The mind is filled with memories whether it be pleasant or horrid. Among those memories are places that the memories happened at. Usually the places that are important hold an emotional weight that causes us to remember. Whether it be your best friend’s house around the corner, the park on 3rd street, or even a scary alley. Whenever something significant happens, the place it happened at is always recalled as well. This is what setting is in a story. As the area and context in which the characters live and where these events occur. The place an event happened may be the key locale of a story or it can convey symbolic meaning. It can help set the mood and tone, influence the way characters behave, affect the dialogue, foreshadow events, invoke an emotional response, reflect the society in which the characters live, and sometimes even plays a special part in the story. It can also be a critical element as the setting provides the framework for what is being presented. Ernest Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants” is a simple yet complex narrative that consist of trivial conversation between a girl named Jig and an unnamed American man. The symbolism the setting presents gives a subtle understanding of the implications of their conversation and possibly what will happen next.
In the story the two characters are on a train station overlooking the mountains. Hemingway uses the setting as a metaphor for the couple’s relationship. What the setting tells is that, while both parts of the view are part of the same landscape, the parts are divided from each other. What the metaphor of the setting tells about the characters is that, while they are a couple and part of the same landscape, they are also as divided as the landscape. This foreshadows the unwritten outcome of the decision that Jig must make. In other words, the setting tells that the two are at a crossroad
Majority of the story is in dialogue while the other words used describe their surroundings. Each description of what is around is symbolic to their situation. For example, when Jig sits at the table, the hills across the Ebro Valley appear “white in the sun and the country was brown and dry” (197), but from the end of the station, she can see “fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro” and “the river through the trees” (199). The brown, dry, and infertile land represents a rootless, empty, and sterile life, like the one the couple is presently living, while the fertile land along the Ebro River represents the meaningful and fruitful life they could have if they would not go through with the abortion. The railroad junction, a place where one can change directions, symbolizes a point in time when the couple can change the direction of their lives. The placement of the story at a train station also shows how
According to Lewis Weeks, Kenneth Johnston, and Perrine, the unborn child, though of value to the girl, is a white elephant to the man, who wants to get rid of it. The barren hills remind Weeks of a pregnant woman’s swollen belly and breasts, and Johnston sees the “hills like white elephants” as a constant reminder of the abortion and the couple’s opposing views: the girl’s reverence for life and the man’s lack of reverence for it.