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Hills Like White Elephants
Transcript of Hills Like White Elephants
by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Served in World War I, worked in journalism, and eventually won the Nobel Prize.
Hills Like White Elephants
as part of a short story collection titled:
Men Without Women
Liked the idea of writing about a controversial subject without actually mentioning it, using subtle clues throughout the text.
Hills Like White Elephants became one his most famous/subtle stories, helping ground him as a master of this particular genre.
Author's Life and Story Background
Taking place in a train junction station in Spain,
Hills Like White Elephants
is primarily a lengthy conversation between our two main characters. A man, referred to as "the American", and a girl named Jig are having a conversation on whether or not she should undergo an unnamed 'operation'. However, even through this particular operation is not directly stated in the story--giving it [story] a very subtle quality--its purpose can be inferred from the title. The term "white elephant" tells us both something is unwanted in the story, and the hills also look rounded like a pregnant elephants, which can be Jig's way of referring to her own condition. Because of this, the story can be seen as an unfinished argument the "expecting parents" are having on the topic and principle of abortion.
"the mountains looked like white elephants"
; this both helps with the description of the background and alludes that an unresolved conservation is about to take place (again).
"please, please, please, please, please, please, please"
; this helps to assume to what Jig's age is (as she is referred to as a girl) as well as assist in describing her personality in a more childish way.
"shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain, and she saw the river through the trees"
; this helps give a more lengthy description into what the scenery/background of the short story looks like.
Man vs. nature: it is extremely hot in the junction where the man and Jig are waiting for the train to arrive.
Man vs. (wo)man: both of the main characters are arguing on whether or not Jig should abort the baby while she is still pregnant.
Man vs. self: the American apparently cannot decide in himself whether or not he should "allow" Jig to keep the baby.
Characters and POV
The two main characters are Jig and 'the American' (he is not given a name). Throughout the majority of the story, the two are in a conversation that is subtly referring to the matter of Jig's pregnancy.
Dynamic Character: the American; the man can be considered a dynamic character because even though he starts off trying to convince Jig to agree to an 'operation', he later seems to relent indirectly telling her he only wants her to be happy.
Static Character: Jig; she can be considered a static character because she retains her same uncertain/slightly hostile air throughout the conversation.
Protagonist: Jig is the protagonist as even though she is not completely sure of what she should decide, she internally knows that she wants to be happy (preferably with both the man and baby).
Antagonist: While the American is not a complete antagonist in the story, until close to the end he seems set on convincing Jig to lean towards choosing the operation even though he tries to pretend he doesn't care either way.
The POV seems to be 3rd-person objective, as the story does not give us much insight about what both the main characters are thinking through the conversation.
Because of the POV, there is no person(s) shown to act as the narrator besides the author.
Exposition: Jig and the man arrive at a junction in Spain and wait for the train to Madrid to come.
Rising Action: Jig points out how the scenery "looks like white elephants", starting the tense conversation between the two main characters.
Climax: This happens when Jig practically begs the man to "please, please, ... stop talking".
Falling Action: Both of the main characters start to calm down, and the man states that he "didn't want her to" and "didn't care anything about it".
Resolution: The man returns from carrying their baggage to the other train tracks and asks Jig if she is feeling better. (she declares that there was nothing wrong with her; she was fine)
Family--blessing or curse
; This ties in as the expecting parents are deciding whether or not having the baby would truly be worth it instead of "taking the easy way out".
"You’ve got to realize," he said, "that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to. I’m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you."
; similar to the reasons of theme 1, Jig is debating on if she should give her baby up or if she thinks she should become a mother, as she is the final decider.
"It’s ours." "No, it isn’t. And once they take it away, you never get it back."
; While Jig and the man may have different opinions on what she should do, both she and the man want herself [Jig] to ultimately be happy.
"I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t want to do -" ... "I’d do anything for you."
Tone and Mood
The tone of this story is very detached, yet serious.
The mood of this story based on the conversation varies, but is majorly tense/stressed.
Jig's comment on the hills looking like white elephants, as well as the man's reaction to the comment, foreshadow the beginning of an unresolved conversation.
The bar woman's comment of the train arriving in 5 minutes helps foreshadow the ending of the conversation (as well as the story) as the main characters will be leaving the station and boarding the train to Madrid, continuing their journey.