An Analysis Of ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ By Ernest Hemingway

‘Hills like White Elephants’ is a very intelligent story written by a journalist, turned ambulance driver, turned army, turned prose and fiction author.  Ernest Hemingway was in style for his novels and brief stories, however earlier than he entertained his ardour for the art of storytelling, he worked for the Kansas City Star as a reporter; he was additionally an ambulance driver during World War I and enlisted within the Italian infantry.

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He took every alternative to wield the pen, actually, after the struggle; he labored for the Toronto Star.

  Hemingway was extra in love with the pen than with the musket as during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, he even worked as a news correspondent.  This good author produced distinctive pieces of literature that are cherished for their high quality to this present day such as ‘Death in the Afternoon’, ‘The Green Hills of Africa’, ‘A Farewell to Arms’, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’.

Hemingway drew from his experiences within the motifs of his items which normally had masculine motifs like looking, warfare, and other actions related to the masculine gender.  For some unusual reason, nevertheless, Hemingway dedicated suicide in 1961.  His works of brief fiction were much better than his novels; nevertheless it’s together with his novels that he constructed a popularity for himself.  ‘Hills like White Elephants’ is one of his brief stories that quite displays the skill of Hemingway as a fictionist.

‘Hills like white Elephants’ is a piece of literature that demonstrates what is understood to literaturists as literary management in tackling the primary theme which is abortion.

  It is a narrative that addresses a really delicate problem with using allegory and a philosophical strategy to fiction known as existentialism.

The story ‘Hills like White Elephants’ is a relatively ‘short’ short story that is ridden with symbolism; for all its worth, it might need as nicely been a chunk of poetry, if not for its obvious narrative type.  It is about two individuals, an unnamed American and Jig who have a discussion over some drinks at a train station in Spain.

The matter of their discussion is imprecise at first, and turns into clear to be abortion afterward.  The piece is a ‘silent’ commentary concerning the distinction of views between males and females in general in addition to the poignant reaction of each genders to information that will or might not change ones way of life.  In this explicit story, Hemingway used the third person perspective to provide the audience a sense of distance when reading the story.  By this, it signifies that the audience, instead of carefully associating themselves with the characters in the story, would as a substitute, identify themselves on a special degree, thus, giving even the topic material of the story a metaphorical feel, despite its being a tangible and quite material issue.

This distinct stage of identification in the story because of the narrative is a way used by most writers to create a extra general really feel to the story; in order that the audience, in studying the story, doesn’t have to attach themselves to a particular element and identify with that detail.  Noticeably so, this same high quality of the story is also achieved by Hemingway’s use of direct, relatively quick sentences for the dialog of the two characters.  This technique, again, gives the story a distinct detached really feel.

It permits the reader to discover the story on varied ranges instead of just zooming into one specific side of the story.  It additionally prevents the audience from succumbing to the temptation of making particular conclusions in regards to the story early on; from the temptation of simply disregarding different particulars in the story and focusing on the principle subject material, which is abortion.  Even this explicit concern is never talked about in the piece, besides in the type of symbols and oblique statements from the characters.

This particular fashion of writing, where the writer skimps on words, and as an alternative, attaches multi-level meanings to the text is named literary control.  The primary theme of abortion is addressed on this specific style, to start with the title itself, “Hills like White Elephants”. (Hemingway, 1950)  The title, which is illustrated more within the first paragraph of the story which describes the setting, acquires a brand new stage of interpretation from the passage, “The hills throughout the valley of the Ebro were long and white.” (Hemingway, 1950); and the lady continues to describe the barren landscape, “They appear to be white elephants”. (Hemingway, 1950)

What this does specifically is it foreshadows the primary theme of the story by presenting something decrepit or useless.  ‘White elephants’ are accepted to be symbols of big constructions that are not practical, and in the way this specific phrase is used to explain the hills in the story, it takes on a different which means – that the hills, barren and dry, supposedly representations of abundance and fertility, are apparently ‘white’ or ineffectual on a superficial level.

