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Ambiguity in "Hills LIke White Elephants"

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Anna Kinder

on 7 September 2016

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Transcript of Ambiguity in "Hills LIke White Elephants"

inference-making, ambiguity, syntax
and dialogue

"Hills Like
White Elephants"

ambiguity: a statement
or situation whose meaning is unclear;
it can be interpreted
multiple different ways

"Hills Like White Elephants"
Ernest Hemingway
Idioms are: groups of words established by usage as having meanings not deducible from those of the individual words, for example, "It's raining
cats and dogs."
Has anyone heard of the expression "white elephant" or "white elephant gifts?"

It is what is referred to as an idiom. Does anyone know what an idiom is?
What if it was REALLY "raining cats and dogs?"
It'd be utter chaos. Humans, felines, and canines would be "dropping like flies."
"Dropping like flies" is another idiom. Idioms are often similes or metaphors, but the difference is that they are common knowledge.
Can you think of some idioms you have heard before?
In its entirety, the title "Hills Like White Elephants" is a simile. The "white elephant" portion is an idiom, meaning a "valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost
(particularly cost of upkeep is out
of proportion with its worth)."

How does this knowledge of the idiom "white
elephant" affect your interpretation?

1. What do you think the story is about?
2. What do you notice about the style?

Now we will re-read the story as a class,
like it's a script.
I need an: "American" and a "girl,"
and I'll be narrator.
"Hills Like White Elephants"
A statement or situation whose meaning is unclear; it can be interpreted in multiple different ways

How does Ernest Hemingway create ambiguity in "Hills Like White Elephants?"
In the story, Hemingway adds ambiguity

the usage of pronouns
the avoidance of names
using mostly brief, vague dialogue and very little narration

2 more examples of ambiguity:
"Who's on First?" and
"Who's on Stage?"
Making Inferences:

An inference is: a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning, or an educated guess.
What do you see in this picture?

Write a scene of vague, ambiguous, confusing dialogue between two people. Do not explicitly tell us what your couple is arguing about, but provide context clues.

Length: 10 lines for each character
Things skilled readers can do when making inferences:

1. Recognize the antecedents for pronouns: to whom does the “him” refer?

2. Figure out the meaning of unknown words through context clues

3. Figure out the grammatical function of the unknown word

4. Understand the intonation of characters’ words

5. Identify characters’ beliefs, personalities, and motivations

6. Understand characters’ relationships to one another

7. Provide details about the setting

8. Provide explanations for events or ideas that are presented in the text

9. Offer details for events or their own explanations of the events presented in the text

10. Understand the author’s view of the world.

11. Recognize the author’s biases.

12. Relate what is happening in the text to their own knowledge of the world.

13. Offer conclusions from facts presented in the text.

•Use your new found inference-making skills to read the passage and answer the following questions (on your note guides):

“He put down $10.00 at the window (1). The woman behind the window gave $4.00 (2). The person next to him gave him $3.00 (3), but he gave it back to her, so when they went inside, she bought him a large soda (4).”

1. What is "he" paying for?
2. Why might "he" receive $4.00 back?
3. Why might the person next to him try to give him $3.00?
4. Why might the person buy him a large soda?
5. Where do you think the people are, based on the information you have?

Have you ever seen a person hold up three fingers and tell you to "read between the lines?"

In case you were confused, they are flipping you off ;-)

"Reading between the lines" is an idiom that means making an inference or prediction.
Inferences v. Predictions

When making inferences you are making a logical guess using evidence from the text, your own knowledge, and common sense.
Making inferences also involves finding deeper meanings in events and situations, meanings that are not explicit.
When you make an inference about the future, it is a prediction.
Developing skills in making inferences and making predictions is a critical aspect of becoming a master of words and of literature.
Making inferences and predictions (especially in Vegas) helps make more sense of life.

Abbott and Costello: "Who's On First?"
The Animaniacs, "Who's On Stage?"
Full transcript