Critical Analysis of Hills Like White Elephants

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Mikhail Shimonov
Professor Kaufman
March 28, 2011
Critical Analysis of Hills like White Elephants
At first glance, Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, may allude to many interpretations, however, the short story has a clear purpose. Set in the Ebro River valley in Spain, the story looms around the issue brought forth by Jig and the American, who is nameless throughout the whole story. The issue here being the ‘simple operation’ that Jig is about to undergo which happens to be an abortion. Set in the early 1920s, the idea of abortion is as irrational and controversial as today’s ongoing debate over gay marriage. Although the term abortion is never used in the story, the imagery Hemingway uses along with the language and behavior of the characters gives way for one explanation – Jig is getting an abortion.

Of the many symbols Hemingway uses, the theme of abortion is evident in the white elephant hills that have the “coloring of … skin through the trees” (Hemingway, 1). The white hills, as described in the setting, parallels a pregnant woman lying on her back with the hills being relative to the womb. In addition, the white color of the hills would represent the purity of the unborn child the woman bears. Furthermore, the fields of grain and trees along the river would represent the fertility that the woman embodies throughout the story. Her body being the fertile land on which the white hills were. The trees along the hills being the distorting factor of her mindset on going through with the abortion as the American persist throughout the story. The longer they talk about it, the more it becomes apparent to the reader that the girl is becoming increasingly agitated with the conversation and how easy the American is making the operation to be.

During the conversation of the American and the woman, the man is constantly pressing Jig to acknowledge that the operation is simple and is only “to let the air in” (2). These remarks play on the theme...