“Hills LikeWhite Elephants” is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway that waspublished in 1927.
The story takes place in a train station in Spain. There aretwo central characters, the American and Jig. They are having a very seriousconversation about a pivotal point in their relationship. They are discussingabout a certain operation that is not specifically explained in the story, butit is implied to be an abortion. There are themes of doubt and ambivalence aswell as the consequences that result from difficult choices. Jig is pregnant withthe American’s child.
The story focuses on the pregnancy, and the topic ofabortion. Jig was probably a creation of Hemmingway’s thoughts on abortion. Itcould also be about how us as humans trying to please others while goingagainst our own beliefs. The American comes off as impetuous towards Jig despitehis kind words. He seems to not care about Jig’s feelings and thoughts and onlyseems to care about his own. “The man seeks to neutralize be depicting theoperation as a natural process of healing and restoration” (Grant 271)”It’s really not anything, It’s just to let the air in.
.. they just letthe air in and then it’s all perfectly natural” (Hemingway 2). The setting introduces a tenseatmosphere that keeps up throughout the entire story. The first use of imagery isin the introduction of the story, “The hills across the valley of the Ebrowere long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and thestation was between two lines of rails in the sun.” (Hemingway 1).
The tworail lines represent the two choices that face the couple. Jig seems to care alot for the American, so much so that she is torn between the two difficult decisions.The surroundings of the train station plays a crucial role in the story withits symbolism. ” Immediately the symbolic significance of the title andthe reason for the frequent mention of the hills becomes apparent”( WeeksJr.
76). Jig says that the long andwhite hills “look like white elephants”. A white elephant could berepresenting an expensive item that could be a burden financially. The colorwhite could symbolize the innocence of her unborn child. TheAmerican wants this abortion because he wants to keep the lifestyle hecurrently has. He realizes that if Jig were to go through with the pregnancy,he would have to settle down, which he does not want. Therefore, the Americanthinks an abortion is the best answer. This is clear due to his belief that anabortion is an “easy” process, and that things will be normal afterthe operation is complete.
His comments of “I’ll go with you and I’ll staywith you all the time” (Hemingway 2), referring to the abortion, shows histrue desire to keep their relationship the way it is by not bringing a childinto their life. Jig has many doubts about the situation, but she goes alongwith it so they can keep the lifestyle they’ve always had. “Itis a particularly significant story forour times when radical changes in traditional sexual morality and the issue oflegalized abortion seem to emphasize the age old problem presented in ‘HillsLike White Elephants'”( Weeks Jr.
77). The story shows the reality ofpeople’s lives around the world. The struggle to choose what people believe isright or wrong. Hemmingway presents a piece with truth behind the ink. It allowsthe reader to possibly relate to what he is trying to convey.
He really bringsup an issue that was not talked about enough during the time it was written.