No Good Answers

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No Good Answers There are few issues for writers of prose, poetry, or lyrics more controversial than abortion. It inflames most who read it, and the issue can seldom be resolved without animosity. Ernest Hemingway and the Ben Folds / Darren Jessee songwriting duo circumvent this problem by not actually letting the audience know the final outcome. That decision is left to the individual reader or listener. Ernest Hemingway tackles this risky subject in his1927 short story “Hills like White Elephants.” The story revolves around a dialogue between lovers waiting for a train. Throughout the conversation, they discuss the merits and pitfalls of an “awfully simple operation… just to let the air in” (840). In the Folds / Jessee song “Brick,” a young man chronicles his journey with his girlfriend to what is presumed to be an abortion clinic. It is the day after Christmas and the girl’s parents have gone out of town. “They’re not home to find us out / And we drive.” In the days and weeks following, the girl appears to become more and more distraught until they are forced to confess. Although neither of these works mentions the word abortion, each gives clues as to the subject being addressed. Both sets of couples seem somewhat resigned to having the abortion, but the discussion is still on the table. In “Hills,” the arguing couple repeatedly mentions the “simple operation” (840). The American remarks that he has, “known lots of people that have done it” (840). Jig comments, “So have I,” but goes on to say, “And afterward they were all so happy.” (840). This statement seems tinged with irony. The American continues to insist how “very simple” and “perfectly natural” it all is (840). Jig, however, appea... ... middle of paper ... she had the abortion and is deeply troubled, or that she is still pregnant and has been too frightened to tell anyone. With the couple in Hemingway’s “Hills,” their discussion appears to come to a head when Jig begs the American to “please please please …stop talking?” (841). After that, the train is nearing and each goes back to their side of the wall with seemingly nothing resolved. Though these two works come from very different eras, the truths in them remain virtually unchanged. Neither Hemingway nor Folds and Jessee offer any solutions nor make any judgments. They simply present some of the realities of unplanned pregnancies with the hope that someone somewhere will be spared the agony of this decision. It is never, nor should it be, an easy decision to make. It is, however, a decision everyone should make every attempt to avoid having to make.
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