In Ernest Hemingway’s short story "Hills Like White Elephants," he creatively uses setting to effectively underscore the tension facing a couple who disagree about whether the woman should have an abortion. This unique way of using setting to symbolize the characters’ crossroad in their relationship makes this a classic short story favorite. Hemingway uses three elements of the story's setting -- the line of rails, the oppressive heat, and the contrasting sides of the valley (white hills and the barren valley) -- to indicate the nature of the couple's conflict and the difficulties of resolving it. The characters’ relationship is at a crossroads and placing them at a railroad station is an ideal setting for the reader to see this relationship depart, go their separate ways, or continue as a couple. In addition, Hemingway uses the oppressive heat to symbolize the tension between Jig and the American man. Throughout the story, the heat never subsides, nor does their anger towards one another. It only intensifies until she finally tells him to “please” shut up—a noted seven times. Hemingway’s use of the train rails signifies the specific and narrow decision that must be made by Jig to have an abortion or not. Lastly, Hemingway’s use of contrasting the white hills to the barren valley is clearly his way of addressing life vs. death. Addressing these two different sides of the valley is his way of describing the painful choice that has to be made by Jig. She is torn between these two sides. One side of the valley contained no shade or trees, while the other side contained fields of grain and a river through the trees. Clearly, this setting describes fertility vs. sterility and addressing which one to select is like acknowledging the white elephant (unborn child). In the short story "Hills Like White Elephants," Hemingway creatively uses setting to demonstrate the tension between Jig and the American Man. His simple, straightforward...
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