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Male Dominance In "Hills Like White Elephants" and "The Chrysanthemums" Essay

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Both Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants and John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums portray oppressed female characters in the early 1900s. In Hemingway’s short, Jig is oppressed by her lover known only as “The American,” whereas, the main character in The Chrysanthemums, Elisa Allen, feels the weight of oppression from society (male dominated) as a whole. Although the driving force of the two women’s subjugation varies slightly, their emotional responses to such are what differentiate the two.
Throughout Hills Like White Elephants, the American refers to his girlfriend only as Jig (which is a device used for measuring whiskey). This nickname implies that he sees her only as an object; a companion to his wolfish self-gratification. The name in itself is an epithet for the bibulous and carefree lost generation lifestyle on which the two indulged. By leaving the American nameless, Hemingway endows the character with strength in anonymity. He is not concerned with his health, life or future and is only preoccupied with his present existence and the preservation of what he considers to be pleasurable to him alone. This gives the American the upper hand over Jig; thus exhibiting his dominance. Although she so desperately wants to move on from this lifestyle and start a family, she does not want to lose the man she loves. Therefore she is willing to postpone her transition into womanhood so as not to ruin the romantic connection she feels exists between them.
The subtle manipulative control that the American has over Jig’s thoughts and actions transforms itself into a complete control over her decision. After finding out that she is pregnant, Jig has a difficult time weighing her options because of her dependence o...


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...lthough consciously made will not be of her own influence. In addition to her youthful inexperience regarding matters of life and love, the American’s dominance over her and her fear of being without him will be what forces her hand. In a sense, she was trapped. This is undoubtedly the first of many major discords in their relationship. After maturing with age, Jig will grow weary of the American’s manipulative ascendency; thus allowing her to bolster her own self-esteem and present him with an ultimatum.



Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills Like White Elephants.” Fiction 101: An Anthology of Short Fiction. James H. Pickering. Twelfth Edition. Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. 638-641

Steinbeck, John. “The Chrysanthemums.” Fiction 101: An Anthology of Short Fiction. James H. Pickering. Twelfth Edition. Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. 1162-1168


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