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hills like white elephant

By specialwhiteangel02 Sep 28, 2013 1052 Words


Human beings can communicate with each other. We are able to exchange knowledge, beliefs, opinions, wishes, threats, commands, thanks, promises, declarations, and feelings – only our imagination sets limits. We can laugh to express amusement, happiness, or disrespect, we can smile to express amusement, pleasure, approval, or bitter feelings, we can shriek to express anger, excitement, or fear, we can clench our fists to express determination, anger or a threat, we can raise our eyebrows to express surprise or disapproval, and so on, but our system of communication before anything else is LANGUAGE.

In linguistics, language meaning is what the source or sender expresses, communicates, or conveys in their message to the observer or receiver, and what the receiver infers from the current context. (

Ernest Hemmingway’s been born in a strict household where if they commit mistakes Punishment will definitely sure and being his parent the first congregational Church his style in writing shows respect with using indirectly words which causes the reader to think critically and analyze each lines to understand the real meaning behind every word. Therefore, this paper would like to examine the transitivity process employed in this short story to reveal the message lies in every word the characters uttered.


Hills like White Elephants introduced to us the setting of this short story in the train station surrounded by hills, fields, and trees in a valley in Spain. A man known simply as the American and his girlfriend sit at a table outside the station, waiting for a train to Madrid.

“What would we drink?” the girl asked and continued
“Let’s drink beer” As the first initiator to open a conversation it seems that she had something bothering her and “beer” an alcohol signifies wanting to forget something and wants to cool herself off.

She even noticed simple thing such as “they look like white elephants”. Pertaining to the hills across their window which later on she dismissed saying they don’t look like white elephants to her anymore, something like no one would want to have ~ her unborn child.

Then they order more drinks, and the American mentions that he wants the girl, whom he calls “Jig,” to have an operation, although he never actually specifies what kind of operation. He seems agitated and tries to downplay the operation’s seriousness. He argues that the operation would be simple, for example, but then says the procedure really isn’t even an operation at all. He seems to really want it badly to disappear for it could only ruin what they already have. And they keep mentioning “It” as the substitute for what they are really talking about (abortion). Knowing that they are in a bar, where many people are in and also waiting for the train instead of saying it directly to avoid embarrassment and be judged.

Though still the man’s love for Jig is still intact “if you don’t want to, you don’t have to, I wouldn’t have you do IT if you didn’t want to…” he emphasizes how much he cares for the girl, who claims on the otherhand not to care about what happens to herself.

In the exchange of conversation Jig (the Girl) uttered 22 statements while the American uttered only 18 statements which reveal that Jig has more utterances compared to the man. They act as the sayer in the verbal process and the initiator or agent in material processes, yet noticed that the two personas in the short story has different point of views which cause contradiction they want to believe their own opinion and closes their ears to listen what to do.

Whether to do it or not to Do it?
If they do it could happiness be guaranteed and guilt will fade together with the “IT”? And if they don’t do it, could the man still be the same to their relationship?

With the authors style in substituting words which would definitely makes confusion, the reader will need to thick critically and analyze everything ~ every words involved for them not to misunderstand and misinterpret anything and for them to finally give their ideas and opinions about the main point of discussion in the story.

“I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural”. This statement is uttered by the American to his Girlfriend Jig, They’ particularly for the practitioners who would be given the said Operation and “let the air’ means the process on how it will come off as natural as if nothing have happen, an ABORTION. Note, that this is strictly prohibited in any church issues.


When I first read the story of hills like white elephants with its form and the flow is just a mean and casual conversation between a couple who got bored from waiting and started talking to each other, and that confuse the reader that without knowing it they are actually talking about having an abortion.

 “In accordance with his so-called Iceberg Theory, Hemingway stripped everything but the bare essentials from his stories and novels, leaving readers to sift through the remaining dialogue and bits of narrative on their own. Just as the visible tip of an iceberg hides a far greater mass of ice underneath the ocean surface, so does Hemingway’s dialogue belie the unstated tension between his characters. In fact, Hemingway firmly believed that perfect stories conveyed far more through subtext than through the actual words written on the page. The more a writer strips away, the more powerful the “iceberg,” or story, becomes.” (

Each word even in the short conversational responses from the American and Jig might look meaningless and out of lines has something to tell us and only those who have enough understanding and analysing could find the answer.


World Literature; World literary Masterworks Dr. Arnesia Allam

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