Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

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The Girl’s Metamorphosis

In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants,” Jig’s shifting focus on the surrounding landscape and environment, along with her dialogue, signifies her development from a dependent character who embodies traditionally feminine qualities, to a self-sufficient individual with more androgynous traits.
The opposing landscape on either side of the train station in the Ebro river valley represents Jig’s two possible courses of action regarding her pregnancy. One side has white hills and “no shade and no trees,” (273). This side represents the option to abort her unplanned pregnancy. The other side of the valley is lush with plant life and the river, which makes the land so fertile, representing the possibility of going through with the pregnancy. Initially, Jig plays a traditionally feminine role in which she is passive and dependent on the American man she is with. While sitting in the shade outside the station, “The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry,” (273). In looking at the lifeless side of the valley, she is considering having the abortion. When she tells the American that “[The hills] look like white elephants,” he counters, “I’ve never seen one,” (273). While Jig is only being observant and “bright,” the man’s typically masculine hyper-rational response indicates that her observation is somehow irrational and characteristic of women’s overpowering emotions and delusions. The man is quick to dismiss her comparison as incorrect because it is not a reasonable, masculine statement. White elephants are also symbolic of good fortune and prosperity, but have come to be synonymous with something of value that is at the same...

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...nt. She has asserted her power in the relationship and on the subject of the abortion. She is entirely changed from the dependent female to a free individual.
Throughout the story the girl and the American discuss how things were fine or will be fine after the abortion, but after her transformation, Jig tells him, “‘I feel fine…There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine,’” (278). As a result of her personal growth and transcendence of the conventions of gender roles, which is reflected in her interactions with her environment, as well as her dialogue, Jig decides to keep the baby, because it is not a problem that needs to be operated on. She won’t be fine after she has an abortion. She already is fine.

Works Cited
Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills Like White Elephants." 1953. The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, n.d. 273-78. Print.
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