Critical Analysis Essay on Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

Published: 2023-03-16
Critical Analysis Essay on Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Essay type:  Critical analysis essays
Categories:  Ernest Hemingway American literature
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1260 words
11 min read


It is quite clear that the themes of choices and new identity are portrayed in the story 'Hills Like White Elephants.' Therefore, this provides the basis for the exploration of the primary motive for making the choices between the characters. It furthers the investigation of the new identity reflected by the decisions made. As the story starts, Ernest Hemingway portrays the relationship between an American man with a woman known as Jig, and it further reflects on their journey in Spain, Europe. When waiting for the train at the train station, the writer emphasizes the conversation of Jig and her lover, the American man. It is through this conversation that choice made by the lovers, as mentioned above, reflects the issue of life and death. It is more significant to the audiences based on the fact that the story demonstrates the possibility of sterility or fertility of Jig due to the choices. Thus, this implies the use of suspense used by the writer because the end of the story does not reflect the decision made and its repercussions on the life of Jig and her relationship.

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The American man and Jig are left with a lot of choices to make before arriving at their destination in Madrid from Barcelona. Thus, this implies the main point of the story of Hemingway. As the two sat at the bar near the train station, Jigsaw the hill on the other side and started to imagine how it looks like the white elephants she knew for a long time (Hemingway, 41). However, this sparks the arguments which eventually remain unaccepted by both sides. But it reflects the use of suspense and imagery at the same time for compelling plotting of the story (Yanling, 26). It further continues as the American man tries to convince Jig to do an abortion. Thus, this implies the themes of choice and a new identity for both American men and Jig. At the train station, the Hill Like White Elephant shows more about the relationship of the latter due to the argument that emerges as a result of the reflection of the similarities. Indeed, the conversation between the two is merely about abortion and the separation (Gillette, 53). However, this is carried out to avoid anything that would make them live together as a married couple.

In this study, the exploration of the impacts of the choices made by the American man and Jig. It is mainly based on the fact that abortion is often accompanied by various repercussions such as infertility, death, depression, and as well as the loss of innocence (Bodenner, 46). And also, if Jig gives birth, the status of the two would change to take care of the child. Nevertheless, the story is filled with several symbols that reflect the main points of the conversation of Jig and her lover (Pourreza et al., 23). Therefore, the readers are required to be keen on the symbol used by the two characters. For example, the white elephant is merely a symbol of the unborn baby, and the hill represents the difficulties that the couple is facing, but the perseverance to make a sound decision regarding the operation would lead to the joy of the white elephant. In the story, the American man seems to avoid the talk about the white elephant while Jig is more interested in talking about it (Hemingway, 39). For her partner, he answers that he had never seen it in his life. And this shows a lack of experience of responsibility to take care of the baby even if it seems like the best option for the two.

It is, however, worth understanding that the conversation implies the willingness of the American man to separate with Jig, who claims to be pregnant the baby of the latter. Even though the man says, "I know you wouldn't mind it, Jig. It's not anything. It's just to let the air in..." (Hemingway, 42). Nevertheless, Jig seems to accept the will of her partners, which is a symbol of her desire to be with him and make a family. According to Bodenner (2017), the decision of a couple to terminate the pregnancy through abortion is often accompanied by adverse impacts that would lead to the end of the relationship due to lack of mutual responsibilities (Bodenner, 17). Therefore, this is more significant for the couple of Jig and the American man to make a sound decision regarding the operation. In the story, the man is not interested in having the baby simply because their relationship seems to be at the sloping edge if abortion is carried out.

In the story, the symbols used reveals more about their relationship and how it would proceed if the abortion is accepted as the best option for the couple. The conversation shows that the coupled is stranded between Barcelona and Madrid, which is a reflection of the position held the couple struggling with abortion and marriage (Pourreza et al., 29). Nonetheless, this is further strengthened by the possibility of the transition from mere relationship to marriage. As the two were relaxing at the bar while taking their beer, they are reminded about the oncoming train where the man hurries to carry the luggage, which has the stickers on them (Hemingway, 42). It is a reminder for the man about their transition to marriage by having the baby whom they are struggling to decide on the abortion. The man responds to Jig when he is asked whether he wants the girl, and he says, "But I don't want anybody but you. I don't want anyone else. And I know it's perfectly simple..." (Hemingway, 43). He is ignorant of the consequences of carrying out the abortion not only on the unborn baby, but also the girl who might experience depression, loss of innocence, and infertility. It implies the possibility of a lack of happiness even if the abortion is carried successfully.


In conclusion, this paper is primarily investigating the issue of abortion in the story of Ernest Hemingway, which is known as 'Hills Like White Elephant.' It is, however, worth realizing that the story is narrated as the two main characters known as the American man and Jig, who seems to the girlfriend to the man. It starts as the two are waiting for the train at the bar near the station, but this is used as a symbol of their issues in their relationship. The girl starts the conversation with the hint of the progression to marriage through the care of the unborn baby. However, the train from Barcelona to Madrid reflects more about the transition of the coupled from friendship to marriage, but the development seems unfulfilled. This is also coupled with the willingness of the man to choose abortion regardless of the girl's desire to have the baby.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills like white elephants." Men without women (1927): 39-44.

Bodenner, Chris. "When an Abortion Destroys a Relationship." The Atlantic, Atlantic Media The company, 24 Jan. 2017. Retrieved from destroys-a-relationship/495536/.

Pourreza, Abolghasem, and Aziz Batebi. "Psychological Consequences of Abortion among the Post Abortion Care Seeking Women in Tehran." Iranian journal of psychiatry vol. 6,1 (2011): 31-6.

Gillette, Meg. "Making Modern Parents in Ernest Hemingway's" Hills Like White Elephants" and Vina Delmar's Bad Girl." MFS Modern Fiction Studies 53.1 (2007): 50-69.

Yanling, Shi. "The Style and the Theme of Loss in Hemingway's Hills like White Elephants." Studies in Literature and Language, Canadian Research & Development Center of Sciences and Cultures; Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture, 1 Jan. 2013. Retrieved from

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