In Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” Jig undergoes a transformation enabling her to realize and declare her own feelings. At the story’s beginning Jig is passive, unaware of her own feelings, and in the habit of looking to the American direction. She soon comes to realize her own desires and struggles to assert herself for the first time.
The story is structured around the two sides of the valley, the division symbolizing the opposition between the American’s values and Jig’s. “The two sides of the valley of the Ebro represent two ways of life, one a sterile perpetuation of the aimless hedonism the couple have been pursuing, the other a participation in life in its full natural sense” (Renner, 32). On one side are the values associated with abortion, and on the other are the values associated with having the child. “In this setting, then, Hemingway works out the story’s conflict, which revolves around the development of his female character” (28).
The dialogue between Jig and the American about hills and drinks “is in actuality an articulated but decisive struggle over whether they continue to live the sterile, self-indulgent, decadent life preferred by [the American] or elect to have the child that Jig is carrying and settle down to a conventional but, in Jig’s view, rewarding, fruitful, and peaceful life” (Holladay, 1). The American argues adamantly for the abortion while Jig, being accustomed to doing what he wants, “has not yet developed the mechanism to know what she wants, much less to articulate it. Thus she cannot forthrightly contest her companion’s urging, but neither, because of what is at stake in this case, can she stifle her own feelings” (Renner, 29). Up until this point the American has been the leader of the couple’s relationship, managing their life together in a manner consistent with his own desires.
At the beginning of the story, the couple is sitting at a table on one side of the station, “facing out toward the hills on the...
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