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Hills like White Elephants - Literary Analysis

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Vioty Milord

April L McCray

ENC 1102

Literary Analysis Essay

October 1, 2018

The Hills on the Set

        The psyche is loaded up with recollections whether it be wonderful or frightful. Among those memories are places that the memories happened at. Usually the places that are important hold an emotional weight that causes us to remember. Whether it be your best friend’s house around the corner, the park on 3rd street, or even a terrifying alley. At whatever point something noteworthy occurs, the place it occurred at is constantly recalled as well. This is what setting is in a story. As the area and context in which the characters live and where these events occur. The place an occasion happened might be the key locale of a story or it can convey representative significance. It can help set the mood and tone, impact the manner in which the characters act, influence the dialogue, foreshadow events, invoke a reaction, mirror the society in which the characters live, and some of the time even has an exceptional influence in the story itself. It can also be a critical element as the setting provides the framework for what is being presented. Ernest Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants” is a simple yet complex narrative that consist of conversation between a girl named Jig and an unnamed American man. The imagery and symbolism the setting presents gives a subtle understanding of the implications of their conversation and potentially what will happen next.

        In the story the two characters are on a train station overlooking the mountains. Hemingway utilizes the setting to metaphorically display the relationship between the two characters. What the setting tells is that, regardless of being in the same landscape with each other, they are still very much apart and can’t see eye to eye. What the allegory of the setting tells about the characters is that, while they are a couple and part of the same landscape, they are also as divided. The two are at a crossroad. This foretells the unwritten outcome of the decision that Jig must make. Hemingway displays the great separation of the couple with their values, expectations and thoughts which brings it back to the 2 different roads. The lack of shade sets the

        Majority of the story is in dialogue while the other words used to depict their environment. Each description of what is around is representative to their circumstance.  For instance, when Jig sits at the table, the hills across the Ebro Valley appear “white in the sun and the country was brown and dry” (Hemingway 197), but from the end of the station, she can see “fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro” and “the river through the trees” (Hemingway 199). “The brown, dry, and infertile land represents a rootless, empty, and sterile life, like the one the couple is presently living, while the fertile land along the Ebro River represents the meaningful and fruitful life they could have if they would not go through with the abortion. The railroad junction, a place where one can change directions, symbolizes a point in time when the couple can alter the course of their lives.” (Lanier) The crossroad also has to do with the repetitive reoccurrence of the word “two” itself. The placement of the story at a train station also shows how unstable the relationship is between them. A train station isn’t somewhere one stays for long, instead it’s somewhere to go to get to the next destination. One which Jig is uncertain of.

“According to Lewis Weeks, Kenneth Johnston, and Perrine, the unborn child, though of value to the girl, is a white elephant to the man, who wants to get rid of it. The barren hills remind Weeks of a pregnant woman’s swollen belly and breasts, and Johnston sees the “hills like white elephants” as a constant reminder of the abortion and the couple’s opposing views: the girl’s reverence for life and the man’s lack of reverence for it.” (Lanier) Jig’s reference to the hills with the use of the word skin symbolizes her own belly as the “white elephant.” “The man's attempt to bully pregnant Jig, although certainly by no means justified, should come as no surprise.” (Rankin 234) The imagery of the hills symbolizes the man's unfeeling and egotistical sentiments about Jig's unwanted pregnancy and his longing to be freed of their "white elephant" that undermines his freedom to travel. Hence him being American on the way to Madrid and the bags from going to hotels. The hills also represent the ups and downs of the reckless relationship that they currently have. Jig is the only one that is thinking of the possibility of both sides by using her surroundings to relate to her situation. This is evident when she looks out to the horizon. On the other hand, the man is close-minded and never bothers to look at the horizon nor the “white elephant”. It is clear by his simple dismissal when he says, “I’ve never seen one.” (Hemingway 197) The narrowing of his point of view further exemplifies his selfishness and the lack of their future.

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