Lê Thị Mỹ
English – American Literature
The Effect of Iceberg Theory in Earnest Hemingway’s
“Hills Like White Elephants”
“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader…will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them” [Earnest Hemingway]. That is the reason why Hemingway applies the “Iceberg Theory” in most of his works, which results in a strong connection between the writer and his readers. In “Hills Like White Elephants”, such theory is well utilized to bring about a meaningful story through the use of detail omissions, symbols in dialogue, and symbolic description of scenes and characters. Believing that subtext is more important in conveying the story’s underlying meaning, Hemingway omits every detail that directly expresses the true theme of the story. He does not mention the word “abortion” at any time during the conversation or in any of his narrative sentences; not even once does he use any nouns or verbs relating to babies or giving birth, let alone “abortion”. Readers may easily notice that the girl in the story has a name (Jig) while the man does not have one; he is simply called “the American man”. Besides, the ending is eliminated. What is the reason for all of these omissions? Because readers find it difficult at first to understand, they have to make an effort in guessing the writer’s intention by “feeling” the atmosphere, making assumptions, and imagining the situation. “Contented” is the word that could be used to describe readers’ feeling when they can understand that the characters are discussing the unwanted operation, when they can get Hemingway’s motives in omitting the above details: describing a typical American man, letting the readers freely imagine the ending, etc., Although he surface of the iceberg is the dialogue, what is important in the whole story lies in the submerged part of the...
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