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Steinbeck Chrysanthemums

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1 Introduction

Hills Like White Elephants is a short story written by the

American famous writer Ernest Hemingway. It is one of Men

without Woman, a collection of short stories that was published

in 1927. In this novel the symbolic way of writing and the

implicit dramatic dialogue reveal perfectly Hemingway's writing

techniques and his "iceberg theory".

Hemingway believed that if a writer's prose was transparently

simple and honest he could make his meaning implicit,

letting the reader to find and provide it. This was his iceberg

theory: "I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg.

There is seven eighths of under water for every part that

shows."[1] So Hemingway's seeming matter-of-fact, laconic narration

was composed of highly stylized sentences. Their simplicity

put feelings before thoughts, action prior to comments.

Thus Hemingway could utter sense of moral urgency, a considerable

range and astonishing intensity of feeling through

oblique implication, compressed irony, and understatement. He

used language to show exactly man's feelings, used details to

objectively depict things. He also was good at using symbolism

to show his characters' inner world.

Hills Like White Elephants tells us a story about an

American and the girl with him at a nameless railway station.

They waited for the train, drank and had a conversation. The

body of the story is their conversation. It likes an extract of

the real life, likes a string of film shots. In the text, some objects

are equivocal. Besides, the ending is open. Readers can

imagine it according to their own understandings.

2 The appliance of symbols

The title "Hills Like White Elephants" is chosen ingeniously.

The story is about the abortion, an unhappy conversation

and a quarrel caused by the abortion. "White elephant" is

a pun. A white elephant means possession that is useless and

often expensive to maintain. It is sacred but often brings troubles.

In this novel, "white elephant" is the unborn baby. For

Jig, it is a sacred thing, a treasured object and her hope.

While for the man, it is a burden. So he wants to get rid of it

by hook or by crook. The girl and the man understand this

image differently. And it adds shadings around its theme to

make it stand out. In 1920s, the abortion was unable to be

made public for girls, because it made them embarrassed; it

was still a controversial social problem.

"Hills Like White Elephants" is an important symbol.

First, it is an objective description of the hills. The hills

across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. They are

like white elephants in the size and color. Second, "white elephants"

is the symbol of the unborn baby, and "hills" is the

belly of a pregnant woman. Third, Jig wants to have the baby.

To be a mother, a wife is her dream. But the man wants her

to have the abortion. It is the man who breaks her dream.

Crisis and blanks appear between Jig and the man like the

white hills. At that moment hills like white elephants can be

seen but not touched, so is her dream. Fourth,"hills like white

elephants" look like beautiful in a long distance. But in a

close distance they are lifeless, drab, prosaic, bleak and desolate.

The relationship between Jig and the man apparently is

harmonious but in fact it is lack of mutual love and understanding.

"On this side there was no shade and no trees and the

station was between two lines of rails in the sun." [2] In this

sentence "no shade" "no trees" show us a lifeless picture.

Two lines of rails which have different and opposite directions

mean that different choices cause different results. If Jig does

as the man wishes, they will go along with each other like before.

If Jig does not have the abortion, they will depart later or

sooner. The two lines of rails are close to each other, but they

are two lines forever. They are unlikely to become one. In the

sense, Jig and the man are in the same case.

"A curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across

the open door into the bar, to keep out flies."[2] It describes a

curtain, its material and its practical use. The "curtain" implies

the man and the girl have difficulties in communicating

and understanding each other. There is a barrier between them.




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