Life until Death in Hemingway’s Stories

Category: Literature
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“In Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, the girl and the man are at the bar drinking trying to avoid the fact that the girl was pregnant. The man was trying to get the girl to get rid of the baby instead of accepting the fact that she was pregnant. She was trying to lighten the situation and make it sound like they could get through it and live with it but he was not agreeing with her. “Hills Like White Elephants” prompts the question: “What would be the best decision to make in this situation?” The man feels like the answer is death. He thinks that killing the baby will be their best decision but the girl does not really agree with him. This relates to the story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, also by Hemingway. It has a theme of death. The theme is portrayed by Harry and his wife, Helen, who get stranded on a safari and feel that death is coming their way. “Hills Like White Elephants” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” both personify death by showing the pains and scenarios that these people have to go through in these short stories.

“Hills Like White Elephants” personifies death through the use of imagery.The girl is pregnant and the guy is trying to advise her and almost force her to get an abortion. She seemed to be ok with having the baby by saying that they could do it and be happy but he kept going back and forth with her and not agreeing with her. At this point she says “Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?” He says “But I don’t want anybody but you.”. The girl, Jig, sees this as him being sweet but he is just saying that he doesn’t want a baby in a way that she would see as “good”. They kept ordering alcoholic drinks which is known to be really bad to have in your system when pregnant. Although, at this time period, they didn’t have a lot of the information that we have today. So, they just kept ordering drinks and drinking them while they were waiting for the two trains to come. One train went one way which was tied with positivity and the other train was the opposite. Same with the two sides of the train station that had different terrain. One side was sunny but dry and the other side was shady and wet. Also, one side was mountains with a river and the other was soft hills. Death plays the part that goes along with her being pregnant with their baby. She keeps telling him that it will be fine and that they can have the baby but he completely disagrees and is telling her to get an abortion and that it will be easy and fine. This almost gives us the thought that he may have been in a similar situation before.

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In the short story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, the husband and wife, Harry and Helen, get stranded and Harry believes that they are going to die. Having this thought in his head is only going to lessen his hope. In a way, this loss of hope is killing him mentally which is going to kill him physically shortly after. This loss of hope makes him say “I love you, really. You know I love you. I’ve never loved any one else the way I love you.” The problem was, he didn’t mean it. Harry’s leg is infected with gangrene which causes him to keep apologizing for the smell of it and also is part of the reason he was giving up and thought death was coming soon for him. They had a small argument about it all. She was more hopeful than he was about the whole situation. She had faith that a plane would fly over or a truck would pass. Then, while he and Helen were arguing, he had the thought: “So now it is all over, he thought. So now he would never have a chance to finish it. So this was the way it ended, in a bickering over a drink.”

Although both stories personify death, they do it in different ways. “Hills Like White Elephants” shows it with her accepting towards the end. Then, in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, it is shown through a way of her not accepting it then having her husband die towards the end. Death is inevitable and needs to be seen as it is. It is sometimes painful and sometimes peaceful, but people need to start accepting that it is going to happen at some point or another. Denying it is not going to help anything. Knowing that it is coming and being able to admit that you are going to die at a point in time is a very good thing and it’s even better because you are able to go on with your life. Even though you know it’s coming whether it’s sooner or later, you need to be able to say it is going to happen and then move on with your life and not worry about it until the time has come.”

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Life Until Death in Hemingway’s Stories. (2021, Jun 05). Retrieved from