Analysis of “Hills Like White Elephants”

Hemingway’s “Hills Like WhiteElephants”

  1. Where is the story set? How does the setting contribute to your understanding of the story?

The story is set at the trainstation. This is noted when the writer says that, “the station wasbetween two lines of rails in the sun (Hemingway 276). The setting ofthis story is instrumental in the understanding of the story. First,through the story, the writer brings to the attention of the readerthat the relationship between the American man and the girl is atloggerhead. Further, the position of the station as narrated by thewriter is instrumental in understanding the story. The writer notesthat “it was very hot, and the express from Barcelona would come inforty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and wentto Madrid (Hemingway 276).” From this, there is an indication thatthe station is not the final destination. The station is a point thatsignifies a choice. Travelers including the two main characters inthis story have a choice to make. The choice, in this case, regardsthe status of their relationship. They have a choice to proceed withtheir relationship or not. Additionally, the girl in this storyseemingly is at the valley or mid-point between two different places.This helps to understand the dilemma in which the girl is put inregards to choices she has to make. The different contrasting areaswould signify fertility or sterility as regards to the relationshipstatus of the girl.

  1. What is a white elephant? Analyze the symbolic significance of the title and come to some conclusions.

A white elephant is oneoutstanding symbol that has been used in the study. White elephantrefers to a gift that is useless to the recipient, mainly when thesatisfaction of the item is way below the cost of its upkeep. In thisperspective, the white elephant could mean the uterus. The authornotes, “They look like white elephants” (Hemingway 276). Thethings that look like white elephants, in this case, the writercaptures when he states that, “the girl was looking off at thelines of hills (Hemingway 277)”. This symbolizes uterus that isincreasingly growing.

  1. How would you describe point of view in this story? How would you describe each of the main characters? Support your interpretation.

The narrator uses third-personand is completely detached from the story. The storyteller and thejournalist personalities of Hemingway work together in constructingthe story. As a journalist, Hemingway does not tell the reader thethoughts of the characters, only the things they see, say and do. Asa journalist, he also goes further to provide a description of thescenery. The narrator notes that “it was hot, and the express fromBarcelona would come in forty minutes (Hemingway 276).” At thispoint, the narrator tells us more about the weather and the trainschedules, things that we know. From the point of view of thenarrator, the scenery is near river Eboro in Spain, where some whitehills can be seen. As a narrator, Hemingway uses past tense inshowing that he is communicating the story after it has taken place.He is constructing the story from memory. Jig comes out as veryindecisive and careless in this story. She agrees to every otherassertion that is made by the American man. By agreeing to do theoperation, which appears to be abortion, means she cares little abouther situation. She retorts that “Oh, yes. But I don’t care aboutme (Hemingway 278).” She does this just to remain relevant and incontrol of the situation. On the other hand, the man comes out in thestory as authoritative as every other decision he makes isrubberstamped by the girl with no more questions.

  1. In what way does Hemingway’s dialogue simultaneously reveal and hide the subject of the story?

Hemingwayhas been tactical in the manner in which he narrates the story.Through the dialogue, the subject is hidden and revealed at somepoint. By using third-person point of view, Hemingway manages only totell the reader about the things that can be seen, the things thathave been said and the done. A good example is the talk of theschedule and weather, which does little to reveal the subject of thestory. The narrator notes, “It was hot, and the express fromBarcelona would come in forty minutes (Hemingway 276)”. On theother hand, by allowing the characters in the story to converse thesubject matter of the story tends to come through. The maincharacters converse to a point when they offer the reader someinsight into the topic.

  1. The number two is used ten times in the story. What is the significance of this repetition? Note especially the two parallel train tracks and the two strings of beads that do not intersect: Do they suggest anything about the character’s lives?

The number two is repeated in thestory ten times to signify the type of relationship between thecharacters. They are boyfriend and girlfriend and their lives runalong. Their luggage symbolizes their paths, which run alongside likethe train tracks. However, the train tracks are parallel and willnever meet. This signifies the nature of the conversation between thetwo main characters. The man wants the girl to have an abortion andsees it as normal and simple. However, the girl is not okay with it,even though she is willing to do it for the sake of her love for theman. When the man does not feel convinced that the girl accepts hisproposition, he continues to try and talk her into liking the idea ofabortion until she breaks down and requests him to “please stoptalking”. They have got have “…two heavy bags” implying thatapart from traveling together and sharing hotel rooms, there isnothing else they share in common. The man cannot even order a singlebear or drink for both of them, meaning they cannot share anything incommon. The girl likes the landscape she sees on the other side ofthe river signifying that she wants to have the baby and settle, havea normal life.

The man on the other side wantsto continue traveling. This can be seen when he is eager to move thebags and get ready for the coming train. The station, situatedbetween two lines of rails can signify the pregnancy, which attemptsto bring together the man and the girl into a more permanent union.The girl appears at ease at the station, and is not hastened by thenews of the incoming train this signifies that she is happy aboutthe pregnancy. The man, however, is too eager to be on the road, backto their normal way of life, just like the two lines of railscontinue in twos. He does not want the pregnancy to hold him down andso suggests “…an awfully simple operation.” (Hemingway 277).The lady is also tired of their way of life. She does not want to“…look at things and try new drinks” (277). However, the man“…just can’t think about it” (Hemingway 277), he admits hedoesn’t want to worry about the pregnancy. He pretends to have thegirl’s interest at heart by stating that she doesn’t have to gothrough the operation if she doesn’t want to, but he insists on ituntil the girl has to request him to stop talking. In the end, theyconclude their conversation with two parallel lines of speech. Theman asks if the lady is feeling better, even though he knows sheisn’t. The girl gives an answer that does not satisfy the man’squestion by saying “…there is nothing wrong with…” her(Hemingway 279).

  1. What is the central conflict between the two lovers? What is the main point or theme of the story?

Inabilityto articulate their ideas properly seems to be a central conflictbetween the two. The two are not able to agree on a matter. One hand,the American comes out as manipulating the girl. He wants the girl toendorse every other thing he says, “We can have everything” andthe girls retorts that “No, we can’t” (Hemingway 278), TheAmerican further says, “We can have the whole world” and sheinterjects, “No, we can’t” (Hemingway 278). The two seems notto agree on anything hence exposing a conflict in communicationbetween the two.

Themain theme in this story is the inability to communicate proper andconfront the problems that arise among the main characters. Theauthor is bringing to the reader’s attention that a problem existswhich needs to be sorted out, but communication proves to be ahindrance in even agreeing on the operation. At one point Jig soundsfrustrated by the lack of communication despite talking to eachother. Jig tells the American man that, &quotWould you please pleaseplease please please please please stop talking? (278)”&nbsp

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. HillsLike White Elephants.Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 2013. Print.