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Hills Like White Elephants

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The short story by Ernest Hemingway “Hills like while elephants” is a remarkable creation of the very skillful writer. This story contains so much more meanings and symbols that originally Hemingway was given credit for.  In his writing author demonstrates the remarkable inside into the relationships between man and a woman.

From the very beginning every word of the story is filled with the symbolism that we come to understand as the story progresses and reveals us the issue around which the conversation evolves. The subject of the discussion is never actually pronounced out loud and the reader has to deduce it for himself that the operation they are talking about is the abortion.   From the beginning the reader becomes acquainted of the lifestyle the couple have lived “There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.” They have had careless lifestyles traveling spending nights in the hotels and giving a try to different drinks” That’s all we do, isn’t it – look at things and try new drinks?”. This was all that they did and they were happy, or at least the American was. The man has a typical male attitude; he is dominant in this relationship. He is the one who makes decisions regarding abortion; he is in charge of the luggage. To maintain his dominant position and as a display of superiority he seems to have all the answers to all the questions, he knows the drinks; he even has an opinion on very female subject which is abortion. 

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And the girl, who is referred to only as “Jig”, is well aware what happens during abortion and how it is consistent with what her companion says. However, she says nothing, as in this short story she depicts classical submissive woman. That bluntly follows the decisions that the man makes, as well as the one on abortion. However, her compliance should not be overestimated; inside she is conflicted with the decision about abortion.  The baby will change everything, and  there will be no opportunity for them to have this careless life they have, the life of pleasure and new experiences, which is understandable the man loathes to lose.  The Jig is not as submissive as it seems from the first glance, indeed she is conflicted and has her own thoughts, although, she  is not yet aware how to communicate her feelings  and ideas to the man in a proper way, without it being considered as questioning of his dominance from her side.

All the events happen at the railway station, as yet another symbol

There are two railroads, that go in different directions that suggest two ways the things could go in this situation. On the one side there are hills like white elephants, empty under the burning sun, with nothing on them. They come to symbolize the act of abortion, the “white elephants” are beautiful things to the girl just like the motherhood, but something that would be a burden to her in this situation and are something that she can’t keep. And the American does not find them beautiful as they threaten the lifestyle he prefers to have. When the girl says that the mountains look like white elephant, the all knowing, American replies ” I’ve never seen one”. This provokes the sarcastic response from the girl” No, you wouldn’t have”, since in reality they are talking about pregnancy, the girl means that the man indeed has never known what the pregnancy is . The other side of the tracks symbolizes life ” Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees. “and the desire of the girl to keep the baby. The train station serves as the perfect symbol as the girl can chose her track either abortion or motherhood.  When she is sitting at the table with her companion she is absolutely submissive and compliant with his decisions and she has the views only of the hills. However, the moment when she goes to the other side of the tracks with a view on the living nature, is the one that shows her inner desire to keep the baby, the gift of life. But when she comes back to the company of American she again faces the hills, the symbol for the abandonment of the baby, if she wishes to stay with the man that is the only option for her.

Through conversation of the couple we see that the pregnancy is the only thing that made them unhappy and if this issue will be taken care of they will be happy again. The couple sees it as the only problem. However, there are clearly much more problems in that relationship the couple chooses to ignore. The girl clearly realizes that the man cares only about the desired lifestyle of his, that brings nothing but pleasure and he does not care about her. The author leaves the ending open and leaves it up to the reader to think of an ending that satisfies the particular reader of the story. The only thing that is made clear as the girl had made the decision to terminate her pregnancy” I feel fine,’ she said. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.” This will bring on great changes for the girl physically and psychologically, and  it is up to the reader to speculate if the couple will remain together after this experience.

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