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Hills Like White Elephants
Transcript of Hills Like White Elephants
“But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?”
By this point, midway through the story, the girl has already retracted her previous comment that the surrounding hills look like white elephants, hinting that she wants to keep the baby instead of having an abortion. The man had been upset at this, feigning indifference but pushing for the abortion because he does not want the child. Still hoping to save their broken relationship, the girl asks her boyfriend whether things between them will return to the way they used to be if she goes through with the abortion. Her indecision and desire to placate the man demonstrate her dependence on him. At the same time, however, the simple fact that she asks the question may imply that she believes that nothing can save their relationship.
A white elephant symbolizes something no one wants—in this story, the girl’s unborn child. The girl’s comment in the beginning of the story that the surrounding hills look like white elephants initially seems to be a casual, offhand remark, but it actually serves as a segue for her and the American to discuss their baby and the possibility of having an abortion. The girl later retracts this comment with the observation that the hills don’t really look like white elephants, a subtle hint that perhaps she wants to keep the baby after all—a hint the American misses. In fact, she even says that the hills only seemed to look like white elephants at first glance, and that they’re actually quite lovely.
The element of the railroad station is symbolic of being at the crossroads of life during a time of crisis. The American man and the girl cannot stay at the station forever. They are traveling and there will be change. There must be a decision of where to go next. All of this is symbolic of the decision of whether or not to keep the child. All traveling has a cost and so does the outcome of this decision. To either keep or abort the child is a costly decision. At the end of the story when the man picks up both his and the girl's baggage and carries it out to the railroad tracks, the tension of the story is relieved. The girl claims to be fine and then the story comes to its open-ending. This is representative of the fact that the decision was made and they are moving forward, whichever way that may have been.
The only thing Hemingway takes time to describe is the dry environment and bar. The hills were “long and white” and the couple sat where there was “no shade and no trees”. The couple is isolated in a dry, desolate area free from other life
The bamboo bead curtain sets us up to think about boundaries, thresholds, and separations – all the issues the couple is facing. The social, legal, and informational boundaries the couple faces in terms of birth control, sex education, and stigmas about having children without being married, act as curtains that help limit the couple’s options, and their conversation. And because the girl wants the baby and the man does not, the pregnancy itself acts as a curtain between them. By the end of the story the "curtain" between the man and the girl seems to have turned into a wall.
The entire story is a conversation between a man and a woman which alludes to the greater themes of miscommunication, domination, self-sacrifice, and free will.
The Title of the story "Hills Like White Elephants," is ironic, because a white elephant is a term used for something that comes between two people, and/or for something that you don't really want, but have to accept. The story is about abortion, and how the baby the is coming between the American and the girl; the baby is a white elephant that the American does not want.
The quick rapid dialogue and sparse description makes the reader feel a sense of pressure. The tense atmosphere created by the way characters interact is encouraged by this sentence structure. “Oh, cut it out.” “You started it.” “I was being amused. I was having a fine time.” They are speaking in short blunt segments and do not seem to be on a deeper level with each other.The fact that the man initiates most of the insistence to go through with an operation makes it clear that he wants to stay in control. This, along with the girl’s continued game of agreement then refusal, in response to the man’s continued pushing and insistence shows that even though the man may be in the place of control, his grip on the woman is slipping.
Hemingway puts forth words like “no shade and no trees” along with the words “warm shadow” to convey a sense of inhospitably and isolation from any respite. The heat of the sun continually beating down, even where shade is sought creates a subtle message that an issue is unrelentingly beating down, leaving them with no place to hide. The diction of the words “perfectly simple” that are used in multiple instances shows the ignorance of the man to the girl’s emotions and deeper feelings, because to her it is not at all perfectly simple, but the man does not understand that.
As the girl begins to show that she is not completely dependent on the man, the fact that stereotypical gender roles can be broken is portrayed. "I feel fine" she said. "There's nothing wrong with me" Her statement that everything is fine within her can be seen as her coming to the resolution that she will be able to succeed without the man, because she has realized she has the power to do what she wishes. When she says I feel fine, it can be interpreted as a feeling that she has come to a consensus on the inside reassuring her about the next step forward.
