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Hills Like White Elphants

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English 102
10 October 2012 Human Experiences
Human being if seen from a distance in their life would pretty much go through the simple life cycle. A person born into this world from their mother’s womb and it is a fact that every single person in the world came to this world because of their parents and not sent by the stork or an alien space ship. From there it would either be an instant death as an infant or they live and then die. With the population reaching 7 billion, the human race is indeed a simple being that reproduce without thinking. In “Hills like White Elephants” Ernest Hemingway gave us a glimpse of human are not that so simple creature after all. Although human being is seemingly simply a creature with one life cycle, they would often reach a rebirth state in which they will lose their innocence trough isolation in their life and later on, a relief. These steps that a person would go through can be seen in “Hills like White Elephant” also in both James Joyce’s “The Dead” and “Araby”. Ernest Hemingway followed the ice berg theory and in which he use as a great advantage in creating his short stories. The “Hills like White Elephant” if read only once would be simply a conversation between a couple while waiting for their train to come by. Hemingway took us in as the costumer who was sitting beside them, probably also waiting for the train too. He made the audience as if they were just eavesdropping over the couple’s chat. What the audience might catch is a patch of topics disguised in the couple’s own wording of terms and then their brain started to fill-in-the-blanks from hints that the couple dropped. Under that simple chat over an alcohol beverages and the nature while waiting for their train, the couple have cover over something that would change their life and over some decision making that the audience not to realize.
Something that is overly precious, yet a very burdening task to carry are often symbolized by the white elephant and the person who received this white elephant would often be in isolation. In Buddhism, the mother of Buddha had a dreamed about some young man riding a white elephant who then got sucked into her womb and later on she got pregnant with Buddha, a great gift. In Thailand, often time the king would gave the person that he disliked a white elephant, a burden to that person. In the opening of the story, it stated that, “The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees”(36). What can be seen from this is that there’s a hint of isolation as the place have no tree and maybe in the middle of nowhere because it doesn’t have any name and only a train station building exist in the story. The place is isolated from the nature located on the other side of the valley. Another hint of isolation is when the couple stayed outside the building just like the flies that were being kept out by the beads in the doorway. The couple’s conversation included the word ‘operation’ and the white elephant that could be a symbol that ‘the girl’ is pregnant and that ‘the American’ wanted her to give up the baby trough an operation in which is such an unnatural process and was a very supported by the society. The beads in the doorway felt like it’s keeping them away from the society, just like how dry and wasteland like the place is unlike the place over the valley, “Across on the other side, were field of grain and trees along the banks of Ebro”(37). The female in the story is called ‘the girl’ and nicknamed ‘jig’ by ‘the American’ man came to a realization that the man does not want what she wants and had to make a choice of leaving the man or staying with him as a tool just like what her name represent, a tool to measure alcohol drinks. When the girl wanted to try Anis del Toro, she does not want it anymore after the first taste because it tasted like liquorice. She then said that everything tastes like liquorice and that what she’s been waiting for so long would taste like absinthe. She realizes that the pregnancy that she wanted to have because as female, she would want a baby and that’s just part of the mother instinct imbedded in most of the female genes. She had then finally pregnant with a child, but it would cost her being left by her partner, the American and the cost of the baby’s need later on. The man on other hand had to deal with pursuing the girl to not have the baby. His thought of her was not as human being but merely as an object since she’s very dependent on him. Him talking to her does not contain as much words as when she’s talking to him. He does not understand her and does not want to understand her as he called ‘the operation’ is very much of a simple procedure and that she should do it. Not because he cared about her as he said, “But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to do it”(37) but because he does not want the baby when he give in more push to her to do the operation instead of just letting her decide whatever she wants. In the end she realized that they could not communicate with each other very well and that the man does not want the baby nor to understand her at all. When she understand that life is just a liquorice that happiness can’t be contain without sorrow, she