Logic and White Elephants

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The Flea

1. What has been the past relationship of the speaker and the woman? What has she denied him? How has she habitually “kill[ed]” him? What is his objective in the poem? 2. In many ways this poem is like a miniature play: it has two characters, dramatic conflict, dialogue (though we only hear one speaker), and stage action. The action is embedded in the dialogue. What happens preceding the first line of the poem? What happens between the first and second stanzas? Between the second and third stanzas? How does the female character behave and what does she say during the third stanza? 3. What do “parents grudge, and you” in stanza 2? What are the “living walls of jet”? What three things will the woman kill by crushing the flea? 4. Why and how does the woman “triumph” in the third stanza? What is the speaker’s response? How logical is his concluding argument? 5. What action, if any, would you infer follows the conclusion of the poem?

Hills Like White Elephants

1. The main topic of discussion between the man and the girl is never named. What is “the awfully simple operation”? Why is it not named? What different attitudes are taken by the man and the girl? Why? 2. What is indicated about the past life of the man and the girl? How? What has happened to the quality of their relationship? Why? How do we know? 3. Though the story contains strong emotional conflict, it is entirely without adverbs to indicate tone. How does Hemingway indicate tone? At what points are the characters insincere? Ironic or sarcastic? Do they give open expression to their feelings? Do either want an open conflict? Why? Trace the various phases of emotion in the girl. 4. Much of the conversation seems to be about trivial things. What purposes does this conversation serve? What relevance has the girl’s remark about absinthe? 5. What is the point of the girl’s comparison of the hills to white elephants? Why does the author use it for his title? 6....
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