In “Hills Like White Elephants” Ernest Hemingway relies on symbolism to convey the theme of abortion. The symbolic material objects, as well as the strong symbolic characters, aid the reader’s understanding of the underlying theme.
The material objects that Hemingway uses to convey the theme are beer, the good and bad hillsides, and a railroad station between two tracks. The beer represents the couple’s, “the American” and “the girl’s”, usual routine activity they do together. This bothers the girl because “that’s all [they] do … look at things and try new drinks.” This shows that the girl is tired of doing the same thing and wants to do something different, like having a baby and a family, instead of fooling around all the time. She wants to stop being a girl and become a woman. Hemingway then presents the reader with two contrasting hills. One hill on one side of the station is dull, desolate, and barren; “it had no shade and no trees”, very desert like. However, the other hill on the other side of the station is beautiful, plentiful in nature, and had “fields of grain and tress along the banks of the Ebro River.” Also on each side of the station where each hill is, there is a train track. These objects are symbolic devices prepare the reader in realizing that the characters are in a place of decision. The railroad station is a place of decision where one must decide to go one way or the other. The t...
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