Mary Breland, Instructor
February 3, 2011
Critical Review of “Hills Like White Elephants”
In the story, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, we are introduced to two main characters, Jig and the American. From the story, it appears that the couple has been living a carefree lifestyle, traveling around Europe, having a good time together. However, the couple has been faced with a dilemma that has caused much debate over the years. The couple is dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and they are going to Madrid to have the pregnancy terminated. At the time, a burst of air was the preferred method of abortion. It was a dangerous procedure since ...view middle of the document...
The American seems to know everything about the procedure that she is going to have calling it a “simple operation”(Hemingway 525). He doesn’t, however, realize the psychological conflict that Jig faces. He is unrelenting in the pressure that he puts on her to have the procedure. He tells her that everything will be as it was before. He sees the pregnancy as a bother or a nuisance to their lifestyle. The line that states “I’ve known lots of people that have done it”(Hemingway 526) makes it sound like he is a playboy and that this is a situation that he has been in before with another woman. The consequences of the procedure do not affect him and he can go back to his way of life. He just wants her to get on with it so they can return their travels. His avoidance of responsibility in the story gives a cold feeling of indifference.
Both of them seem to be rather self centered and immature. The American is frustrated that he cannot control the situation more with the passive Jig. When she asks him if she can have another drink, it shows that she is depending on the American to help her make decisions. When she asks him to please shut up and he says that she started it, it shows their inability to communicate very well.
The conflict between Jig and the American pushes their relationship to the edge. Jig obviously wants more stability and to turn from the way they have been living. She is conflicted between her desire for a different life, and her desire for her lover. She wants to please her man, but also wants to do what is right. Jig realizes that she will not be able to have both her freedom and her child. She will not find happiness in the hapless traveling with the American, nor will she find the family she desires if she makes him choose between the growing family and the lifestyle they have at present. She states that she doesn’t care about herself anymore which could mean that she feels like her baby is becoming more important to her and that the decision is not just hers anymore.
The setting of the story is symbolic of what is going on in the hearts of the two young people. It was in between World War I and World War II where people were traveling more, not concerned about the threat of war anymore. It was a time of freedom and discovery. The railway paths going in opposite directions can be indicative of the two paths that the two people are taking. One path or track leads to the life of fun and freedom. The other path leads to a completely opposite life with a family and children. However, like the...