Literary analysis over "Hills like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway

Published: 2022-02-08
Literary analysis over "Hills like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Ernest Hemingway
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1281 words
11 min read

Ernest Hemingway was a literature writer born in 1889. He began writing at the age of 17. His story "Hills like white elephants" was the most distinctive literature he ever wrote in his lifetime. The renowned novelist during the time he wrote this short story was going through sociological struggles as he had just remarried after divorcing his first wife. The novelist was healing injuries from the political war in which he participated. In 1927, Hemingway was economically well as he had started to receive success and recognition from his short stories like Men without women. In his short story "Hills like white elephants," Hemingway talks about a couple taking a beer at a train station in Spain where they conversed about seeking an abortion. The girl, Jig seems restless about the "simple operation" as her partner call it. The ends before the couple could reach a conclusive decision. This paper is a literary analysis of "Hills like white elephants" in the form of plot, symbolism, character, setting, and language as they explain the narrative.

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The plot of the story is as follows. Unnamed American man and a girl named "Jig" are having a drink at a train station in Northern Spain (Holmes). The two have various beverages to cool from the hot weather. Jig looks from across the bar and sees hills that look like white elephants. She says, "They look like white elephants" (Hemingway 229). She adds that the mountains don't look like white elephants, but the coloring makes them close to white elephants. The man starts a conversation where he requests the girl to have an abortion. The girl is worried that the operation might go sideways. The man, however, convinces her that it is simple and once done, they will all be happy again. The girl does not seem convinced. She wonders whether he will continue loving her as before. He assures her that he loves and will continue to love her. Jig no longer want to continue the conversation, so she asks the American to stop talking. He tells her that she does not have to do the abortion if she feels uncomfortable about it. The story ends while the couple has not come to an explicit agreement.

The award-winning writer use symbolism to convey the significant theme of abortion (Valeri 8). Symbolism helps the reader understand the meaning of the hidden theme. He uses beer as one aspect to convey the theme. The beer represents the couple's regular routines. Jig complains that all they do is drink beer; thus, she suggests trying another brand of beer. They end up trying several others. She wants to break the monotonous routine by trying new things. The bad and good hills represent the actions and their consequences. If the girl decides to have the abortion, she might not bear children in the future. She is worried about wasting her body as well as her youth, "Then what will we do afterward?" (Hemingway 230). If Jig decides to keep the baby, she will have a beautiful future, "the good hills." On the contrary, she might have the bad hills if the operation goes wrong. The theme of abortion is therefore revealed because the girl has to make a death or life decision. The railroad station between two rocks represents the abortion operation. The operation is to be done on the vagina between the legs. The railroad is the birth system, and the two stones are the girl's legs.

The two main characters of the story are the American and the girl. The American, the male protagonist of the narrative, remains unnamed throughout the story. The girl also does not address the male by his name. He is so determined to have the girl do the abortion. However, he cares about her feelings and does not want her to go through with it does not feel right. His focus is on the surroundings of the bar, thus pays less attention to what the girl says. The girl, on the other hand, is called Jig. The American tells her, "I know you wouldn't mind it, Jig." (Hemingway 230). Unlike her partner, Jig seems restless and slow to decide on whether to have the operation or not. She even wants the American to stop talking about it because it pressures her. The girl seems so reluctant about the topic, on the one hand, she wants to talk about it, on the other, she wants to talk about anything else but that topic.

The setting of the story is meant to space and locate the symbolism of the narrative (Holmes). The story is set from Northern Spain, specifically in River Ebro. Moreover, the picture is drawn from a railway station. "the station was between two lines of the arils in the sun," (Hemingway 229). This reveals the geographical location of the setting. More setting tools reveal that the girl is sitting at the table from which she can have a mountain view. The opposite view of the mountain shows an exhausted and parched land. The two pictures further reveal the symbolism of the two parts of the abortion decision. The two sides, one with joy and one with bitter consequences depends on what decision Jig takes. The two different views also describe the division of opinion between the couple. The American is so determined and would wish the girl to accept and do the operation. The girl does not feel the same. She is looking further at the outcome of the process. Although her partner tries to convince her that the abortion will go well, she is not convinced.

Hemingway uses the language inadequately to reveal the meaning of the story ("Analysis"). He particularly decides not to name the main characters but focus on the dialogue between them. The author use simile in the story's title, "Hills like white elephants" to reveal the pregnancy issue and the tension between the couple. The pressure in their conversation indicates the character's loss of words in their communication. The girl continually focuses on what they can or cannot say. Even though the American barely listen to what the girl says, the two mirrors each other's choice of words and repeat them often. For example, the American suggests that they should try to have a good time together, and the girl replies, "All right, I was trying." (Hemingway 230). The short story was initially written in English and used simple language. The author intended to make it easy for any reader to unveil the meaning of the story.

In conclusion, "Hills like white elephants" is a short story from the collection of Women without men written by Earnest Hemingway. The literary analysis of the narrative reveals the use of plot, symbolism, language, setting, and character to expose the inner intended meaning. The symbolic story was written when Hemingway had to make life decisions after he had suffered from war and divorce from his first wife. The story is intended to reveal part of his life that he had to make a paramount decision that would define the rest of his life. Although the story ends when Jig has not mentioned her choice, it is clear that she was considering the abortion suggestion.

Works Cited

"Analysis of Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway Essay." Bartleby,

Holmes, Martha Stoddard. "Hills Like White Elephants Hemingway, Ernest." Hills Like White Elephants,

Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills like white elephants." Men without women (1927): 229-232. Retrieved from

Valeri, Laura. "More Than Skin-Deep: Reading Past Whiteness in Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants"." Journal of Creative Writing Studies 3.1 (2018): 8. Retrieved from

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