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Underlying Meanings In Hills Like White Elephants By Ernest Hemingway

1905 words - 8 pages

Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", is a story about a doomed relationship. Hemingway uses symbolism, dialogue, and also setting to tell this story. Behind the words said by the characters, and sights explained to the readers, are hidden meanings that when analyzed, bring the story to another level.

Alcohol holds a certain amount of symbolism in the story. The two main characters, "Jig", and a man we only come to know as "The American" are sitting in a bar. The pair order drinks, and they also talk about them. Though the woman in the story is pregnant, she still drinks. From this, one could only conclude that she either does not care about the damage she is ...view middle of the document...

I did not think he was too serious in anything he said, and the fact that he can sit and drink beer while telling this woman that he loves her, makes his dialogue seem less serious, and more like he is lying to her. A bar is a place where men tell women they love them to get them to come home with them. While drinking beer, he would probably normally be hitting on her, not coaxing her into having an abortion. The conversation and topic is completely out of place in this setting.

A bamboo-beaded curtain blowing across the table also holds some significance to the story. After they stop talking about alcohol and right before they do begin to talk about the abortion, a beaded curtain blows across the table. In a way, this simple bead curtain is really like a brick wall has just come up between them, and their opinions on the matter will be on different sides of the wall. The man, who is against having the child, tries to make it seem like he doesn't care. The woman says in a very roundabout manor, that she wants to have the child. The wall between them plays a large role in keeping them from really speaking their minds about the matter and making a decision together. However, it is not just the wall that keeps the couple from coming to a conclusion, or even seeing each other's real opinions. They lack basic communication skills. The two have a relationship based upon sex and therefore are unable to convey how they really feel about anything. The pair has probably never had a serious conversation and evidently do not feel comfortable expressing themselves, or even showing emotion on the topic.

At one point in the story, the reader gets an idea of the scenery outside, and this scenery also has symbolism hidden in it. If either of the two had any genuine, though hidden, feeling in her words and thoughts, it would be the woman. "Jig" as she is called by the man, seems to be a bit more serious about the matter, and seems to be looking for some real feedback from her partner. It is she who looks out the window and takes a look at the scenery. On one side she notices a dry valley, where there are hills, "like white elephants." On the other side is a fertile valley with a river running through it. There are two instances of symbolism in this situation. The hills that are like elephants symbolize a pregnant woman's belly. The fact that the hills are on the less appealing side of the valley suggests that if she were to continue with her pregnancy, she would be alone and desolate, like the valley. However, should she choose to end the pregnancy, she would frolic happily on the other side of the valley. This fertile valley tells her aborting her pregnancy will show her a life full of fertility. This fertility is telling her that there may be a better time in her life to have a child, and that this is not her only chance at happiness. This conveys of course that her other chance at happiness could only be found elsewhere,...

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