Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants Essay

2522 words - 11 pages

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way” (E. Hemingway, Brainy Quote). It is evident that this is why Ernest Hemingway writes the literary pieces he writes. Hemingway proves this by writing his short story, Hills Like White Elephants. Hemingway also quoted, “I never had to choose a subject - my subject rather chose me” (E. Hemingway, QuotesPedia). This also relates to Hemingway composing Hills Like White Elephants along with many of his other works.
Hemingway refers to past events in his life in his writings. For example, in Hemingway’s novel, A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway is referring to his service in World War I, and his relationship ...view middle of the document...

Hemingway, Brainy Quote).
Sometimes, people are faced with tough decisions that can change their life forever. In the short story, Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway tells how a couple faces the decision of whether or not to have an operation done that would change their life. While the two main characters, The American and Jig, are at the train station they are having a last minute conversation on whether or not they should have their child aborted. Through numerous symbols, the setting, and the character’s actions, Hemingway reveals the theme that people communicate and show their feelings or opinions on matters through more ways than just obvious verbal assertions.
Throughout the story Hemingway uses a multitude of symbols to show how Jig really feels about having an abortion. At the beginning of the story, Jig says, “They [hills] look like white elephants” (96). White elephants are things given as a gift to a person because they are unwanted by the original owner. In the story, the white elephant was the unborn child that Jig was conceiving. Through this symbol, Hemingway shows that Jig was trying to tell The American that she did not want the child. Notice that Jig is not boldly stating to The American that she wants to have the child aborted. To also help support this, in the story Jig was drinking while pregnant. This lack of care for the child helps prove that Jig does not want to have the child. However, her desire changes later in the story.
One other symbol Hemingway includes in the story is the significance of the two heavy bags that The American is carrying that belong to Jig. The most critical aspect of this symbol is the fact that Hemingway included in the story that the bags were heavy bags (Yanling). When Hemingway includes this, he is relating each of the two heavy bags to the unborn child and Jig (Yanling). The American wants Jig to have the abortion because he does not want to bear the responsibility of the child along with having Jig in his life. This symbol also relates to Hemingway’s real life occurrence of when his wife became pregnant that put his writing career to a halt for two years.
Hemingway also inputs a symbol when Jig and The American are drinking at the train station. Jig states, “Everything tastes . . . like absinthe” (Lanier). According to Doris Lanier:
The addictive quality of the drink most certainly is meant to emphasize the addictive nature of the couple's lifestyle. Like the person addicted to absinthe, the two are addicted to a way of life that will lead to destruction—a situation that the girl is just becoming aware of. It is an empty, meaningless existence that revolves around traveling, sex, drinking, looking at things, and having pointless conversations about these things. "That's all we do, isn't it," said the girl, "look at things and try new drinks?" When she later tells the man, "We could have everything," she is referring to those things that would bring a quality life:...

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