The Themes of Abortion and Pregnancy in Hills Like White Elephants

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Hills Like White Elephants, written by Ernest Hemingway, is a story that takes place in Spain while a man and woman wait for a train. The story is set up as a dialogue between the two, in which the man is trying to convince the woman to do something she is hesitant in doing. Through out the story, Hemingway uses metaphors to express the characters’ opinions and feelings.

Hills Like White Elephants displays the differences in the way a man and a woman view pregnancy and abortion. The woman looks at pregnancy as a beautiful aspect of life. In the story the woman’s pregnancy is implied through their conversation. She refers to the near by hills as elephants; "They look like white elephants" (464). She is comparing the hills to her own situation, pregnancy. "They’re lovely hills. They really don’t look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees" (465). Just as the hills have their distinct beauty to her, she views pregnancy in the same fashion making the reference to the hills having skin—an enlarged mound forming off of what was once flat. The man views pregnancy just the opposite. When the girl is talking about the white elephants and agrees that the man has never seen one, his response is, "I might have, just because you say I haven’t doesn’t prove anything" (464). This shows the defensive nature of the man, and when the woman implies the he is unable to differentiate between what is beautiful and what is not.

Another issue that is discussed in this story is abortion and two opposing views. When the conversation turns from the hills to the operation one is able to comprehend the mentality of the woman. "Then what will we do afterwards?" (465) shows the woman is concerned about what will occur after the operation. "And if I do it you will be happy and things will be like they were and you will love me" (465). Here, the woman implies she wants the reassurance that he will still be there after the operation, because an abortion places an emotional strain on the on the woman.

Throughout the story it is evident that the woman is not sure if she wants to have the abortion—shown in her hesitation to agree. The woman feels that people gain freedom through experiences. "And we could have all of this, and every day we make it more impossible" (466).

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"The Themes of Abortion and Pregnancy in Hills Like White Elephants." 123HelpMe.com. 26 Apr 2018
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Here, she is implying the experiences we encounter daily—pregnancy on her part—give us the freedom we hold so dear. "I said we could have everything…(w)e could have the whole world" (466), and with this freedom the possibilities are endless. The man’s speech shows the he believes abortion is not a big deal: "I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in" (465). Letting the ‘air in’ is referring to the way abortions are preformed, and his confidence in predicting the girl’s reaction—"I know you wouldn’t mind it" (465)—implies that abortion is just another operation to him. The man feels that if the girl does not have the abortion his freedom will be taken from him. He feels the additional responsibility would limit his opportunities and thus his freedom. When the girl says, "It’s ours," referring to everything the world has to offer, the man replies, "No, it isn’t. And once they take it away, you can never get it back" (466). He is telling her that once they take ‘it’—their freedom—away they will not be able to reclaim it. At the end of the story, the main points are reinforced. The man returns from taking the bags to the tracks and asks if the woman is ok. Her reply is, "I feel fine. There is nothing wrong with me. I feel fine" (467). Here she reiterates that she sees the pregnancy as an experience that is not necessarily bad (as the gentleman is implying). The man, on the other hand, feels nothing has been accomplished. He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks. He looked up the tracks but could not see the train. Coming back, he walked through the barroom, where people waiting for the train were drinking. He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people. They were all waiting reasonably for the train. He went back through the bead curtain. She was sitting there and smiled at him. ‘Do you feel better?’ (467) This is a major metaphor in the story explaining the man’s situation at the end. He took the bags (questions) to the tracks looking for the train (an answer), but saw nothing coming. The answers to the questions he is looking for are not going to come to him; instead he has to wait and see what happens. In the bar, he was the only one not waiting patiently for the train, implying that the others are at ease with the situation they are in, not anxious to overcome it. When he returns to the woman, the man asks if she feels better, hoping that the situation would have fixed itself in the time he was gone so he could move on in his life.

Abortion and pregnancy are two issues that people view differently, and the main characters in Hills Like White Elephants are examples of this. The woman sees pregnancy as a beautiful fact of life and a wonderful experience. She feels that losing that experience would take away from her freedom. The man, on the other hand, looks at pregnancy as an inconvenience that happens, and getting an abortion is an easy way to overcome the inconvenience and continue on with life without complications.

Work Cited Page

1) Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants. Goshgarian 463-467


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