Hemingway calls his style the iceberg theory, because the facts float above water while the supporting structure and symbolism operate out of sight. Jig’s main issue is her pregnancy and conflicting feelings about an abortion, but the real problem is her lack of free will and trust in her own feelings. He is also known for his use of "simple" writing techniques and vocabulary. His writing seems straightforward when in fact he displays some of the strongest themes recognized in literature.
Communication: Throughout the story, Jig is estranged from her true feelings because of her lack of communication. Her inability to relate results in the stifling of her opinions and desires
Alienation & Isolation: Because of her lack of communication, she effectively isolates herself both physically and emotionally, subjecting herself to the will of the American.
Domination & Self Sacrifice: As a an effect of her isolation, she sacrifices her independence and lets the manipulation of the American affect her outlook.
The story takes place at a train station in Spain, contributing to the idea that the couple is at a crossroad. The desolate surroundings infer that this is merely a stopping point in between decisions. At a train station there is only two directions to go which compares to them in the way that they could either move on together or part ways. The white hills that look like elephants are life on the barren valley symbolizing death which parallels Jig’s difficult choice of whether or not to go through with the abortion.
The American is portrayed as a knowledgeable masculine man who has control over the woman. He is outlined as the superior and dominant in the one sided relationship. He tries to appear indifferent but the entire story he’s attempting to get Jig to go through with an abortion. The reader is left to question whether he really loves Jig.
Jig appears helpless and indecisive. She fits into the stereotypical submissive woman role of the time period. While allowing the man to dominate her life and decisions, she has maked up her mind that their relationship, if it even continues, will never be the same.
Form Structure and Plot
The story begins with a descriptive paragraph giving the scene of a bar in the valley of Eboro somewhere in between Barcelona and Madrid Spain. The American and a women named Jig are the main characters and are waiting for the train in a bar. The rest of the story is dialogue between the American the women and the waitress. Hemingway reveals the plot through dialogue. Hemingway peppers the seemingly uncomfortable conversation with imagery. The couple is discussing whether or not the women should go through with a procedure. Though abortion is not mentioned Hemingway implies that that is what the procedure is. At the end of the story the reader never gets a definite answer from the women on what she will do.
Life of Ernest Hemingway
He was born on July 21,1899 in Cicero, Illinois. His renowned works included The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea which won the Pulitzer in 1953.. Hemingway also won the Noble Peace Prize in 1954. On July 2, 1961 he committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho.
Point of View and Narration
The point of view is a third person narrative. It is written in present tense. The narrator is objective. If the narrator was not objective you could have a clear view into the women’s mind therefore knowing what choice she was going have about the operation.
“And we could have all this,” she said. “And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.” This quote outlines Jig’s attitude towards the situation. She identifies with the fact the the baby would prevent them from continuing their spontaneous relationship and “the world” would no longer be theirs. Each day their current reality fleets them.
"They've painted something on it," she said, "What does it say?" This quote shows how reliant the women is to the man. Throughout the whole story sexism plays a key role in the Americans dominance over the women. He orders her drinks and is convinced that he can get Jig to go through with the operation.
Weston Stroud, Harrison Keene, Kelsie Titus & Violet Bolstridge
Close Reading Analysis
"All right, but you've got to realize-"
"I realize," the girl said. "Can't we maybe stop talking?"
The way that gender roles within society control and hold peoples' freedom is outlined in this narrative. The author is critical of the exploitation of woman's feelings concerning the continuation of unbalanced relationships. The perception of gender roles has been created through society's acceptance and assumptions that can only be broken by an individual's determination.
They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table. The word realize implies that something is understood, yet in this context the woman seems to be saying that she realizes only to appease the man and make him be quiet. The use diction of realize in this sense makes it somewhat ironic because the man and the woman seem to not be realizing the same thing. The way the woman looks away while the man looks at her shows that she is looking beyond what is the present while he is stuck in the image of her. The syntax of the sentence mirrors this, the man asking her to realize, stuck in her reflection while she presses on and is bold enough to suggest that they stop talking.