An Inferential Analysis of Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants."

Pages: 3 (945 words) Published: February 14, 2001
In Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" I found many layers of symbolism, and a fascinating psychological underplay afoot between his two characters. It begins with the girl's comment about a line of white hills seen in the distance, which she compares to white elephants. The man responds with the comment "I've never seen one." The symbolism of a white elephant is widely known as something very large or apparent that no one wishes to acknowledge or speak of in American society. It is an interesting opening to a very strained conversation concerning an apparent pregnancy, and the man's wish to terminate it. The couple's careful avoidance of actually naming the problem, or the proposed solution, suggests the situation in which a mate, reluctant to assume responsibility, or unprepared for the task of parenthood, is lobbying to prevent it.

In her next comment, "No, you wouldn't have." the girl returns a very passive aggressive riposte, perhaps suggesting that the man cannot, or will not, recognize an unpleasant issue. His defensive reaction to her response suggests that she is correct. She then changes the subject casually, as though retreating from his irritation. He plays along with it in a placatory manner, seemingly eager to avoid an escalation of the tension that obviously exists between them. Clearly, the woman in this story is reluctant to abort her pregnancy, while the man is strongly committed to making it happen. After he orders them a new drink, the girl remarks on its licorice taste. Then perhaps attempting to hide her pain over his rejection of the baby, she responds to his comment "That's the way with everything." by agreeing with him and adding bitterly "Especially the things you've waited so long for, like absinthe." This, I assume, is a reference to the base ingredient of absinthe, which is the aromatic herb called wormwood, once considered a remedy for intestinal worms. As an interesting note, the name ‘wormwood' derives from the...
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