Literary analysis: Hills Like White Elephants, by Ernest Hemingway
Filed Under: Lifestyle, Music & Film | Posted: 03/05/2008 at 5:35PM
Comments | Region: Texas | United States
After careful reading of Ernest Hemingway’s "Hills Like White Elephants", it is very clear what it’s purpose is. The story takes in the Ebro River valley of Spain, where an American man and his female companion Jig are waiting for a train and having drinks discussing "doing it". Obviously, by "doing it", they’re referring to whether or not they should have an abortion. At the end of the story, we can only assume that they decide to go through with the abortion, when Jig tells the American male "I don’t care about me." The man goes and haves a drink by himself and return to his companion. She assures him that she is fine and they both head to Madrid, where, presumably, the abortion will take place.
Some of the themes used in this story includes the coming of age, psychological manipulation in a sense that he attempts to manipulate Jig into having the abortion by presenting the operation as a simple procedure that is in her best interests. The dynamics of the romantic relationship and it’s metamorphosis into a family is another theme.
When it comes to symbolism, this story has plenty of it. One of the main symbolism in the story is when Jig stares at the hills and comments on them. She says they look like white elephants. The phrase "Hills Like White Elephants" is symbolic of the pregnant Jigs belly. It’s also symbolic because the American views the couple’s unborn child as an approaching obstacle just like a hill. Another piece of symbolism includes the train tracks form a dividing line between the barren expanse of land stretching toward the hills on one side and the green, fertile farmland on the other, symbolizing the choice faced by each of the main characters and their differing interpretations of the dilemma of pregnancy. Finally, her name Jig, is symbolic because jig is another word for a whiskey measurer, which is a tool. It’s symbolic because the American male thinks of her as more of a tool than a person with feelings and values.
In the end, after careful examination, there is no doubt that this story is a great read and deserves to be read. Probably one of the best Hemingway short story he’s written.