This particular style combines two opposing photographs, that of fertility within the hills, and emptiness, in the perception of Jig.  What this does is it confirms Jig’s pregnancy, however alludes to this pregnancy being empty, within the sense that she feels that her being pregnant is meaningless, if to not her, to her lover.  The pressure within the conversation is given another push with the man’s remark about Jig’s description of the hills, “I’ve by no means seen one (white elephant)”. (Hemingway, 1950)

Then Jig responds, “No, you wouldn’t have.” (Hemingway, 1950)  On  the level that has been discussed, this specific exchange in their dialog basically presents the man as being detached not solely to the emotions of Jig however to the concept of vacancy and aloneness; that other than not having the power to sense how Jig is feeling in the intervening time, he additionally is naturally and habitually indifferent, selfish, even.

This early within the story, there is also a sign as to the character of Jig being very dependent and attached to the man due to her requiring his approval first earlier than she does something; in having a drink, she asks, “What ought to we drink…Could we strive it (Anis del Toro)?” (Hemingway, 1950); and when she is requested if she would take the drink with water, she asks (addressing the man), “I don’t know…Is it good with water?” (Hemingway, 1950)

These statements from the girl show how valuable the man’s approval of her decisions is.  These present the weightiness of the man’s selections even with matters concerning Jig.  This particular exchange additionally offers the audience an thought of how the tone shall be when the main issue of abortion comes into play.  At this point, the girl additionally senses the indifference of the person and indicates this with the line, “Everything tastes like licorice.  Especially the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.” (Hemingway, 1950)

The lady here makes an oblique reference to their lifestyle – that nothing is new with them – and suddenly, when one thing new occurs – she will get pregnant – the man refuses to accept the change.  In explicit, this also provides a slight indication that the lady needs to continue the being pregnant when she implied that it’s a change that she ‘waited so lengthy for’ (Hemingway 1950)  This interpretation is additional strengthened when the girl remarks, “That’s all we do, isn’t it – take a glance at issues and take a glance at new drinks?” (Hemingway, 1950)

Another indication as to the lifestyle of this couple comes later in the story, with the author’s description of the bags on the station, “He did not say anything however appeared at the bags in opposition to the wall of the station. There had been labels on them from all of the motels the place they had spent nights.” (Hemingway, 1950)  This description of the baggage creates the imagery of the house owners of the luggage being people who discover themselves on a pleasure journey from one place to a different.  Bags are also used here to symbolize the emotional or psychological baggage that the person is carrying as a consequence of the being pregnant of Jig.

When the person finally reveals in the story that he wants Jig to have an abortion, within the passage, “”It’s really an awfully easy operation, Jig, … It’s probably not an operation in any respect.” (Hemingway, 1950), the strain begins to rise, and extra symbols emerge.  Of course, with this remark from the person, the woman turns into silent and doesn’t react.

However, her first line after this revelation is “Then what goes to we do afterward?” (Hemingway, 1950)  Basically, what this does is it amplifies the emptiness of the girl in relation to the abortion – her asking ‘what to do afterwards’ (Hemingway, 1950) shows that she doesn’t see anything after the abortion; that everything after the abortion is covered in haze.  The man further refers again to the being pregnant as one thing that has made them each sad (Hemingway, 1950), in response, the girl takes hold of two strings of beads from the bead curtain and says, “”And you assume then we’ll be all right and be happy.”. (Hemingway, 1950)

However, notice that though the lady virtually validates the statement of the person concerning the pregnancy, notice the motion of holding the beads – whereas this can simply be handed off as an unconscious musing, it is also symbolic for ‘prayer’.  Beads are derived from the old Middle English word ‘bede’ which suggests prayer.  The string of beads as described very much seem like the ones in rosaries; therefore, it might be interpreted that although the lady appears to agree with the man, she is praying or hoping in opposition to all hope that abortion was not the solution to their problem.

The girl is at a loss for words at this level and refers back to the ‘white elephants’ in her earlier trade with the man specifically mentioning his earlier reaction to this remark, “But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say issues are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?” (Hemingway, 1950)  Now, if the previous interpretation of ‘white elephants’ being emptiness is applied to this assertion, it becomes fairly sarcastic as opposed to the tone at which it’s stated – the woman right here is submitting to the person and implying that she might be empty with the abortion, but will the man like her in this state, anyway?

  The man responds, “I’ll adore it. I love it now but I simply can’t give it some thought.” (Hemingway, 1950)  Slowly, from their exchanges, a brute nature emerges from the person, insensitive, and indifferent.  Their dialog then continues on to indicate that the girl shall be having the abortion but not as a outcome of she wants it, but as a result of this is in a position to make her man joyful, also implying that her own happiness isn’t a matter of concern, as a outcome of she has put the man’s happiness earlier than her personal; this she conveyed with the traces, “Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me.” (Hemingway, 1950)  Here we are ready to see that a decision just isn’t met between the two characters, solely a submission, which, by the means in which, is towards the desire of the woman.

The author alludes to the lady’s desire of getting the child when he put in a description of the surroundings at the different aspect of the station – which, on this story, represents a ‘crux’ or a point of determination.  The station here is symbolic of a turning level in each of the lives of the characters, and so, the creator, earlier, describes that the hills are dry and barren, whereas at the different aspect of the station, “were fields of grain and timber alongside the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, have been mountains.”  (Hemingway, 1950)

All these photographs represent fertility, life, and renewal, and at this level also, when the lady sees this explicit scenery, she experiences a change of heart and realizes that she ought to no less than take another likelihood at convincing the man that the abortion will leave her empty, which must be the primary concern between the 2 of them, if the man was sensitive enough.  This realization is obvious of their rapid trade of lines, “”I said we may have every little thing./We can have every thing./No, we can’t./We can have the whole world./No, we can’t./We can go everywhere./No, we can’t. It isn’t ours any more./It’s ours./No, it isn’t. And once they take it away, you by no means get it back.” (Hemingway, 1950)

In this change, it’s evident how completely unrelated the man’s arguments are in relation to the girl’s.  Here, they don’t really ‘meet’ each other in terms of what they’re talking about.  This ‘not assembly of minds’ has one other indirect image within the ‘railroad tracks’ which are parallel and never meet.  Notice the final assertion of the woman in the above exchange; on this explicit line, she is referring to the child in her womb, while earlier on within the dialog, the person is actually referring to the fabric and carnal pleasures that that they had each been having fun with.

The man says that they’ll have all these, however the woman disagrees.  In the tip, there is not any closure in their argument and Hemingway leaves the viewers hanging as as to whether the lady decides to have the abortion or not.  What is known, nonetheless, is that in the long run, the lady indicates that she is all proper (Hemingway, 1950); considering her previous arguments, then it can be assumed that she won’t be going for the abortion.

While the story is fairly easy in its presentation, it tackles a very deep philosophy known as existentialism, appropriately so because the writer lived in an era when this philosophy was in force.  Despite the girl’s seeming submission to the man’s will in this story, she really workout routines her particular person existence and choice; two very fundamental concepts of existentialism.

From the text, it is evident how the lady struggles to say her own individual set of beliefs, and how she, although in a very subtle method, dismisses the man’s arguments in favor of her personal set of beliefs and her freedom to choose on.  So, whereas we are able to simply say that for a superficial reader, the story is just an trade of dialog between two individuals concerning an abortion, the symbols and the clever use of language comes into play to coax the reader to digest the story and interpret it a special stage; at which stage, the references to existentialism turn out to be clear.

In closing, the story is indeed a hotbed of symbolism and a basic instance of literary management.  It doesn’t spoon-feed the audience nor takes all of the pondering away from the reader.  It very discreetly, but very precisely infers numerous meanings into the text by method of  allegory, and profoundly presents the idea of existentialism just by playing around with the conversation of two people, the introduction of a sensitive matter, and finally, the unstated assertion of the lady of her particular person nature and her own freedom.


Hemingway, E. (1950). Hills like White Elephants. Retrieved March 25, 2009, from

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