DE English 12A, Literary Analysis Essay
22 April 2014
Male versus Female Manipulation:
In Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants”
The short story “Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway describes the journey a young couple takes while trying to cope with the implications of an impending abortion. The American and Jig at first appear to be the epitome of the average, modern-day couple; they share drinks together, travel together, sit and talk together, and even show concern for each other like every other functional relationship. However, what Ernest Hemingway (either intentionally or unintentionally) portrays with the couple is the natural human tendency to try and influence events to achieve what he or she wants. A study done by the Department of Psychology of Turku, Finland researches the differences between the way men and women manipulate. How the study determines its results is by listing a variable (type of manipulation) and based on how high or how low the coefficient came out to be determined if it was a male or female tactic. As compared to the Finnish study, “Hills like White Elephants” serves as a model for the differences between how men and women go about manipulating aspects of a decision to favor their individually desired result. Results of the study done by Kai Bjorkvist and her colleagues for the Department of Psychology of Turku, Finland found two distinct differences between men and women regarding how they manipulate; men tend to take a more aggressive approach, whereas women go about manipulation in a more indirect manner (126). What this means is that men are more to the point, so people can easily distinguish when males are trying to influence another person because they are not afraid to push boundaries. Women, on the other hand, try and manipulate inconspicuously through other means such as symbols, gestures, or word, all the while remaining poise. This fact is fitting of the extroverted American and introverted Jig, whom both seem to be sly and meticulous with their word choices. There were several very low scoring ways of manipulating that are exercised the American. One method of manipulation that was found by Kai Bjorkvist’s study to be used by men—including the American--is “refraining from the display of anger” (123). Throughout the short story “Hills like White Elephants” Jig tries to incite the American; at one point she makes a remark about liquorice and says it in a way that she knows will cause the American to react, however he never gives her the satisfaction and simply moves on with the conversation (par. 33). Another manipulation ploy listed the study lists and is used by the American is “talking the matter over” (123). No matter how evasive Jig gets, the American does not allow her to stray from talking about the procedure. At one point in the “Hills like White Elephants,” a highly unnerved Jig has to beg the American to change the subject, “Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?” (par. 116). This coincides with another way the American is manipulating her decision, one that was not a variable tested in the study, by complying with her every demand. This is shown in the “Hills Like White Elephants” when the American expresses to her, “I’d do anything for you” (par. 115). The biggest and probably most influential technique is playing to Jig’s insecurities. Jig’s dialogue lets on that she is a little emotionally unstable. Jig’s repeated worries over whether or not the American will still love her shows that she stresses over losing his presence. The American uses her anxiety to his advantage and plays the overly devoted and loving boyfriend very well; as shown by this quote from the short story “Hills Like White Elephants”: “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me? ‘I love you now. You know I love you’” (par. 69). He also pries on Jig’s concerns and doubts over the...
Cited: Bjorkvist, Kai, Kirsti Lagerspetz, and Ari Kaukiainen. “Do Girls Manipulate and Boys Fight?” Agresssive Behavior. 18 (1992): 117-127. Web. 8 Mar. 2014.
Hemingway, Ernest. “The Hills Like White Elephants.” Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. Ed. Laurence Perrine. Fifth edition. Washington, DC: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988. 166-171. Print.
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