Hemingway’s Minimalism in “Hills Like White Elephants”
In this essay we will look at Earnest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” as an example of his use of the minimalist technique, what that technique is, and what its overall effect has on the reader. What is minimalism and how did Hemingway use this technique in “Hills Like White Elephants”? The primary effect of Minimalism in modern prose is to place the control of the work back onto the reader. That is to say, the reader is forced to play an active or participatory role in both the visual and emotional aesthetic of the story. Whereas more vividly detailed works by authors such as Falkner and Joyce paint a picture and color in the details of character and setting for the reader, so that the reader becomes a passive viewer, Hemingway sets out to include the reader by using non-descript language with an extremely sparse use of adverbs and adjectives. In other words, what is not said becomes as important as what is said, and what is said is suggestive of so much more. Hemingway himself articulated this most cleverly when he “compared his method to the principle of the iceberg: ‘There is seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows.’” (367). Hemingway’s description of the hills in the distance is extremely bare-boned. He gives us so little: “On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun.” (368) He never goes on to say what the other side looked like, leaving that up to the reader’s imagination, memory, and experience. Furthermore, the description he does set up tells only of what was not. “There was no shade and no trees…” What is a reader to make of this? In a minimalist work, the reader becomes, in a sense, another writer, using clues from the circumstances of the story and then putting them together based on personal experience, memory, and imagination. In this way, the reader is not counting on the writer to give a message or a...
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