In Hemingway's short story "Hills like white elephants", it describes a dialogue
between an American and his girlfriend who is young and named Jig. It happens when
they are waiting for a train from Barcelona to Madrid in a bar. In their dialogue, they
frequently mention an operation, but Hemingway does not tell us directly what the
operation is. However,the subtexts suggest that it is an abortion.
In their conversation, there are moments that reveal to us what kind of operation
they are talking about. First of all, the man mentions several times that it is an awfully
simple operation, and many people have done that. He tries to use this excuse to
persuade Jig. And in their conversation, Jig says "And afterward they were all so
happy"(373). She uses the word " they", which indicates that the surgery is a thing
between two persons. And many people can have this problem ...view middle of the document...
I do not want any one else." this sentence
implies that if Jig did not do the operation, there will be another person involving
between them. It could not be another adult; otherwise they have broken up already.
So a baby is more likely.
Not only the man's, but also the girl's words suggest that the operation is an
abortion. "And once they take it away, you never get it back"(374). It means that the
"it" is very precious and easy to lose. Besides she always worries that the man will
not love her. And her emotion swells and subsides. So the abortion might take away
what stands for their love.
Not only their conversation, but also the scenery Hemingway portrays suggest
that the operation is an abortion. In the descriptions of the girl, Hemingway uses a lot
of words to show us the scenery around them. One side is barren, the other side is
fertile. According to Oxford Dictionary, to be barren means land or soil which has no
plants growing on it or woman who unable to produce children. To be fertile means
land or soil that is able to produce good crops or woman who are able to produce
babies. So these two are completely opposite to each other. It also indicates that Jig
has two choices.
The title "Hills like white elephants" is important to our inference "the operation
is an abortion" too. Jig frequently mentions "hills like white elephants" in the story. In
India white elephants are something valuable, but ordinary people can not afford. The
couple, Jig and the man are ordinary people, they are travelers, so it is difficult for
them to raise a baby in an environment like that. Even if they want to keep the baby,
such environment is not good for a child. So maybe that is one of the reasons why the
man insists Jig to have the surgery. But from the girl's words, we can not know
whether she wants to do the operation.
Although Hemingway does not tell us what the operation is, but from the
conversations between the American and the girl, these mountains, land, river he
portrays, and the title "Hills like white elephants", we can learn that the operation they
are talking about is an abortion.