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Symbolism Of "Hills Like White Elephants"

1382 words - 6 pages

In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” there is a controversy at the end of the story, whether or not the couple decides to have the abortion. Through out the story Hemingway uses symbolism to show two different paths the couple may choose to take; the fertile green side or the barren side with the white hills. The paths are two train tracks on either side of the train station. Although Hemingway may leave the ending of the story up to the reader, I think it can be argued that the couple didn’t go through with the abortion.
The setting and surroundings of the train station are very important because they symbolize the two paths the couple may take. In the beginning ...view middle of the document...

The girl, however, does want to make her “partner” happy and she doesn’t want to loose him, but it is easily understood that she does want the baby. When she walks over to other side of the station where everything is full of life she says, “And we can have all this” (134). By saying “we can have all this” at that side of the station where it is full of life, one might think she is saying we can have the baby which would give us life. I think the girl is very confused and she apparently young since she is referred to as a girl in the story. Although the American can be viewed many different ways I feel he does care about what makes her happy, but he also does want the abortion. In the story he says numerous times, “I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to” (132-34). The American is trying to make sure whatever decision they choose to make is going to be one the girl is comfortable with.
All through out the essay one would think the American and the girl would make the decision to have the abortion. There are ways the story leads to this assumption symbolically. Such as the reference to the number two through out story; the two beers, the two felt pads, the two bags of luggage, the two strings of beads the girl grabbed, and the train only stopping for two minutes. The couple has always been happy with the just the two of them, they are not sure if they will be happy if two turns into three. Another way the story leads to this assumption symbolically is the shadow of the cloud that moved across the field as the girls notices the scenery on the other side of the station. The shadow of the cloud might symbolize what society would think of her. In that time period women were not supposed to have children outside of wedlock. So that shadow is hovering over the side of fertility. All these symbolic meanings may stray the reader toward the conclusion that they did get the abortion, but the ending is where one could clearly make the assumption they didn’t.
Toward the end of the story the couple has an argument that results in the decision to have the baby. During their argument they were talking about the abortion and how the operation was perfectly simple. The girl begins to get irritated and ask the American to stop talking about it, and he finally says, “But I don’t want you to, I don’t care anything about it” (134). After the argument he says the he is going to move the bags to the other side of the station, the fertile side. The moving of the bags is a very important point in the story because it is the final decision of the couple. When he walks back over to girl, she smiles at him and the American says, “Do you feel better?” The girl...

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