Hills Like White Elephants

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Communicating Conflict in Ernest Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants Communicating Conflict in Ernest Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants

Ernest Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants" touches on an issue as ageless as time: communication problems in a relationship. He tells his story through conversations between the two main characters, the American and the girl. Conflict is created through dialogue as these characters face what most readers believe to be the obstacle of an unexpected pregnancy. Their plight is further complicated by their inability to convey their differing opinions to each other. Symbolism and the title's meaning are other effective means of communicating conflict.

To begin, consider the main character's point of view. Single and in his prime, he makes the most of his lifestyle by traveling and seeing new sights. The story is set on one such excursion, at a train station in Spain. Of the complications that might arise from starting a family, one is certain to him: traveling, sight-seeing, and his current lifestyle would be things of the past. These are some of his motivating thoughts as he pleads his case for terminating the pregnancy. He chooses his words advantageously, almost deceitfully, when trying to convince the girl that an abortion is easy surgery: "It's not really an operation at all" (275). Those familiar with the abortion procedure can affirm that it is an operation, and rarely a simple one. This remark reveals how desperate he is to make the decision for the girl.

The man further complicates the discussion by contradicting himself. For each time he reassures the girl he wants what she wants, he spends at least one line identifying exactly what he wants. This is clearly seen in the following conversation: "You?ve got to realize . . . that I don?t want you to do it if you don?t want to. I?m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you." So far it sounds as if his only wish...
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