had list her innocence. The man that she thought could support her did not even thought about her as a person and her perspective of man could change for life. She came to a rebirth when she made her choice of not doing the operation that he suggested and leave him or to do what he suggested and nothing will change. The rebirth happened after she had lost her innocence, which something in her knowledge died and it died because she has found a substitute for that knowledge, a better one for her thoughts. The fact that Hemingway let the audience guessing which decision she had taken because the symbol of the train that should have come by the end of the story does not exist, set the mood of a tense conversation to a more relaxing setting. Hemming way give of the feeling of relief when the girl in his story said, “I feel fine, there’s nothing wrong with me, I feel fine”(38). This scene in the story gave of a more calm feeling than the heated chat that the couple had before. The girl has finally made her decision and she felt relieved that her walking back and forth from one choice to another had finally ended. The same cycle also appeared in James Joyce’s “Araby”. The child who had been admiring one of his friend’s sister, mangan’s sister, fell in love with her and thought of her as someone he would die for. As a child he fell for her not because of her character or face, but because of the shadow he would usually see when she went to pick up her brother when the sun set. As she stood under the doorway, the street light from her back shine into the dark abandoned house the children use as their playground and emit a glow, an angel like glow. He felt that she’s an angel. When he were able to finally spoke to her, he promised her that he’ll brought something from the bazaar because she wanted to go but couldn’t. On the day of bazaar, his uncle who promised him that he could go to the bazaar had forgotten his promised and came home when the bazaar was almost at closing time. Arriving at the bazaar, he was not able to buy a thing even though a girl on a stall asks him if he wanted to buy something. Angered then overcome him. He was isolated from the real her on the beginning of the story, he does not know that liking someone because they looked glowing is such a foolish act. His uncle’s behavior who forgot his promise to the boy made the boy realized not trust his uncle anymore or any adult. The fact that he saw the girl in the stall chatting with the English men in such an obnoxious way stab him in the guts, not because they’re just simply annoying but the stall girl was also hit by light from the back and from where he stand, he could almost see Mangan’s sister in her and imagining that if Mangan’s sister true self is just like the stall girl, He would hate himself. He lost his innocence and would starting to think that any girl with light shine through them and looked like an angel is disgusting. Although the Story does not contain an obvious calmer setting like “Hill like White Elephant”, the boy’s relieved in a more sad calmness to it; that is when he could no longer trust adults and women. He then does not need to deal with feeling restless because of falling in love with a girl. Finally he learned that adults are creatures a child like him should not trust. Those are the knowledge he gained as a result of rebirth. The boy from “Araby” then grew up as a husband and “The Dead” revealed the boy’s name: Gabriel Connor. Contrary to the thought that Gabriel would forever loath women, “The Dead” gave Gabriel a wife named Gretta. Gabriel tried to overcome the fact that does not like women by getting a wife and therefore he has isolated himself from what he really is. Joyce’s strength is that he was able to write a holiday setting story yet was able to put in so many other themes. In the party he was confused with the entire question that Miss Ivory and his answers were a bit hurtful as he claimed that he had hated his country and sick of it. The theme of isolation stands out even more when the party was over. On the ride home, he and Gretta did not spend time to communicate instead it was a silent trip and both were on their own thoughts. Then after finding out that Gretta had been thinking about Michael Furey, the guy who Gretta thought died for her because he waited for her outside in the cold. Gabriel finally break out of his lies and came out to realization that he never been in love with her that he never love a women as a human being. He had then finally recognized a human being. The snow symbolizes a beauty after the rebirth that Gabriel went through and he was pure again in sense that he found himself. The knowledge of spring that will come after the ghostly winter symbolize the new beginning and hope. From all three stories the theme of rebirth, lost of innocence, and isolation appear to be in all three; however, each stories went trough different stories of how the were isolated, lost their innocence and in return, a rebirth.
Work Cited
Harutunian, Mike. “Hill like White Elepahant.” Harutunian’s English 102 Reader Interim 8th Edition Fall 2012
Harutunian, Mike. “Araby.” Harutunian’s English 102 Reader Interim 8th Edition Fall 2012
Harutunian, Mike. “The Dead.” Harutunian’s English 102 Reader Interim 8th Edition Fall 2012

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