hills like white elephants

Topics: Pregnancy, Fertility, Narrator Pages: 5 (780 words) Published: October 14, 2002
Hemmingway's "Hills Like White Elephants"

Ernest Hemmingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" is not a story in the clasical

sense with an introduction, a development of the story, and an end. We only get some

time in the life of two people, as if it were just a piece of a film where we have a lot do

deduce. This story does not give everything done for the reader, we only see the

surface of what is going on. It leaves an open end, readers can have their own ending

and therefore take part in the story. A masterpiece of external narration, there seems

to be no focal point in the characters. One must only here what is said, not what is

thought by the two main characters, the American and Jig. Hemmingway's third person

narrator takes an objective position outside of the characters, thus providing a look from

an third person point of view.

The story told is that of a woman and a man during their trip to a place where

she can have an abortion. Everything in the tale is related to the idea of fertility and

barrenness. This main topic can been seen from the title, where "Hills" refer to the

shape of the pregnant belly, and "White Elephants" is an idiom that refers to useless or

unwanted things. In this case the unwanted thing is the unborn baby the couple is

awaiting to abort.

One can see that the story setting is in Spain, but one does not know the final

destination of the train which they are awainting. It is not known exactly where they are

or the time or date in which the story takes place. We do not even know if they really

take the train.

The train is symbolic of change or movement. Most people are afraid of

change, as this couple, since movement is not always forward, but can also mean

moving backward, as in their relationship. It could in contrast mean "the train of life".

The limited time in which the train will be stopping, two minutes, symbolizes the time

that Jig has to make her decision since she cannot risk her health in waiting for a long

period of time.

The first impression one will get when reading the text is that one is in

the middle of a dry, barren place under the sun, with no shade or trees. This reinforces

the idea of lack of life, but in contrast, they are in the warm shadow of the building

where life is. This emphasizes the contrast between the pregnancy of the woman, as

being fertile, and everything around them. The American should also be included in

this idea of fertility, as he is also apart from the barrenness and sharing the shadow.

The characters in this tale are very mysterious being that the reader knows

nothing about their lives. Sex and drinking seems to be their whole existance. Since

Jig orderes "Anis", wanting to try something different, she may be contemplating a new

relationship or a new experience in life. But, when she tastes the Anis, she complains

that is tastes like licorice, a very common, nonexotic flavor. She adds that everything

tastes like licorice, especially the things that one wants for so long. This implies that

when one waits for something for a long time, for instance a relationship, once it is

obtained, it looses the origional appeal.

The American wants Jig to have the abortion by emphasizing how easy the

procedure is. He compares the operation to opening a window, an easy task "just to let

the air in." In reality he is the one with the doubts. He knows that having a baby would

mean changing their lives, settling down . Being that their suitcases are full of labels

form all of the hotels they had spent nights, it is obvious that they enjoy living a nomatic

existance. Jig is having the normal doubts any woman can have in her situation. She

knows that her decision may change their relationship forever.

At the end of the story, the American tells Jig that they can have the world. She

replies no, they cannot. Once something is taken...
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