Essay about Hills Like White Elephants By Ernest Hemingway

Essay about Hills Like White Elephants By Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” was published in 1927 and set the stage for simplistic short story structure leaving the symbolic meat of the story just beneath the surface. The piece follows a conversation between “The American and the girl…”, who are presumed to be a couple, sitting at a table outside a train station in Spain (qtd. in Charters 416). Through short, often terse statements, the man and woman deliberate over the future of their relationship in the face of an impending abortion. Many view this story as an exploration of the difference between talking and communicating, however, this lens does not allow for deeper examination of the larger role of discussion in a relationship. While Hemingway does present a situation that warrants analysis of the aforementioned difference, the larger take-away from the story is that without communion a relationship is empty. This view is supported by the characters’ dissociation, shallow dialogue, and the barren and isolated scenery.
The actions and comments of the characters give rise to a sense of dissociation indicative of a lack of connection. Unsurprising for a text of its time, the female of the story dissociates through whimsical idealization. After the narrator describes the surrounding landscape, and the couple orders drinks, the girl comments on the hills in the distance: “‘They look like white elephants,...”’ (qtd. in Charters 416). The exotic comparison is telling toward her imaginative nature, and hints the idea that she might incline to see beyond reality at what isn’t there. In contrast, the American does not reciprocate her whimsy, responding with “I’ve never seen one,” (qtd. in Charters 416). As opposed to pulling from pieces of imagination to unders...


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...r, to keep out the flies” (qtd. in Charters 416). The curtain brings up the sensation of barriers, and being an outsider. The isolation is an analogy to the mental state of each person and their separation from each other. Overall, the setting highlights the status of the relationship, where without connection or fertility there is no future.
In “Hills Like White Elephants”, Hemingway suggests that when a members of a couple individually lack empathy, the relationship is doomed to fail. This notion questions the Modernist idea of how one can live without love, and emphasises the psychological makeup of the characters which ultimately influence their ability to connect with one another. To further analyze this idea, critiques of the text should look further into the individual character’s construction to determine what else Hemingway has hidden beneath the surface.

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