Analysis of Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Analysis of Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants

A detailed examination of Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” focusing on its minimalist style, use of dialogue, and the underlying themes of communication, choice, and the complexities of human relationships. You can also find more related free essay samples at PapersOwl about Analysis.

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In Ernest Hemingway “Hills Like White Elephants”, the author reveals a state of depression and oppression setting. He emphasizes on how an American girl and Spanish speaking man are using alcohol to avoid having a real conversation about an operation, later understood to be an abortion, and her decision will eventually dictate the status of their relationship. Having the male translate shows the role or power dynamics in their relationship; showing there little in common interest and the language limitations being presented which is a key theme.

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The relationship is categorized by that of silence, beer pounding, and very little small talk. Following a moment of silence while awaiting their services the girl mentions how the hills resembles that of a white elephant; this emphasizes the awkward elephant in which they have going on between the two of them. Hinting at the landscape being fertile and barren suggests that there is or was a pregnancy. Avoidance of the sun glare to me seems as if the couple is hiding in the shade to avoid the truth about the ongoing truths. Attempting to face some of the problem, he conversation turns quickly into a match of bickering at one another.

Dominance is present as the man takes control over the decisions being made in this scene. Hemingway writes the saying “Do you want it with water?” but, before she even came to an answer on her own the guy answered for them both telling the woman that they would have water to complement their drinks (Mays 635). She asks him for advice and suggestions for the next drink as they continue to show lack of communication.

The girl continues to try and make small talk and mentions how the drink reminds her of a licorice taste, as well as everything else. The guy snaps; showing signs of annoyance. The girl indicates that she was just trying to have a “fine time” (Hemingway, 1927) attempting to keep some sort of normalcy and leisure between the two. The female seems to be skeptical that happiness could ever exist because he refuses to open up about the problems in which they face.

The man makes the moment intimate by referring to the girl by “Jig” which is a nickname. He then talks about an operation which is clear through reading that it is a euphemism for an abortion and how it’s not really a big deal even though they were illegal in their time. Later, he goes on to persuading her that she should go through with the operation but, attempts to make her feel better by saying she doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to. He is well aware that the girl does not share the same feeling he does as she shows skepticism towards the conversation. The story implies that if she goes through with it then their lives can go back to what they were prior. Sinister and subtle domination is present here because he allows feelings into the conversation to be able to play on the girl emotion indicating everything will be okay.

Hemingway’s play on description from Jig’s point of view reveals her feeling about the pregnancy (full of life unlike before). There are mentions of fertile hills, full trees, etc…, as she see the possibility of what their life have the potential to be like. He ensures her that they can have those things even if she goes through with the operation. He sees it as a less important factor and that life will continue to be okay. In this particular moment, the scene shows more value and importance than the characters words themselves.

The theme has managed to remain the same involving: choice, relationship, and freedom throughout the story. However, the male attempts to sympathize with her. His attempt is to play on emotion saying how he only wants to be with her but, at the same time wanting her to abort their child so, they could remain free of responsibility. The author displays the man ability in attempting to dominate the woman’s’ opinion but she then questioned the stability of their relationship.

Coming to a closing, the man carries the luggage over to wait for their train: the luggage symbolizing the weight and the burden the man feels is on his shoulders with such big decision to be made. He grabbed another drink as he analyzed his surroundings noticing that everything seem to be normal except him. Returning to the girl, they manage to try and keep up with the normality of their lives and once again manging to smother true feelings and emotion.

It is obvious that a decision was not made and because of the disagreement between the two, their relationship remains in shambles from holding back honesty and true emotion about a life-changing moment.

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Analysis of Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants. (2021, Apr 25). Retrieved from