"Hills like White Elephants"
The most remarkable aspect of the short story "Hills Like White Elephants," written by Ernest Hemingway, is it's rich use of symbolism. The story is rather unique in that it does not have a complete plot line with an introduction leading to an expanded story. Neither are we left with a developed conclusion to the story. The main thrust centers around two characters having a quarrel about certain issues they disagree on. However, Hemingway leaves his reader in the dark as to the background of the two characters, even to the point of omitting specifics regarding the argument itself. Even though Hemingway provides very little detail regarding the characters' respective pasts or even the current situation, the use of symbolism utilized throughout the conversation allows us to understand something of them through indirect implications rather than specific details. Hemmingway's clever use of symbolism and allusion allows the reader to understand (again, without making direct reference to specifics) that they are arguing over whether or not Jig (the main female character) should have an abortion. By analyzing the couple's dialogue we can deduce that the couple is in fact playing mind games, and manipulating each other's points of views on abortion regarding their unborn child. The way Hemingway introduces the main characters is rather unusual. For one, very little is revealed about the physical qualities of the two main characters, beyond their gender. In fact, the reader doesn't even learn their names until later. This literary technique creates within the reader a unique sense of identification with the characters having the conversation. Rather than sympathizing with the emotional state of the characters, the reader more readily empathizes with the very heart of the argument itself.
As the story opens, Hemingway refers to the main characters as no more than "the American and the girl" (1). Initially, we know more about the man than the girl insofar as we know where he comes from. As the story progresses, we are given the girl's name, Jig. Due to the ambiguity of the characters' respective backgrounds, the reader must rely entirely on the conversation as it unravels to determine what the true disposition and motives of the characters are. One of the first things reader is made aware of is the notion that the man is self-centered and wishes for no more then his expecting girlfriend to end her pregnancy and have an abortion. According to Reid Maynard, "He makes this request for an abortion so that they can go on with their merry lives and continue on having fun together without the burden of a child," (273). Consequently, the tension between the two mounts as they contemplate whether they should carry out with having a baby or having an abortion. While his companion's point of view is much different then his, she believes the birth of their child will be an ideal circumstance in which their love will grow in strength and intensity, just as he believes that the destruction of their baby will yield the same result. While Jig discusses matters with the man (whose name we never learn) they talk about their possible futures together, anticipating the changes that go along with the birth of a child. Set in a Spanish railway where Jig and her companion wait for a train to Madrid, the resultant argument, while about them initially, is ultimately a universal dialogue as to the moral and personal implications brought about by an abortion. Kenneth G. Johnston considers the Spanish railway station to be symbolic of the "crossroads" of the decision facing them: "towards Madrid and the abortion or away from Madrid toward a settled family life" (233). As the story indicates, Jig is in favor of having a child and sees the baby as an incentive for her and the man to remain in love with one another forever. Considering how desperately she argues with the man to remain at her side to raise their...
Cited: Dunaway, Greg. "Brief Moments". 12 Feb. 2004
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