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Hills Like White Elephants - Symbolism

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Ernest Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants" relies on symbolism to carry the theme of either choosing to live selfishly and dealing with the results, or choosing a more difficult and selfless path and reveling in the rewards. The symbolic materials and the symbolic characters aid the reader's understanding of the subtle theme of this story. The hills symbolize two different decisions that the pregnant girl in our story is faced with. Both hills are completely opposite of each other, and each "hill" or decision has a consequence that is just as different as the appearance of the hills.

Hemingway uses drinking, the hillsides, and a railroad track between the two hills to help convey his theme. The beer in this story is used to represent the couple's usual recreational activity to that they do together. Their recreational activity bothers the girl because "that's all [they] do пÑ--Ð... look at things and try new drinks." This gives the reader some suspicion that the girl has grown tired of doing the same things over and over again and would like to do something different, like getting married and starting a family instead of goofing off all the time. She wants to stop behaving like an adolescent girl and become a woman. These desires and feelings show that the girl is ready and desiring a change, however her male partner doesn't seem at all interested in changing his ways.

Hemingway presents the reader with two contrasting hills. One of the hills is dull, desolate, uninviting and barren, it was very much like a desert; "it had no shade and no trees." The other hill, however, is beautiful, plentiful in nature, and abundant. It had "fields of grain and tress along the banks of the Ebro River." A train track runs between these two hills, and this helps give the reader a sense of impending decision.

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