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“Communicating And The Lack Thereof In Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’“

1813 words - 8 pages

"Communicating and the lack thereof in Hemingway's 'Hills like White Elephants'"The short story "Hills like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway is a portrayal of a young American couple traveling in Spain. The couple, referred to as the American and the girl, is at a train station waiting for a train to Madrid. They are contemplating whether or not to have a procedure that they refer to only as "the operation" but which is assumed to be an abortion. The man tries to talk the girl into having the operation by promising that it is a simple procedure and that their lives will go back to normal afterwards. The girl, however, who appears to be more aware of the extent of both the operation and ...view middle of the document...

Instead, they call it the operation and talk only briefly about how it affects their lives. The girl even goes as far as to ask the American, "Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?" (Hemingway 232). It is obvious that both the American and the girl were happier before she got pregnant, even if it was ignorant bliss. Now that they are forced to examine their relationship, they have perhaps discovered that it isn't as stable as they had thought before and it, too, becomes an elephant in the room. The American blames the fall of their relationship solely on the pregnancy, "We'll be fine afterward. Just like we were before…That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy." The girl, however, seems to understand that their relationship was already flawed.One of the main themes in Hemingway's story is gender difference. There is a clear divide between how the male and female characters are portrayed, both of which are typical of Hemingway's view of males and females ("Ernest" 1). The male character, referred to only as the American, is very controlling of both his emotions and his surroundings. The American knows that he wants his girlfriend to have the abortion and isn't afraid to tell her, although he often refutes his claims by saying that it is actually her decision, "I think it's the best thing to do. But I don't want you to do it if you don't really want to" (Hemingway 231). He presents his self in a forceful manner, only occasionally backing away from his original stance.The female character, on the other hand, seems unsure of herself and indecisive. The girl appears to not want the abortion; however, she changes her mind several times throughout, almost always in regards to the American's words and actions. It is apparent that the girl is dependent on the American, needing him to order drinks for her. Even the way that she is referred to in the story shows her dependence on the American. Whereas the American could still be referred to as "the American" without anybody else, the girl being called "the girl" depends on her relationship with the American. It is almost as if she is so unsure of herself that she does not have an identity outside of being the American's girlfriend and, therefore, is unable to clearly express her own wishes regarding having the abortion. The girl, however, is much more aware of the deterioration of their relationship. This sort of insight into a woman's perspective is unique of Hemingway, according to John Raeburn, author of "Skirting the Hemingway Legacy" (213). Raeburn points out that although Hemingway portrayed his self as extremely masculine, he was also "capable of imagining a woman's point of view as few authors can" and that he "gave uncommon perspective voice to female experience" (Raeburn 213).The setting plays a large role in this story. Even before the actual story begins, the title hints at the importance that the setting has...

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