Hills Like White ElephantsThe story “Hills Like White Elephants,” by Ernest Hemmingway, happens in Spain at a train station in 1920s. The story essentially deals with critical issue of abortion. The two key characters of the story are a man, addressed as ‘The American’ in the entire story and ‘Jig’, his fellow woman.
The story begins by setting a strained atmosphere. The day is dry, raging and hot. A young couple is resting in the shade waiting for express from Barcelona destined to Madrid, which would arrive in forty minutes. The scenery is brown and devoid of pleasantness.
Girl is looking at the line of hills which appears like ‘white elephants’ as they are soaked white in the sun. The American and girl decide to have beer. They get engaged in mundane talking at first but their conversation shifts to the issue of an operation. Jig is pregnant and the couple is in the midst of reaching an extreme conclusion regarding their problem. The implication of their conversation in the story suggests that American is trying to convince Jig to undergo the operation to abort the baby.The station is solitary and the atmosphere is abounding of emptiness and openness which entails that the problem cannot be postponed and must be dealt with now. The white hills symbolize the pureness and naturalness coercing the girl to foresee the beauty of her unborn child. The dry hot ambience surrounding the station and the scorching atmosphere is pressurizing and tensing up the situation and plays a primal role in portraying the tenseness of the story.
The girl stands up and slinks towards the end of train station. She sees trees, fields of grains on the other side, along the banks of Ebro River. Hemmingway has tried to portray prolificacy and fecundity representing the girl’s present pregnant state, her ability to produce and the baby in her womb. The river symbolizes life. Jig is steeping towards keeping the baby.
Just as the girl understands the significance of the scenery and its relationship with her unborn child, shadow of a cloud passes across the field of grain. The shadow of cloud symbolizes the operation being talked about to abort the unborn child. Though Hemmingway has not explicitly portrayed the American as favoring the abortion, the conversation between him and girl suggests that he is trying to persuade her to undergo the abortion procedure. After some more persuasion, when Jig regards and considers American’s perspective, she stares back at the valley, but this time with a different view point. She stares at the infertile, dry, brown side of valley symbolizing lifelessness and typifying her after the operation. They continue to reason unless Jim asks American to stop talking.
The American stares at the bags against the wall of the railway station. The bags had tags of all hotels where they had spent nights, symbolizing American’s vibrant spirits and attitude. Evidently, it seems that The American desires this operation as he wants to retain his present modus vivendi. If Jig decides to have the baby, he’ll be required to abandon his youthful and vibrant attitude and settle down to raise the baby. After laying her contention and arguments that she does not care about herself, to which American remains unaffected and unstirred, Jig finally agrees to the abortion. Her assenting to operation at this point signifies her intentions to change the subject but American still persists as he is uncertain of Jig’s frame of mind and her inclination towards the operation. Jig reassures him that she is fine and the story finishes with the couple awaiting their train’s arrival in five minutes.The story ends with no solution to the problem and no final conclusion has been determined in the story.
Hemmingway has cleverly left the readers to resolve whether Jig will abort the baby or not. Hemmingway has wittingly interwoven the scenery and the emotions of the girl. Although Jig assents to the operation, the story clearly depicts her inclination towards keeping the unborn baby. It seems likely that she will eventually follow her heart and keep the baby. Hemmingway has told almost entire story in dialogues between the American and Jig. In story’s Title “Hills Like White Elephants,” White Elephant signifies an unwanted gift.
In the story, baby is depicted as holding no importance to the man, yet a gift to the girl. American considers baby as an obstruction to their normal course of life as he says “That’s the only thing that bothers us. It is the only thing that’s made us unhappy.” Landscape holds key role in setting the mood of the story.
Hemmingway has presented an effective and powerful conversation between the two lead characters of the story. The story explores the universal issue of abortion without even explicitly stating it. The story is narrated by a third person. It is never explicitly stated in the story that the contentious conversation between the American and Jig is about terminating a pregnancy.The story exposes only a few basic facts about the characters. American is portrayed as a practical and rational man who frames the unborn baby as root of their problems and discontentedness with each other; although the tone of story suggests that there might be other deep rooted problems in their relationship rather than the baby alone. The details of characters of ‘The American’ and ‘Jig’ are left to reader to figure out. The story does not commit any decisive course of action for Jig.
The ambiguity in the story renders a great deal of room for discussion and rendition. Jim’s character has been shown as dynamical as she moves from refusal to acceptance of American’s proposal with a hostile disposition. Hemmingway’s story is interesting and lacking in obviousness which adds to the ambiguity and hence the story “Hills Like White Elephants,” has failed to reach a mass consensus.
Although the story is lacking in sufficient clues to reach a conclusion, the inclination of Jig towards keeping the baby as reflected by her part of conversation and her hostility to undergo operation suggest that it is likely she will keep the baby and will not undergo the operation.Works Cited(October 2, 2006). Hills Like White Elephants: Literary Analysis. Retrieved fromhttp://www.gummyprint.com/blog/hills-like-white-elephants-literary-analysis/