JIG’S DEVELOPMENT OF MIND IN “HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANT”
Marta Benvinda dos Santos Silva
Márton Támas Gémes
In “Hills like white elephants”, a couple, Jig and the American, discuss whether an abortion is the best way to solve the problems they are having in their relationship. Their conversations show that the man is undoubtedly in favor of it. As he constantly repeats, it is “an awfully simple operation”. (HEMINGWAY, 1976, p. 40) Jig, on the other hand, seems to be very uncomfortable towards it, acting under pressure. However, she passes through a transformation of mind along the short story, from submissive to independent from her company’s demandings.
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“Is it good with water?”
“It’s all right.” (HEMINGWAY, 1976, p. 40)
As Renner (1995, p. 28) points out, “clearly the American is the leader in their relationship: he knows Spanish, […] he is knowledgeable about drinks, and he is in charge of their luggage, and thus, presumably, of the destination of their travels.” That gives him an advantage. Feeling insecure and indecisive, Jig assumes therefore a passive character and does not oppose his decisions.
On the same token, the American continues imposing his own opinion regarding the abortion, trying to convince Jig not to have the baby. “I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s just to let the air in.” (HEMINGWAY, 1976, p. 41) Instead of saying something she keeps silent and tries to avoid eye-contact, what confirms she is not willing to talk about it. Wyche (2002) affirms that her body language at first demonstrates they have argued about it before and also that she had strongly reserved thoughts towards it but she cannot find a way to express them. Even though the girl did not have scientific knowledge, she knew that the operation could not be “perfectly simple” as he was stating. (HEMINGWAY, 1976, p. 41)
By listening to the same arguments the man insists giving, Jig addressed him a series of questions and then surrenders: “[…] I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me. […] I’ll do it and everything will be fine.” (HEMINGWAY, 1976, p. 41) Wyche (2002, p. 3) highlights that her attitude did not mean “abandonment of self, but an attempt - calculated, instinctive, or both - to elicit a desired response from the man.” At this point, she is starting to realize the impact of her decision on the abortion issue. “Once they take it away, you never get it back.” (HEMINGWAY, 1976, p. 42) Her assertion, as a result, broke the man’s stiffness and then he replied to her: “I don’t want you to do it if you feel that way.” (HEMINGWAY, 1976, p. 42)
The setting plays an important role as well. As Renner states (1995) they serve as symbol of Jig’s movement of mind. Two hills crossed the valley of Ebro, dividing it thus in two sides. One where “there was no shade and no trees” and the other where “there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads”. (HEMINGWAY, 1976, p. 39) The couple begin having conversations in the first side of the hills. The hot...