Review on the Short Story Hills Like White Elephants

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The short story “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway has a thought-provoking yet simple central plot. The plot revolves around a man and a woman named Jig who are torn between a decision that will affect their lives no matter the outcome. The story never explicitly tells what the issue is, however; it is easy to understand that Jig is pregnant, the man wants an abortion, and their relationship is not as good as it once was. The author uses the dialogue between the characters to give the idea that when people are talking, they are not always communicating and tension in the relationship can manifest from having to make a difficult decision.

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Although these themes come from a story set at a station in Spain and revolve around a vacationing couple who struggle to come to a decision about having an abortion, these ideas are reflected today in couples who deal with an unplanned pregnancy.

Hemingway describes the hills as ¨white elephants¨, which is ¨metaphorically an item of considerate value that is too troublesome and expensive to keep¨ (James Nagel). The white elephant for the couple is the child, both split on what to do about the pregnancy, leading them to have conflicting views. “She seems more mature, to want commitment, a child, a life together. His comments reflect a desire for a carefree existence, adventure, a relationship free of obligations” (James Nagel). The man feels the child will bring nothing other than trouble for the relationship.

The author also uses the interaction between the characters to show how strained their relationship is due to the problem of the baby, or at least what the man thinks is the problem. “The man has been arguing from the assumption that the pregnancy is the ultimate cause of their unhappiness, rather than the immediate cause; the woman’s comments seem to suggest that she challenges this assumption and is trying to come to terms with the actual ultimate cause for the problem in their relationship” ( Donald E. Hardy and Heather K. Hardy). Jig questions if their relationship will really be better after the fact of getting an abortion, and starts to think about how things will be affected by getting, or not getting, an abortion. She is “…both “well aware that the intrusion of a child will send the man packing” and certain that “their relationship will be radically altered, perhaps destroyed, if she goes through with the abortion” (David Wyche).

Finally, even if Jig where to go through with the abortion of her unborn child like the man wants, “their lives cannot, as she well knows, be the same as before. The aborted fetus will continue to come between them as they try to “…look at things and try new drinks” (SS 274). Their old existence, like their feelings for one another, will not be theirs anymore. They will have negated the relationship, and once it is taken away, “you never get it back” (276)” (David Wyche). The operation will inevitably change the relationship for the couple, no matter how much the man tries to tell Jig otherwise.

Works Cited

  1. Nagel, James. “Hills Like White Elephants: Overview.” Reference Guide to Short Fiction, edited by Noelle Watson, St. James Press, 1994. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 2 May 2019.
  2. Hardy, Donald E., and Heather K. Hardy. ““Love, Death and War: Metaphorical Interaction in Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants.’”.” Short Story Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 168, Gale, 2012. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 2 May 2019.
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Review On The Short Story Hills Like White Elephants. (2020, Nov 02). Retrieved from