An that regardless of the choice she

An educated analysis of Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”Ernest Hemingway’s  “Hills Like White Elephants”,  is a short story published in 1927 that takes place in a train station in Spain about a man (commonly known as “The American”) and a young woman (also known as either “the girl” or “Jig”) discussing an operation. This couple is at an obvious critical point in their short lived relationship when they must decide on whether or not to go through with an abortion.Certain themes arise from this story such as choices and consequences, doubt and ambiguity, and how men and women relate. Hemingway also uses many examples of symbolism in “Hills Like White Elephants”, including descriptions of the surrounding scenery, the hills themselves, and the station where the action takes place. The most distinct recurring theme identified early in the novella is that of the consequences that follow certain choices. The couple is without a doubt unmarried, and to no surprise, the girl has become pregnant and the man wants her to have an abortion. The American undoubtedly believes that the abortion will free the couple from any responsibilities and return to normal, which is what they had before this turn of unexpected events (Short Stories for Students 158). The man feels as if the pregnancy is solely the thing that has caused them to have frequent arguments and have become extremely dissatisfied with each other in the relationship (Hamid 77). Obviously, Jig is reluctant in her decision to have the abortion. She feels that regardless of the choice she makes will not have any of an effect on their long-term relationship and hopes of “finding true love and happiness” (Short Stories for Students 158). Another prevalent theme found in “Hills Like White Elephants” is that of doubt (self doubt to be exact), dissolution, and ambiguity. Although the American tries to convince Jig that he knows the operation is safe, he may not know much about the operation (Short Stories for Students 158). Certainly the fact that abortions are not legal at this time in Spain is also playing on the girl’s mind (Short Stories for Students 159). The audience is then left with great doubt, as there is no resolution or decision given by Hemingway at the end of the story except for the image of Jig smiling to her male counterpart. The final theme derived from this dramatic saga is how men and women relate to one another. Most of Hemingway’s pieces are quite masculine by pure nature, but in “Hills Like White Elephants”, the short story actually portrays Jig’s, an impressionable young female, point of view as the more rational and functional of the two (Short Stories for Students 158). The American, on the other hand, is shown as a selfish, volatile,  and irresponsible by starting a somewhat inappropriate and secretive relationship and then almost abandon Jig in a time of need (Hamid 78). The American sees life as almost as some sort of comical game, while Jig preceives life as a rational yet emotional ordeal (Beacham 8). These harsh themes are very much applicable in modern societies concerning this issue of romance and even the topic of abortions. Hemingway uses a plethora of example for symbolism throughout this short story to concur with the themes and feelings of the two characters, such as the characterization of the scenery surrounding the train station. On one side of the station, there is an abundance vegetation and fields of grain, versus the opposite side of the station is described as dry and barren (Short Stories for Students 159). The matter of the fact that the station separates these contrasting environments is a symbol for the couple’s decision. The choice to have the abortion symbolizes sterility and unfruitfulness, which coincides with the barren and desolate imagery, while the fertility of having the unborn child is seen in the lavish green forests and an abundance of terrain the other side of the valley (Short Stories for Students 159).  The hills themselves also present signs of symbolism in the story. According to Johnston, “the white elephant is very sacred to the Burmese and Siamese in Asia. Just as the opinions of the white elephant are ambiguous, so are their thoughts on this unplanned child. The girl views having the child as a blessing and a great gift, while the American sees it as an expensive and burdensome obligation (167)”. The use of imagery is also associated with the hills as they obviously fulfil the shape of a “fruitful”, pregnant woman. Jig could indeed be picturing the hills as a childbearing woman lying on her back with her belly and breasts inflated due to the natural causes of the pregnancy (Weeks 170).  Hemingway also puts emphasis on the different parts of the station. For example, the station divides two sets of parallel tracks, and the river divides the sterile and the fertile land. Both of these insures the couple as being at a crucial juncture in their lives (Beacham 6). The beads are also extremely symbolic to the short story. One well claimed theory is that Jig is Catholic and the curtain is like the beads of a rosary, which she holds onto for moral and religious support (Johnston 167). The beads could also just simply represent a dividing structure, such as the pregnancy is dividing the couple (Beacham 6). All of these various uses of symbolism reinforces the thoughts and feelings of the American and Jig in the story. But let’s also not forget that Hemingway is most likely using his own personal experience. Wyche is certain that the story involves an abortion; however, Wyche’s view includes a metaphorical as well as a physical abortion (3). Wyche is almost certain the story involves an abortion due to a documented conversation between Hemingway and George Plimpton. Hemingway evidently told Plimpton “about meeting a girl who had had an abortion and was going home to write the story” (7). Wyche also includes that the abortion could be a metaphorical representation of the relationship Hemingway had with his future wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer was ultimately forced to decide between following the wishes of her mother to terminate a relationship with Hemingway in order to accept a New York position, or move with the author to Paris. Wyche argues that Jig’s constant hesitation between the decisions is very symbolic of Pfeiffer’s choice to commit to either the prestigious job or Hemingway (8). Using this counterpart for his argument, Wyche may over-analyzes aspects of the story, but he does  discuss the use of setting or choice of language. This dramatic and (almost) semi-autobiographical story by Hemingway is a very powerful testament that confronts a controversial issue without ever actually naming it. This proves that recognizing the use of heavy symbolism and various theme in simple dialogue is crucial to the understanding the underlying issues of Jig and the American. Certainly Hemingway allowed this story to be open for discussion and interpretation for many years to follow, allowing it to not only reflect the ideas of pre-War Europe, but to be adapted to the intellects of modern societies.

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