Literary Interpretation - Hills Like White Elephants

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Hills Like White Elephants
“No American writer of his generation has been more talked about than Ernest Hemingway (Adams).” Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 and is viewed as one of the most famous writers of his generation. Upon graduating high school in 1917, he worked as a newspaper reporter (Pike and Costa, 444). He then went to Italy and became a volunteer ambulance driver (Pike and Costa, 444). Hemingway finally settled in Paris in 1922, where he wrote the stories and novels we know and love today. His 1927 short story collection, Men Without Women, includes fourteen short stories. Hemingway liked to use the technique of keeping as much of the story as possible below the surface, unwritten, giving the reader sufficient clues to understand the whole without the author explaining it, called the iceberg effect (Reynolds, 39). “Hills Like White Elephants” is one story in which the topic of discussion is apparent, but never directly stated—abortion. In the story, the American tries to persuade his Jig into having an abortion, not by telling her to, but by using reverse psychology and making it seem like all is well. In “Hills Like White Elephants,” Hemingway portrays the female character, not as an equal who was really loved by the American, but, as a sexual object only to be used and discarded.

One way the “sexual object” theory can be proven is by the dialogue in the story. From the very beginning of the story, he does not seem too concerned about her health or her feelings. While at the bar, the American and Jig get two beers, or “Dos cervezas (Pike and Costa, 444).” The Jig says it tastes like licorice, showing her naivety; whereas the American may have known the health risks that come with consuming alcohol while pregnant. Or perhaps he was just trying to take the edge off of the girl, in order to take advantage of her hindered judgment, and persuade her into having the abortion. As the American keeps ordering the Jig more and...
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