The story begins with a man known as the “American” and his girlfriend sitting at a table outside of a train station. The station is surrounded by hills, trees, and fields in Spain. The couple is waiting for the next train to Madrid. Throughout the story there is an inner conflict with the girl as well as an external conflict between the girl and the American. They speak of an operation that must be done for them to be happy together. This couple is at a critical point in their lives when they must decide whether or not to have an abortion. The train they are waiting for is an express train, which means once she gets on it there is no turning back. The girl views having the child as a blessing and a great gift, while the American sees it as an expensive and burdensome obligation. A use of imagery associated with these hills concerns the shape of a pregnant woman. Jig could be seeing the hills as a child bearing woman lying on her back with her belly and breasts swollen because of the pregnancy (Weeks 76). Although the man tries to convince Jig that he knows the operation is safe, he may not know much about the operation (Short Stories for Students 158). Certainly the fact that abortions are not legal at this time in Spain is also playing on the girl's mind (Short Stories for Students). With that said, the only way for her to get an abortion is to do it herself, or have the American do it. This is not only illegal, but very dangerous and can cause a serious infection meanwhile the American makes it seem like it is just a simple procedure.
“They look like white elephants” (Hemingway 107). The girl states that the hills behind the trees look like white elephants. A white elephant symbolizes something that no one wants, such as an unborn child. The girl asks to order beer in an attempt to change the subject. The number two is also playing a big role in the story because it is symbolizing that in the end it will be him and her,