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Hills like white elephants

By sonnet_789 Dec 13, 2013 825 Words
Hills like white elephants

"Hills like White Elephants is a story about an American man and a girl named Jig who has become pregnant.  It appears that their relationship was not a serious one.  They were traveling together and having a good time. But The pregnancy changed the relationship. The American man wants Jig to have an abortion.  Jig is either unsure that she wants the abortion or maybe she does not want the abortion but does not have the power to make this fully known to the man.

We are first introduced to Jig as 'the girl.'  It is curious that she is referred to as a 'girl' when she is obviously a grown woman, though probably a young woman. This may be a way to further undermine her decision making ability.  The Man is in control of the relationship.  He appears selfish and manipulative. Jig. If you concentrate on Jig’s dialogue, She appears helpless and dependant. In the opening dialogue Her first comment is “What should we drink?” This makes her appear dependent. This is because Jig wants the man to make all the decisions for her.

We don’t really know her relationship with the man, but it seems that they are in a romantic relationship. It is easy to understand how much she loves the American man based on the statement, “I don’t care about me”. “I care about you”.  Jig expressed her desire to put him first. At the same time, she privately hopes that he will change his mind. But The man Jig loved so dearly and for so long was suddenly the most cold hearted and arrogant person she had ever known. She thinks that even if she has the abortion they will probably not stay together. To her it is not an easy decision to have this operation and more importantly, she feels like the whole topic has changed their relationship forever. In her heart she didn’t want to catch the train. She thought about all the reasons she should keep this unborn love child. But while making up her mind to keep this child, she was unsure if it was worth losing the love of the man.

The pregnant girl, Jig, sees her problem in everything she looks at.  She looks at white hills and imagines what her pregnant belly will look like in a few months, sort of white and hilly, sort of like the backs of elephants. She looks at a farm and sees growth, plants that someone nurtured, like she would like to do with her baby.

The symbols seem to imply the division between the American and Jig that has been created by the unwanted pregnancy.  The story talks of one side of the station having no shade or trees while on the other side were fields of grain and trees.  The fields of grain could suggest a fertile place just as Jig is fertile.  The shadow that moved across the field of grain may be the impending abortion that the American wants Jig to have. The first side of the train station is mentioned as the barren side, the man's side. A lack of trees would mean lack of growth, especially when contrasted with Jig's side, the "other side" of the station, the fertile side.

The hills were obviously symbolic. The first sentence was, “The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white.” Jig said, “They look like white elephants.” It seems the traditional symbolism of hills of hardship and valleys of relief can work, along with her seeing the hills as an image of what her tummy will look like in a few months if she keeps the baby. In the other word we can see the hills as a symbol of Jig’s pregnancy. Jig's attention to the ‘color of their skin’ for the hills suggests a pregnant woman lying down, as she may be in several months if she doesn't have the abortion, but it could signify, too, the pale skin tones of a stillborn baby. A little while later the hills came up in conversation again, when she said that the hills were lovely and they didn't really look like white elephants. This is when Jig starts thinking about not having an abortion and not looking at the hills as a problem, instead she sees this as something that could be a good thing.

     Based on the closing of the story, Jig comes to the realization that she can keep her child and be happy without the American man. She states that nothing is wrong and that she is feeling just fine. One thing is for certain that she controls the conversation and her tactics produced the results she wanted.  He finally gives in and says what she wants to hear, that he is 'perfectly willing to go through with it,' meaning for her not to have the operation. 

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