Hemingway Short StoriesThe most striking feature of this short story is the way in which it is told. Itis not a story in the classical sense with an introduction, a development of thestory and an end, but we just get some time in the life of two people, as if itwere just a piece of a film where we have a lot to deduce, This story doesn’tgive everything done for the reader, we only see the surface of what is goingon.
It leaves an open end, readers can have their own ending and therefore takepart in the story when reading. *P* The story told here is that of a woman and aman in their trip to a place where she can have an abortion. Everything in thetale is related to the idea of fertility and barrenness. This main topic can beseen from the title Hills Like White Elephants, where Hills refer to the shapeof the belly of a pregnant woman, and White Elephants is an idiom that refers touseless or unwanted things.Order now
In this case the unwanted thing is the foetus theyare going to get rid of. *P*In the beginning we find a narrator that describeswith a simple language the area where it is going to take place. We can see thatthe story happens in Spain, in the Valley of the Ebro, and we also see that thetrain the characters are going to take is an express train that comes fromBarcelona and goes to Madrid, but we don’t know exactly where they are or thetime or date in which it takes place, we don’t even know if they really take thetrain. The train here symbolizes change, movement but in some way they arescared of it as movement is not always forward but it can also be backwards inthis case in their relationship. It is the ? train of life?. *P*Another thingwe must take into account is the fact that the train is stopping only for twominutes, a very short time.
This limited time symbolizes the time she has tohave the abortion, she cannot think it over for a long time first because thelater she has the abortion the more risky for her health it gets and second,because abortion has not been legal in Spain till very recently and in adictatorship time it was a very punished practice, it had to be done beforenoticeable. *P*In a first reading and after checking Hemingway’s biography wecould think that the story was set in the Spanish civil war, but we must discardthis possibility because it was written in 1927, some years before the Spanishcivil war and in the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. *P*The first impression weget when we start reading the text is that we are in the middle of a dry, barrenplace under the sun, with no shade or trees, it reinforces the idea of lack oflife but in contrast, they are in the warm shadow of the building where life is. This emphasizes the contrast between the pregnancy of the woman, as beingfertile and everything around them, including him in this idea of fertility ashe is also apart from the barrenness and sharing the shadow.
They are alsoseparated from the rest of the people that are inside the bar from a bamboo beadcurtain, it gives the idea of privacy reinforced by the idea of the warm shadowof the building that protects them from the world that exists inside the bar,they are outside, with nature. *P*In the first paragraph we have a short andconcise introduction to the characters, the narrator refers to them as theamerican and the girl, the narrator doesn’t give name to them, they may besymbols of lots of couples in the same situation as they are, but we can deducethe difference in age as she is considered as ? the girl ? and he is ? theamerican ? . Later on we will know that her name is Jig, but we aren’t going toknow his name. The name of the girl which by the way, is not a normal name, isalso very symbolic, as it is the name of a lively dance or it can also refer to? a particular sort of behaviour or activity which varies according to thesituation that someone is in ? (Collins Cobuild dictionary). What this nameimplies is that she can change her mind about the abortion and as we will seelater on in the conversation, he is afraid of her changing her mind about this,he is all the time trying to reassure her in the decision.
*P*After the firstintroductory paragraph we find a dialogue between them. This dialogue ispresented as being very natural, but it was carefully written for sure becausethrough it we are going to deduce the kind of relationship they have. Thelanguage here is a very simple one, even colloquial, this colloquial languageusually expresses feelings. The real theme of the conversation is not clearlystated but it is underlying, they are talking about love, feelings and herpregnancy.
There is tension in the air at some moments but they cannot expressit openly, maybe they don’t want to be heard in case somebody can understandthem or maybe it is just a problem of communication and of sharing feelings, ormaybe both. There are also references to sexuality in the form of phallicsymbols, the first one is related to the title, the trunk of the elephant, thenwe find another one in ? Anís del Toro ? , the bull as a symbol ofvirility. Also references to life in the form of the rivers and the trees. *P*It’s her who starts the dialogue, this here implies that the decision for theabortion in the end will be really hers, she is the one who starts theconversation and she is the one who is taking the decision, she is very straightforward. She also takes her hat off and puts it on the table, she is getting ridof what covers her, she wants to speak out about the situation clearly and putthe feelings, as she does with the hat, on the table to be talked about openly.
In his turn to answer instead of answering to the question he changes thesubject and answers ? it’s pretty hot ? this implies that he wants to changethe subject and talk about simpler things such as the weather. Men have problemsto show their feelings. She answers with a decision and says ? Let’s drink beer? She is the one who takes decisions, she decides what to drink. *P*In thisstory we can also see something typical of Hemingway, that is the use of spanishwords and sentences. He orders ? dos cervezas ? to the bar lady.
We assumethat she cannot speak English and that he can speak Spanish but, later on heorders and she answers in English. We have to think that the conversation musthave taken place in Spanish but that in order not to translate the wholeconversation into English only the first exchange of words was kept in Spanishbecause the story is so carefully written and developed that such a mistakewould be unconceivable. When the bar lady gives them the drinks the girl islooking at the line of hills in the distance, as if considering the possibilityof having the child but when she asks him about having ever seen an elephant heanswers that he has never seen one alluding to not having been father before. Atthis stage she is having doubts about the abortion.
*P*The characters are reallymysterious to us, we know nothing about their lives but they seem to havenothing to do in life apart from sex and drinking. They spend the time drinking,alcohol is considered as aphrodisiac. They order ? anís ? because shewants to try new things, maybe she is considering the possibility of having anew relationship or a new experience in life, but when she tastes it she says ?it tastes like licorice ? which is a very common and not exotic taste, and sheadds that ? Everything tastes of licorice. Especially all the things you’vewaited so long for.
. . ? implying that when you wait for something for a longtime, for instance a relationship, once you get it, it loses exotism and appeal. Later on there is a reference to the routine they seem to be in when she saysthat all they do is looking at things and trying new drinks. *P*As theconversation goes on, the man openly refers to the operation as if takingimportance off it, he says it is not important but very easy, like opening awindow ? It’s just to let the air in ?, he wants her to have the abortion butshe is sure about the fact that their relationship is going to change afterthat.
He wants to convince her that the decision has been hers by means ofsaying thing like ? if you don´t want to you don’t have to . . . But I knowit’s perfectly simple? but it is him the only one who has no doubts about it.
She is having the normal doubts a woman can have in a situation like that. Hefeels that the pregnancy is a nuisance in their lives. The baby would mean thenecessity of settling down and starting a family and this would be a change intheir lives as they move a lot around, that is why their suitcases are full of? labels from all the hotels they had spent nights ?. There is anotherallusion when almost at the end of the story he says ? we can have the world ?and she replies ? No, we can’t.
It isn’t ours anymore . . . And once they havetaken it away, you never get it back ? here we can see that she wants the babyand she knows that once she has the operation she won’t be able to get the childback.
And at the very end in the last sentence he asks her if she feels better,but what he is really asking is if she has taken a decision and he wants to knowwhat she has decided and then she replies : ? I feel fine . . . There’s nothingwrong with me. I feel fine ?, if there is something wrong it is with the baby,that is the problem she has to solve.