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By Ernest Hemingway
In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills like White Elephants" the author addresses a subject that was thought to be taboo in the 1920's. The subject that the author addresses is that of abortion. During the roaring 20's people were consumed with having a good time and living a care free lifestyle. As it is evident in the great American classic "The Great Gatsby" which gives a depiction of the lifestyle that people led in the 1920's. During the decade that the story was written for abortion was not talked about nationally nor was there any education on it. Abortion was only talked about amongst friends and their inner circles. The couples of the time, especially the couple in our story, seemed to be more concerned with enjoying their care free lifestyle and not wanting anything to change that. In the 1920's the emotions or feelings couples go through when making a life altering decision, like having an abortion, are the same back then as they are today. This can be seen through different examples found in the main character's conversation through out the story.
As the reader begins to read the story it seems that everything is fine between the woman and the American man. They are having a normal conversation. Then the American man mentions to the woman that the operation she is going to have is nothing big. "It's really an awfully simple operation, Jig," the man said. "It's not really an operation at all. (253)" After this statement the reader can sense the woman seems to be worried or concerned about the operation. She does not answer the man with any quickness. She is said to be just starring at the ground. When she finally speaks to the man, she wants reassurance that after the operation everything will be fine and back to normal. "We'll be fine afterward. Just like we were before. (253)" At this point the reader can sense some tension between the man and woman.
The tension sensed in this small dialogue between the couple is our first example of the emotions the couple are going through with making this big decision, whether to have the operation or not. The couple seems to be teetering on what their decision is going to be.
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The next example of the emotions the couple is going through can be seen towards the end of the story. At the end of the story the tension between the woman and man comes to a climax. The man has kept reassuring the woman that their lives would still be the same after the operation and that if she didn't want to go through with it she didn't have to. The woman by this time has boiled over with frustration and doesn't want to talk about it. "Would you please please please please please please please stop talking" (254)? At this point it has become evident that the woman has made up her mind. She feels that she must go through with this operation. The two emotions seen here are prime examples of the problem couples face with this sort of decision. The man knows that there is something wrong with the woman through her language and her nonverbal cues, but is still wanting her to go through with it because he is still giving her reassurance everything will be alright afterwards. In this particular case the man seems to be using reverse psychology by showing the emotion or feeling of concern. He tells her one thing, but is meaning another. The woman knows the man senses her dilemma she is having inside her and has come to rash decision. At this point of the story the woman is showing reluctance. The woman feels that in order to make things right she must go through with the operation. In society today married couples and couples who are just dating all deal with this tough decision. In today's world men opt for abortion for two reasons: 1) they want to keep their lifestyles and 2) they feel that a child at this particular point isn't a good idea. Women are faced with the same problems that the woman in the story faces. They want to do the right thing by keeping the child, but they also are trying to weigh in the man's feelings in the matter. This leaves them with a tough life altering decision. A decision that most women have a hard time making on there own.
In conclusion the obvious theme of this story could be seen as abortion, but the underlying theme of this short story is the emotional rollercoaster couples face when having to make a life altering decision. The woman in the story is a prime example of how women make rash decisions to please their husbands/boyfriends before they weigh all the options. The man in the story can be seen as a typical male in this situation. He is only thinking about what he wants even though he tells her different. The examples found in this paper all explain how couples go through different emotions or feelings when making a life altering decision. It is the state opinion of this writer that the men and woman of the 20's and men and woman in today's society face the same type of emotions/feelings when coming to a decision of this magnitude.