In the classic short story, "Hills like White Elephants,” by Earnest Hemingway, Hemingway tackles a subject that has plagued society for decades. Though throughout the story it remains unspoken, the subject of the story is abortion. The story was written in 1927 at a time when abortion was illegal. Abortion was something that nobody talked about openly. It was a something that would be looked down upon. Hemingway writes “Hills Like White Elephants” with multiple metaphors to mask the idea of abortion.
The American and a female named Jig, are at a crossroads with a decision as to keep the baby or to have “the operation” (XXX) The setting of the story is a train station at the base of a hill, the hill having very different landscapes on each side. One side of the hill is barren and dead, while the other side of the hill is green and full of life. This setting conveys the decision that must be made in regards to the unspoken pregnancy of Jig. The train station also symbolizes a decision point in their lives, conveying a decision as to which direction to go.
In the story, Hemingway relies on symbolism to convey the theme of abortion. The characters in the story, “The American,” and “Jig” arrive at a train station in the Ebro Valley on their way from Barcelona to Madrid. While stopped for a forty-five minute layover, awaiting the next train, a conversation takes place that is a crossroads in the characters lives. Just as the train station is a potential turning point to decide whether or not to continue on their journey or turn around and go back, the train station is also a symbol of the decision about whether Jig will have an abortion or not. They can continue on the path that they are on to Madrid to have the operation, or the...
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...ion or any direct reference to the decision made at the stories end leaves the reader lost with their own thoughts where surprisingly complex and controversial ideas are conveyed and answers are reveled. The questions and the answers in the story remain unspoken, allowing the reader to make their own conclusions based in their own beliefs.
“Abortion: Law, History, & Religion.” Childbirth by Choice Trust. n.p. 1995.Web. 30 April 2014.
Henningfield, Diane Andrews. “Overview of the Hills like White Elephants.” Short Stories for Students. Gale Group, 1999. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.
Hemingway, Earnest "Hills Like White Elephants.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Simon, Peter. Portable 10th Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2011. (343-55). Print
Meyers, Jeffrey. Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Harper & Row. 1985. (196-7, 152-180). Print.
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