The short story “Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway is comparable to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber. Both authors use a wide array of techniques in order to develop the complicated relationship between the characters in the story. In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” Thurber talks about a character, Mitty, that attempts to escape from his controlling, manipulative, and annoying wife by daydreaming.
Conversely, in “Hills Like White Elephants” Hemingway discusses the relationship of an unacquainted, peculiar, and alcoholic couple that faces a tough decision on abortion, but keep finding distraction in order to run away from the decision. In essence, Thurber and Hemingway discuss the same concepts of relationship difficulties; and in order to develop these ideas they use strong visual imagery, powerful diction, pathos, and outstanding symbols that describe the story better than explicit description. Ultimately, it has the effect of creating ambiguity and therefore, engaging the reader into the story.Order now
Both Hemingway and Thurber start their short story without any context, rather with a strong display of visual imagery, responsible for giving a hidden summary. For instance, in “Hills Like White Elephants” it is possible to deduce that Hemingway attempted to make the setting a summary of the story itself. Particularly, when Hemingway communicates that the characters are located “in between two lines of rails in the sun” (Hemingway 170). Hemingway illustrates the characters’ dilemma of having two options through the image of the two lines of rails. Finally, the sun is mentioned, creating an image of a place that is hot and therefore hard to concentrate as will happen during the characters’ argument.
Similarly, in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Thurber makes the effective decision of introducing Mitty as having a ” thin ice breaking,” voice and wearing a “full- dress uniform with heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly” (Thurber 545). The emphasis on the description of Mitty during his daydream is vital because it creates an image that both serves to show what he aspires to be, as well as presents foreshadowing for Mitty’s constant dreams with his authoritative self. On the whole, the usage of visual imagery ends up smoothly and indirectly giving a summary of the story. Later, as the story progresses the authors start to use other techniques in order to show the type of relationship that exists between the characters.
In order to portray the troublesome relationships between the characters in the stories the authors use powerful hostile diction during their conversations. In ” Hills Like White Elephants,” it is possible to note the harsh tone among characters when the man says, “Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything” (Hemingway 171). The diction of the phrase, “doesn’t prove anything” is the strongest example of diction because in that moment it becomes clear the man’s distrust for the woman, and the bases for their dysfunctional relationship.
Nevertheless, in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” Thurber uses the same techniques, like when Mitty says that his own wife “seemed grossly unfamiliar” (Thurber 545). The unsympathetic words “grossly unfamiliar” serve the effect of showing Mitty’s disproval of his wife’s actions and attitude towards him. Hence, it becomes possible to affirm that both of the authors use subtle words in the character’s conversation, allowing readers to get to the sense that the characters have a wearisome relationship. The authors also use those carefully placed words in order to show how persuasive the other characters can be.
In both of the short stories the authors use, negative connotation and pathos in the dialogues between characters in order to better transmit the idea that persuasion can often lead to problems among people. In “Hills Like White Elephants” the man tries to persuade the girl that if she has the abortion, than it will be “perfectly natural” (Hemingway 171). The connotation of the word “natural” in the sentence suggests he will not have any connection to her, that he will be able to move on. This is his motivation, and why girl is so terrified about having it. Additionally, in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” when Mitty’s wife says, “You’ re not a young man any longer”(Thurber 545). The connotation of the word “younger” functions to state that Mitty is no longer a vigorous man; he has lost his manhood.
The authors use pathos and diction, as a way of showing how Mitty’s wife and the man persuade the others of something they believe is morally correct. Lastly, the author’s choice of diction has the effect of emphasizing the aggressive tone during the persuasion and appealing to the characters’ emotions. The use of negative connotation will justify the characters attitudes later on, of trying to avoid their problems.
Both authors use cautiously placed symbols in order to show the characters avoiding their problems. In the story “Hills Like White Elephants” the characters find themselves in the midst of a discussion related to abortion. However, they are not able to come to an agreement because the train arrives, and they are forced to “ up the two bags and them around the station” (Hemingway 173). That moment highlights clearly that the two bags become a symbol for the decision because even though they have been “saved” from making the decision they are still forced to have their “baggage” with them.
Likewise, in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” Mitty sees himself “ the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful…”(Thurber 550). This description reveals that Thurber used the firing squad as a symbol for the solution of Mitty’s problems, which would be death, even if it is only a psychological one. Therefore, it becomes clear through the well-placed symbols, of bags and firing squad that the characters’ problems need to be faced.
Both Thurber and Hemingway effectively use strong visual imagery, powerful diction, pathos, and outstanding symbols to transmit their ideas, about, for example, that if avoided problems will always haunt people and in particular, troublesome relationships. Ultimately, the main reason for the success of both Hemingway and Thurber was the fact that they were showing the stories rather than just telling it. This, technique allow the story to be more intriguing and engaging since it creates ambiguity and therefore leave room for different interpretations of the works. Ambiguity is important because it permits the reader to draw several different conclusions from the same excerpt and at the same time the author to communicate several different themes.