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Hills like White Elephants

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"Hills like white elephants was written by Ernest Hemingway and was published in 1927 as part of the collection Men Without Women. Through its use of dialogue as the central element of depiction the story shows how an author can weave often complex underlying themes into a story without ever directly mentioning them.

The narrator of the story is in 3rd person and, as is common in minimalistic stories, is objective. This makes the story scenic and the dialogue becomes the central part of the author's way of telling the events. Furthermore, this specific style of writing deprives the story of direct character depictions which in turn imposes on the reader a need to try and extract what he or she can about the characters from the dialogue.

The setting is almost the only thing in the story that the writer explicitly describes. This takes place at a train station somewhere between Madrid and Barcelona in Spain with the railroad dividing the landscape in two. The fact that the direct descriptions are so few and far between has quite a strong effect in that they stand out when put between the large sections of dialogue. This makes the symbolic value of the imagery in the story even more underlined.

The two main characters in the story are "the American" and Jig who are in a romantic relationship with one another. As has been said, the are no direct descriptions of the characters. What one can tell from the dialogue is that they have been travelling for some time "... but looked at the bags... There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights" (p15,l27-28). The couple's alcohol consumption also leads the reader to perceive them as easy-living and care-free. What is learned about their relationship is that there is something that has become between them and has started complicating their romance "That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy" (p13,l32). Judging by the American's talk of "an awfully simple operation" (p13,l24) and "...once they take it away, you can never get it back" (p15,l6), one is led to assume that Jig might be pregnant. This theory can be supported by the interpretation of the story's imagery along with its title - the barren landscape on one side of the rails versus the blossoming nature on the other side as well as the white elephant being a symbol of fertility in some Eastern traditions. The train itself can also be seen as a symbol for the couple's decision in regards to whether or not to have this baby - will they take the journey or not?

The themes of the story are abortion, the stress that this could put on a relationship and making drastic choices in life.

In what can seem like a simple and un-eventful story at first glance, one can find a plethora of substance with the right approach and this is what



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