills like White Elephants is one of Hemingway’s most famous short stories. It was first published in Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories in 1938. The story is set at a Spanish railway station, where an American man and a woman are waiting for a train. The woman is pregnant, and the couple is discussing whether or not to have an abortion.
The story is told from the point of view of the American man, and we see the conversation between the two characters through his eyes. The woman is hesitant about having the abortion, but the man is insistent that it is the best thing for her. In the end, we are left wondering what will happen to the couple and their unborn child.
“No American writer of his generation has been more discussed than Ernest Hemingway (Adams)” [Hemingway was given the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 and is considered one of the most well-known writers of his era]. In 1917, he began working as a newspaper reporter after graduating from high school (Pike and Costa, 444). After that,
After being injured, he returned home and continued working as a journalist (Pike and Costa, 444). In 1921, Hemingway married Hadley Richardson and they soon moved to France where they became part of the “Lost Generation” which was a group of American expatriates who lived in Paris during the 1920s (Pike and Costa, 444).
Ernest and Hadley had their first child, John, in October of 1923 (Pike and Costa, 444). Shortly after John’s birth, the Hemingways bought a property in Florida and Ernest began writing his novel “The Sun Also Rises” which was published in 1926 (Pike and Costa, 444).
“Hills Like White Elephants” is one piece in which the topic of discussion is obvious, but never outright stated—abortion. The American tries to persuade his Jig into having an abortion in “Hills Like White Elephants,” not by instructing her to do so, but by employing reverse psychology and implying that everything is fine.
The Hills like White Elephants literary analysis will explore the use of symbolism and themes in the short story.
The title “Hills Like White Elephants” is symbolic in itself. The hills are a barrier between the American and Jig, much like the issue at hand. The white elephants represent something that is unwanted, but cannot be changed or given away—the unborn child. Other symbols in the story include the train tracks, which appear to go on forever and may symbolize the couple’s relationship—stuck in a rut with no way out.
Themes in “Hills Like White Elephants” include choices, communication, and relationships. The American and Jig are at a crossroads in their relationship and must make a choice. The American is trying to communicate his wishes to Jig, but she is not receptive. This lack of communication leads to further problems in their relationship.
In “Hills Like White Elephants,” Hemingway depicts the female character as a sexual object rather than an equal who was genuinely loved by the American. One method to establish the “sexual object” theory is by examining the dialogue in the tale. He does not appear to be too concerned about her health or emotions from the start of the story.
She has just had an abortion, which is a very serious and painful procedure, yet he does not ask her how she is feeling or if she is in pain. The only time he does inquire about her well-being is when she is having a drink and he asks the bartender to “make it weak.” This shows that he is more concerned about her drinking alcohol than her actual physical state.
Also, Hemingway uses the word “it” when referring to the abortion, which furthers the idea that the woman is nothing more than an object. He says, “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,” (Hemingway 2) using a nickname for the woman instead of her actual name. This makes her seem even more like an object because she is not even given the dignity of a proper name.
Another way that Hemingway reveals the true nature of the relationship between the American and the woman is through the setting of the story. They are sitting in a train station in Spain, waiting for a train to take them away from each other. The fact that they are at a train station emphasizes the idea that their relationship is transitory and will not last. It also foreshadows the fact that the American will eventually leave her, just as he plans to do at the end of the story.
The most obvious evidence of Hemingway’s opinion of the woman can be seen in the final lines of the story. The American says, “I’ve never seen anyone like her,” (Hemingway 10) to which the bartender replies, “That’s what they all say, sir.” This shows that Hemingway believes that the American is just like all of the other men who have used and then discarded the woman. He views her as nothing more than a sexual object, someone to be used for pleasure and then cast aside when she is no longer needed.
In conclusion, “Hills Like White Elephants” is a story about a couple facing a difficult decision. The use of symbolism and themes help to tell the story and provide insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings.