Analysis of the Story “Hills Like White Elephants”

In ‘Hills like White Elephants’ by Ernest Hemingway the protagonist Jig faces a circumstance of life or death. Jig and her boyfriend have drinks at a train station before leaving for their next adventure. Both continue to discuss their plans to come as well as the issue which had already been avoided. Jig is pregnant, so they are contemplating the operation. The American encourages Jig to have an abortion but she is still in disagreement. They keep arguing and so this narrative leaves off on a cliffhanger. One theme that may correlate to the whole story is how much communicating with your companion prevails necessary. “The topic of the conversation and the way both characters handle it is the main element that draws their characters into sharp round focus”(Susanty 5). The dialogue among them is a major factor in Jig’s judgment to keep her child.

Hemingway’s texts are difficult to read because he can be cryptic in his dialogue. He uses ‘subtext,’ a protagonist hints at the information instead of explicitly telling facts. To understand each context, readers must assume by ‘hearing’ what the characters are saying. For instance, “The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry. They look like white elephants”(Hemingway 350). Jig compares the hills with her womb. “The way the girl sees part of the valley as brown and dry image symbolizes what her womb will be like when the abortion is over”(Susanty 5). During this text, the author uses imagery. As this scene is being set up he says, “The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side, there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun”(Hemingway 349). Throughout this narrative, Hemingway makes uses imagery. These lines paint an image from this scenery within every reader’s mind.

“To the man, the child is a white elephant that, in his selfishness, he wants to get rid of. To the girl, the child is a white elephant only insofar as its father rejects it; she would like to bear the child”(Weeks Jr. 2). The famous expression ‘white elephant’ signifies anything unwelcome, like Jigs’ unexpected baby. “The richness, complexity, and irony of the white elephant symbol increase as we see the conflict over the unborn child develop and as we recall that the actual white elephant is a rarity in nature, is considered sacred and precious”(Weeks Jr. 2). Some irony comes while the two characters wait for a train to get towards their location, the hills beyond exactly reflect Jigs’ options. The dried, desolate side is representative of the first choice the opposite one’s clear, lush, healthy greenside. The hills portray death and life.

The story’s setting is specific because we know where they are going but we do not know when. The location is next to the train tracks in Spain. The setting suggests where their relationship will be going. In opposite directions, since they want different things in regards to Jigs pregnancy. A train station is not a permanent place one inhabits, but it is a place through which one travels. The railroad station element symbolizes being at a transition point in life during a time of crisis. A train goes one direction, and when it arrives it keeps going. The train symbolically reflects the choice Jigs will have to make. The setting supports the communication theme of a relationship. Essentially the train’s coming if she wants to abort the baby there’s no going back.

In Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants,” a young couple travels everywhere on this earth. Although while Jig becomes pregnant they consider an operation. The ending leaves unclear the result concerning her decision. She says at the end of the story, “I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine”(Hemingway 353). Her happiness is a central theme of the story. Her choice could result in their bond to suffer. The reader is left wondering if Jig went through with her procedure. “That’s all we do isn’t it—look at things and try new drinks”(Hemingway 350). This line makes their relationship sound exceptionally shallow. As though they are merely tourists sharing the same bus. ‘Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees'(Hemingway 352). Like this cloud, this puts their relationship in shadow and makes it clear she doubts if they are really in love.