Symbolism in Hills Like White Elephants, by Ernest Hemingway

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In a well-written short story, different literary elements and terms are incorporated into the story by the author. Ernest Hemingway frequently uses various literary elements in his writing to entice the reader and enhance each piece that he writes. In Hills Like White Elephants, Hemingway uses symbols to teach the reader certain things that one may encounter during daily life. Symbolism may be defined as relating to, using, or proceeding by means of symbols (Princeton). The use of symbols in Hills Like White Elephants is utterly important to the plot line and to the fundamental meaning of the story. Through this use of symbolism, the reader can begin to reveal the hidden themes in this short story.

Hemingway provides the reader with insight into this story, before it is even read, through the title. The girl in the story mentions the hills that can be seen from the train station and describes them as looking like white elephants. Jig is at a crossroads in her life, accompanied by her partner. She is pregnant and cannot decide whether to choose life for the baby, or to get an abortion. Throughout the story, she experiences persistent uncertainty over what she wants to do with her life. Whatever decision she makes will have a drastic impact in her later years as a woman. While seated at the bar inside the train station, the girl says, “The hills look like white elephants” (Hemingway). The hills that are spotted in the distance directly parallel the decision that Jig must make. Critic Kenneth Johnston was recorded stating, “A white elephant is a rare pale-gray variety of an Asian elephant held sacred by the Burmese and Siamese. The girl’s reverence for life is captured by this meaning of the phrase.” Johnston also says, “A white ...

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