This essay will use new criticism to evaluate “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway in the areas of characters, symbolism, and conflict. I will mainly focus on two of the three characters. There will be many opportunities to comment on symbolism. Consideration will also be paid to the ongoing conflict between the American and the girl, sometimes referred to as Jig.
The male protagonist is known only as the American in the story. He is disconnected from his girlfriend, not understanding or listening to her. The girl is the female protagonist who is less assertive and easily persuaded. She also appears helpless, confused, and indecisive at times. The only other character in the story is a non-English speaking waitress.
Symbolism starts at the very beginning with the title “Hills Like Whit Elephants.” A white elephant is a burdensome possession and an expensive undertaking, as is a baby. In paragraph ten, the girl says, “they look like white elephants.” This simile is referring to the hills. Later in the story, the girl retracts that comment, hinting that she may want to keep the baby. The entire story is set at a train station. The railroad tracks symbolize that they are at a crossroads in their relationship. The girl comments on the beauty of the white hills and the country being brown and dry. This statement is symbolic of life and death in which the tense conversation over the abortion operation is about. As the American and the girl talk about the issue of abortion, the girl is often referred to as Jig. This nickname is appropriated because she is always dancing around the topic. The waitress of the story is not mentioned often but I do know that she does not speak English, therefore the girl is dependent on the American. This situation reflects the terms of their relationship also. She is allowing him to make the decision whether or not to have the baby.
There is conflict...