Hills Like White Elephants

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Short Story Exam 1

In the short story "Hills Like White Elephants", Ernest Hemingway explores the

human transition of character from following to leading, depicting how life's situations

bring about a change in the way one makes decisions in life. Hemingway develops the

thematic meaning through the two main characters, the man and the girl, in the setting,

and in the use of symbolism.

Thematic meaning begins to unfold through the two main characters. The first

character is the girl. The girl is a quite selfish immature follower. She is a young woman

who thinks she is in love. The girl desires a father figure in her life. She wants the love

and attention she never received from her own father. She lets the man lead her and

become this figure that she desires to have. Carelessly being coaxed into a sexual

relationship, she gets pregnant. Being a follower, she tends to listen to the man and

allows him to make desions for them both. Her character begins to change towards the

end of the story. She now realizes that, like her father not wanting her, the man doesn't

want the baby. Her immature selfishness begins to fade as she realizes how her mother

must have felt. It wasn't all about her and how she felt, but about her mother too. As she

begins to understand why she is with this man, she now realizes the decision she has to

make. She must stand up for what is right. She must become the leader. She has to, she

must, let this baby live! Her character changed from immature to mature, from selfish to

unselfish, and from a follower to a leader. With her mind made up, she smiles at the man

and tells him, "I feel fine."

The second character, the man also helps to build on the thematic meaning. He is

an immature persuasive leader. He also has a made up mind about what they should both

do with the baby. They should have an abortion. His immaturity has obviously got him in

trouble. He is an older man who is so concerned with not becoming old that he has

forgotten what love really is. The man dates younger women in search of the youth that

he has lost. He is a smooth talker and a very persuasive individual. He persuades this

young girl to leave her mother and run away with him. She made him feel good about

himself. She looked up to him. She needed him. He was her leader, but how was he going

to lead her and the baby? He knew nothing about babies. He felt his security blanket

being torn from beneath him. He would no longer be more experienced than her. Her

baby would now come first. Father was a word for an old man! He couldn't let this

happen. In panic he suggests an abortion. He wants things to be the way they were. The

man's character is in the transition from being a leader to becoming a follower. He is torn

between the desire to be youthful and facing the facts. His character is more complicated

and complex. He sees her desire to have the baby and the desire to make him happy.

After an argument the man excuses himself from the girl to carry the luggage to the other

side of the tracks in hopes to clear his confused mind. On his way back, still not decided

on what he should do, stops to get a beer at a barroom. The man looks around as he is

drinking and watches the happy families waiting on their train. He has never had a

family. He probably will never have one. It then hits him. He could have a family. He

didn't have to keep up this game of chasing his youth. He had someone who loved him

and still would need him, maybe not as much, but the baby would need him. "He went

through the bead curtain," to where the girl was. She smiles at him as he comes to her "Do you feel better?" he asked. His character has now transformed from the immature to

the mature, from the persuader to the listener, from the leader to the follower. The

transformation of their characters...
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