Literary Analysis: Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants

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Which White Elephant Exactly?

Ernest Hemingway’s short story ‘Hills like White Elephants’ depicts a couple, “the man” and “the girl”, casual conversation over drinks while awaiting the arrival of a train to Madrid. The story ends, as vaguely as it started, with the two about to embark on the train. Heminways’s use of ambiguous and vague language, dialogue, characterization, and metaphors in ‘Hills like White Elephants’ could leave his readers bewildered to the underlying subject matter of its plot. However, by properly citing and analyzing the literary techniques used by Hemingway; one is able to conclude that the main characters discuss their feelings and concerns about the possibility of an abortion.

Throughout the short story ‘Hills like White Elephants’, Hemingway has chosen to address his main characters as “the man” and “the girl”. By patterning these words in addressing his main characters, Hemingway alludes to their difference in age and emotional maturity towards the conflict that they face. Hemingway, to suggest the female character’s younger age and her naivety about an abortion, uses the word “girl”. The reader is able to confirm that Hemingway does not conceder all females to be “girls” through the introduction the secondary character, the waitress, who brings the couple their drinks. Hemingway then continues to address this secondary as “the woman”; and thus, alluding the word “girl” only refers to the young and naïve character of Jig. On the other hand, Hemingway’s usage of the word “man”, in referring to his male character, indicates a more mature and realistic view the character has on the idea of an abortion as a solution to the unwanted pregnancy.

The metaphor employed by Hemingway to allude towards an abortion can be found in paragraph 46, where “the man” explains to “the girl” that the operation will simply “…let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.” (p. 445). The male character then ambiguously refers to his feelings to...
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