Moving to the Girl’s Side of “Hills Like White Elephants”
In the article, “Moving to the Girl’s Side of ‘Hills Like White Elephants”, Stanley Renner carefully analyzes the movements of the female character and argues the different view from the general conclusion while still pondering on the open-end question the writer, Ernest Hemmingway, has left with the readers. Renner is left unsatisfied with the unresolved ending of the story. Although the majority of critics conclude that the girl will have an abortion to keep her lover but the existing relationship between the American and the girl deteriorated, Renner gives a new twist to the majority conclusion. Renner assets that “published commentary has not looked closely enough at the development of the female character through the story.” (27). In Renner’s conclusion, “the pregnant girl as she struggles with the American’s wishes and her own feelings points, in my view, toward the conclusion that she decides not to have an abortion, and her companion, though not without strong misgivings, acquiesces in her decision.” (27). The author breaks the story into three different evidences to move to the girl’s side of “Hills Like White Elephants”; setting where in the female character’s development takes place, four movements of the girl’s feelings that the girl develops as time goes, the remaining details of the story.
Renner breaks down symbols of setting to clarify the conflict between the girl and her companion. Renner notes that “To follow the girl’s development in “Hills Like White Elephants,” it is essential to have a clear sense of the setting in which her development takes place.” (28). Hemmingway wrote this story through symbolism as though it was meant to be a work of poetry, for example, the setting of the story is at a train station where the two railroad lines heading opposite directions and hills on either side. The hill on one side is described to look barren and dry while the other has an imagery of abundant living and growing things. The barren hill represents the road to abortion while the other side represents in continuing the pregnancy. The girl looks upon the hill with the living things and says it looks like white elephants. Renner explains “the symbolism of the white elephants as innocence like the child the girl is carrying.” (28). This is when we can see that the girl does not want to go through the abortion but through the dominating male she is left to follow his choices and the path he wants to take. Renner breaks down the girl’s development into four different movements of the girl’s feelings as time goes. Through this we can see how her character grows into a mature woman. Renner analyzes as “In the first movement we are shown the stereotypical female, not even knowing her own mind, and accustomed to following a masterful male for her direction in life. In movement two she comes to a dramatic realization of her own mind-her own welfare, dreams and values. In movement three she asserts herself for the first time. And in the final movement we see the result of her development toward self-realization: the reluctant and still somewhat resentful capitulations of her male companion.” (28). In the beginning of the story, clearly the American is the leader in their relationship and he is probably leading the girl into having an abortion. Renner’s analysis further follows along the movements and the progression the girl makes. The couple’s relationship is presumably not very healthy and it is almost as if this male is using her as his toy. Their relationship is solely based on their sexual attraction to one another. He is shown to be dominant and the naive girl is being controlled by him like a puppet. In the first movement of the story, while the girl cannot state her feelings directly, they nevertheless express themselves indirectly through sarcasm and also silence. Renner explains, “Throughout the other movements we cannot clearly make out what...
5 Feb. 2010.
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