Hemingway's Elephants: The Meaning behind the Color White

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Yessica Manzo
Professor Sperber
English 1202
October 2, 2012
Hemingway’s Elephants: the Meaning Behind the color White
Upon first reading Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, he describes the setting of a conversation taking place between a couple and to the inexperienced reader, not much action happens except for the tiny squabble between the couple. However, a careful reader knows that there is a huge issue being discussed about whether or not the couple should consider abortion. The word “abortion” is never used however, but sentences like “they just let the air in” and “it’s really a simple operation” indicate that it is. Hemingway cleverly utilizes “white elephants” in the title and in the story when the girl remarks on the beautiful hills that look like white elephants, and according to Webster dictionary, the white elephant is an idiom for “a possession unwanted by the owner but difficult to dispose of.” The dialogue and the symbolism in Hemingway’s descriptions in the story provide a deeper meaning than a tense conversation between the couple.

The couple in the Hills Like White Elephants, do not have names; the man is referred to as “The American” and the girl is called “Jig” by the man. There is also a huge age difference between the couple since Hemingway describes one as the “man” and the other “girl” not woman. Not much can be perceived on the man and the girl, but a closer look at their dialogue can let the reader know some things about the characters. At first, the girl shows reluctance on having an abortion and avoids the topic presented by the man by concentrating on the scenery. On her first mention of the hills looking like white elephants, the man replies, “I’ve never seen one” (Hemingway) clearly indicating that the girl is more of a dreamy poetic kind and the man is rational and direct. All throughout the story, the girl is seen distant and the man attempts to convince her into getting an abortion, telling her that the source of...
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